When the Louisiana State Museum reveals its “Hidden Treasures,” curators offer small groups the opportunity to view and discuss items that few members of the public ever get to see. The Friends of the Cabildo initiates its fall series of Hidden Treasures events Tuesday with the “Restaurant Edition,” a display of objects from renowned New Orleans restaurants, including many that are no longer in existence.
Featured menus include one from Victor’s, founded by Victor Bero in 1830 and located on Bourbon Street where Galatoire’s is today. Another influential and storied French Quarter restaurant, Madame Bégué’s, is represented by an early copy of the cookbook that the purveyor of Creole cookery penned in 1900. And many will remember Kolb’s, the atmospheric German restaurant that occupied a building on St. Charles just off of Canal Street for nearly 100 years.
By examining menus, cookbooks and other items, the Louisiana State Museum’s Greg Lambousy and Sarah-Elizabeth Gundlach will lead guests through a history of New Orleans restaurants, beginning in the 1790s. Some of the restaurants featured are still delighting diners today, including Arnaud’s, Antoine’s and Galatoire’s.
“Greg will give the introduction, and then Sarah-Elizabeth will lead the tour. One of the things she plans to talk about is the influence of the St. Louis Hotel and St. Charles Hotel on the culinary life of the city,” said Jason Strada, executive director of the Friends of the Cabildo.
A very early menu from the St. Louis Hotel demonstrates not only how people dined in the early 19th century but the attention that was given to menu design, according to Lambousy.
“The menu is from about 1820, and it shows what dishes people ate when they went out to a fine restaurant back then,” he said.
Not all of the restaurants represent the old guard of New Orleans dining. Items from the Bali Hai, a popular mid-20th century restaurant, will be included. The Polynesian-themed restaurant was located at Pontchartrain Beach and featured elaborate South Seas décor. With the recent upsurge in interest in tiki-themed cocktails, the Bali Hai items will attract special interest.