In their quest to find a good breakfast spot, Jennifer and Erich Weishaupt once trekked all across town on the weekends trying different cafes. In short order, however, they have built their own network of restaurants — a mini-empire of eggs, oatmeal, bacon and biscuits that has put breakfast practically on the doorstep for many more local diners.
Last week, the couple opened the latest edition of the Ruby Slipper Café, their fourth restaurant in less than six years.
“We never really planned to be restaurateurs,” said Erich Weishaupt, a former offshore oil worker. “But we thought if we were going to open something it should be a place for our neighborhood and our neighborhood needed breakfast.”
That first Ruby Slipper opened in 2008 just a block from their home in Mid-City. A second restaurant followed in 2010 in the CBD, and they opened their third in a vintage bank building in Faubourg Marigny in 2012.
The newest Ruby Slipper took over an Art Deco-styled Canal Street address that had once been part of a McCrory’s department store. It’s only five blocks from the Ruby Slipper location on Magazine Street, but Weishaupt is confident the two restaurants will have their own niches.
“With breakfast, people want there to be a place right there down the street,” he said.
Lately, more restaurants are stepping up to fulfill that role. As a subset of the ongoing New Orleans restaurant boom, breakfast options are stacking up across New Orleans.
Last week’s debut of the fourth Ruby Slipper Café is one high-profile example, while Another Broken Egg Café opened its latest franchise in the Garden District just days later. The location, with its large, oak-shaded patio, had long been the home of Café Rani.
Another Broken Egg Café now serves its extensive, sometimes offbeat menu at breakfast and lunch as well as early dinner (a first for the company).
The brand started out in Mandeville in 1996 as a stand-alone neighborhood restaurant called the Broken Egg Café. It’s since grown into a national dining concept with dozens of locations, all dubbed Another Broken Egg Café. This is the first in New Orleans proper, and another is slated to open in Lakeview on Harrison Avenue on Feb 10.
Kevin Armantrout, a New Orleans native now based in Indianapolis, is a partner in the franchise company developing these local Another Broken Egg Cafes, and he’s eyeing Metairie and the CBD for potential additional restaurants.
“If you look at the hottest trends in our industry right now, craft beer is one and breakfast is the other,” said Armantrout. “We think this is really taking off.”
Smaller, independent eateries are getting in on the morning meal as well, from bakeries and coffee shops for quick bites to full-service, diner-style restaurants. For instance, earlier this month, new owners (and former employees) of the Oak Street Café revamped and reopened that Uptown restaurant as the Live Oak Café, with a similar focus on breakfast and more farm-to-table and hand-made ingredients on the menu. And by mid-February Cara Benson expects to open Toast on Laurel, taking over the original site of Laurel Street Bakery (which opened a new location in Broadmoor last fall). Benson also runs the nearby Uptown bakery Tartine, which serves lunch and a small breakfast menu. She said Toast will be “more breakfasty,” with a morning menu of omelets, crepes, Dutch pancakes (stuffed with lemon curd or jam) and grilled hanger steak with eggs joining her selection of baked goods.
Back downtown, Weishaupt said the newest Ruby Slipper Café is the last he and his wife plan to open, at least in New Orleans. Loaded with salvaged woodwork and repurposed industrial components, the attractive dining room design also reflects some lessons of the breakfast business they’ve learned along the way. For example, there’s a mobile bar by the reception area to serve drinks as people wait for tables, and booths are specially designed to quickly reconfigure for large groups.
Behind the scenes, the restaurant’s roomy kitchen will serve double-duty in a commissary role, supplying more custom baked goods and handmade staples to the other three Ruby Slipper locations. Weishaupt said that’s part of their bid to stand out in an increasingly crowded field.
“With all the new competition, we’re definitely looking to up our game a bit,” he said.