As Krewe du Vieux begins its parade in the Marigny this Saturday (Jan. 31), that neighborhood’s oldest restaurant will officially open a new chapter.
Feelings Café (2600 Chartres St., 504-945-2222; feelingscafe.com) closed late last year, but the restaurant’s new owner plans to reopen it in phases beginning Saturday with drinks and small plates served in the bar and patio and reservations-only tables for parade package parties in the dining room. A small plates format will continue across the restaurant through February, as Carnival revs up and work to remake Feelings Café continues. Full dinner and brunch menus will follow.
“It will have dishes people remember from Feelings, the duck, the peanut butter pie, but it will also be new,” said Tony Marino, who bought Feelings Café last year. “It will be a different restaurant.”
Marino ran a French Quarter restaurant called Trio’s in the late 1970s, left that business to study law and is now a partner in a local firm. He said he wasn’t ready yet to identify his new chef for Feelings Café.
The restaurant, founded in 1979, had been known as much for its old New Orleans ambiance as its French and Creole cooking. The building itself was part of a plantation established in the 1700s when the present-day Marigny was still agricultural land outside the city’s small footprint. Long before the surrounding area became a hot market for new restaurants, Feelings Café was a draw for romantic dinners and mimosa-soaked brunches, and its bar had a green room feel thanks to the many local performers who frequented it.
Over the years, segments of the restaurant had been repurposed. Previous owner Jim Baird installed a yoga studio upstairs and another room served as a succession of restaurant-within-a-restaurant concepts (most recently the vegan eatery Bhava, now closed). Going forward, Marino plans to use the second floor as a lounge for small plates and areas for private parties.
Marino seems to be taking things slowly here, though he says more changes are in store. That includes potentially changing the restaurant’s name. If he does, though, he said the bar would always be called Feelings Café as a tribute to its past.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA