A Lakeview eatery with long roots in New Orleans’ storied po-boy past is closing next week. Koz’s, 515 Harrison Ave., (504) 484-0841, will serve its last po-boys in Lakeview on Friday, Jan. 19, proprietor Max Gruenig confirmed.
Meanwhile, the original Koz’s in Harahan, 6215 Wilson Ave., (504) 737-3933, will remain open for business as usual. That location is run by Max’s father, Gary “Koz” Gruenig. It will continue to serve the BBQ ham, the “Chamber of Horrors” po-boy and the whole loaf versions of the classics that have long been Koz’s calling cards.
Max Gruenig said the decision to close the Lakeview location was a difficult one but the right move for his young family. He is leaving the restaurant business to chart a different career.
"I just turned 30, I'm going back to school full time so if there's any time that feels right to make a change it's now," he said. "It's definitely bittersweet though, because it has been great being in Lakeview and getting to know all the people who come here."
Before Hurricane Katrina, the Harrison Avenue address was the home of Charlie’s Delicatessen, known for its muffuletta-sized Moon sandwich. It saw a string of casual eateries after the storm until Koz’s opened here in 2009, serving a menu of po-boys and plate lunches and starting a nearly nine-year run here.
The Lakeview restaurant was the expansion of a family business that had its roots in a much older po-boy shop.
Koz’s was first conceived by the senior Gruenig based on his long experience at the Po-boy Bakery, which was in business on Franklin Avenue near Fillmore Avenue from the early 1960s.
Koz Gruenig got a job there at age 12 in 1965, and this is where he earned his nickname. He had a tendency to wipe out on his bicycle back then, and a regular at the po-boy shop took to calling him “a kamikaze pilot without the plane,” which morphed into Koz.
Gruenig worked at the Bakery for the next 40 years and eventually moved into the apartment above the eatery, where he raised his family. While the Bakery did not return after Katrina, the Gruenigs started their own restaurant just a few months after the storm in Harahan, calling it Koz’s.
Here they revived the BBQ ham po-boy, made with a falling-apart, debris-style ham. Another house specialty is the Chamber of Horrors, a kitchen sink mix of deli meats, cheese and dressings named after the old basketball gym at the University of New Orleans, known for its fearsome acoustics for opposing teams.
Max Gruenig also operated a version of Koz's in Metairie starting in 2015 but this location on West Metairie Avenue closed within a year.
Jerk chicken fest Marley Gras returns
This Saturday, Jan. 20, the grounds of Central City BBQ will get a pulse of island flavor and music as Marley Gras returns.
Now in its third year, Marley Gras is the city’s own jerk chicken festival. The name riffs on a combination of Mardi Gras and Jamaica’s enduring musical legend, and in practice the festival unfolds as a demonstration of how New Orleans and Caribbean cultures can sync up. Think jerk chicken and boudin, yaka mein and oxtail stew all in the same place, alongside flavors from down in Trinidad, down the bayou and backatown.
More than a dozen vendors will be serving food around the grounds, including Boswell’s Jamaican Grill, Island Paradise, Johnny’s Jamaican Grill, 14 Parishes, Karibu Kitchen, Miss Linda Green the Yak-a-mein Lady, Trini Queen Lisa, Cue’s Cajun Corner, Loretta’s Authentic Pralines and Beignets, Fluffy Cakes Cupcakery, Bhoomi, Irie Nyammings, Phytonola and Central City BBQ itself.
On two stages, the festival brings a line up of reggae and brass bands and DJs. Teki, a reggae artist from Hawaii, is the headliner.
There’s also a Scotch bonnet pepper eating contest for the truly devoted pepper heads.
Marley Gras is Jan. 20 from 1-10 p.m. at Central City BBQ, 1201 S. Rampart St. For tickets and schedules, see marleygrasfestival.com