When Neyow's Creole Café relocated to its new address, it was a short trip but a big move.
The regular crowd had no trouble finding the new rendition of the popular Mid-City restaurant. It is right next-door to the original, its new patio abutting the old building. When the doors at the new address first opened, they filed right in and got down to business with Creole gumbo, charbroiled oysters and smothered pork chops.
For a family restaurant that had a much more modest beginning, however, the new digs have been a long time coming.
"This is what we've been dreaming of," said Tanya Dubuclet, chef and proprietor, from her newly equipped kitchen.
The new restaurant was built from the ground up by her husband, Tim Dubuclet, a construction contractor. It is twice the size of their first eatery, and there's a contemporary design across the space. The dining room leads to a second, semi-private dining area, and outside the brick patio has its own outdoor bar under newly planted palms. Window shutters open to revel outdoor TVs.
Look in from the sidewalk, and the big front window frames views of a dedicated oyster grill, where flames lap at the shells and butter sizzles over their garlicky toppings. These oysters, and the rest of the menu, are the same that Neyow's was serving just next for years.
In a neighborhood with many old-school eateries, this menu has always set Neyow's apart. The gumbo has a thin, dark, restorative roux filled with seafood and many meats. The menu has some red sauce (spaghetti and meatballs on Tuesdays), but the cabbage and pork chops, the smothered okra and white beans all speak more to Creole soul than Creole-Italian.
“Whatever my grandmother cooked, that’s what I cook,” Dubuclet said.
That has resonated broadly, and today, Neyow’s remains a New Orleans restaurant where a snapshot of the clientele actually resembles the city’s demographics — well-mixed and majority black. It eventually outgrew its first location.
The business got its start with home cooking. Dubuclet had been a chef before Hurricane Katrina, running a Gentilly restaurant. She got back into the business slowly and, under the radar, initially cooking house suppers to sell to family and friends.
This grew into Neyow's, which the Dubuclets opened in 2010 in a one-time pizzeria. They named it for a nickname for their favorite dog breed, the Neapolitan mastiff. A pair of dog statues once flanked the entrance of their restaurant, though they've been replaced by alligators in football jerseys (Saints and LSU, naturally).
Though the new restaurant is much larger, Neyow's remains a family business with the chef's children, siblings and mother working the floor at different times. The family also runs Neyow’s Palace, the two-story events hall they opened last year directly across Bienville Street.
Neyow's tastes like New Orleans, and the new restaurant sounds like this city, too. Bartenders holler greetings to regulars when they walk in, and lunchtime conversations among customers are not necessarily confined to one table. If the food hits comfort food buttons, the atmosphere and attitude of the restaurant carries the same tune.
Neyow’s Creole Café
3332 Bienville St., (504) 827-5474
Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday
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