Middendorf's Slidell dining room (copy)

The dining room at the new Middendorf's Restaurant in Slidell features natural woods, nautical motifs and murals.

Catfishing in Slidell

Diners in Slidell no longer have to leave town to dine on Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant's famous thin-cut fried catfish. The restaurant opened a new location (1951 Oak Harbor Blvd., Slidell, 985-771-7777) July 4, the 85th anniversary of the original location opening in Manchac.

“We’re proud to still be using the same recipe that Josie Middendorf introduced back in 1934,” Middendorf’s co-owner Karen Pfeifer says.

The new location will have the same ambience as the original, Pfeifer says, with a family-friendly interior made with natural woods, colorful nautical motifs and playful murals. There’s also outdoor seating on an open-air porch overlooking a children’s play area with sand, fountains, tiki huts and palm trees.

Many of the inside details, including table and bar tops, paneling, a hostess stand and door frames, were made by hand, co-owner Horst Pfeifer said in a release. The bar, which is 42 feet long and has a cypress top, will serve beer and wine on tap.

The Slidell Middendorf’s will offer the same menu as the Manchac restaurant. It will be open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

"We chose Slidell for a few reasons," says Middendorf's Marketing Director Christie Gardiner. "It's the greatest corridor in and out of Louisiana with I-10, I-59 and I-12. It's far enough away from Manchac to reach new and different people. It's also close enough to Manchac that we can be really hands-on at both locations."

The husband-wife team of Louis and Josie Middendorf originally opened Middendorf’s in Manchac on July 4, 1934, using Josie’s recipes for fried catfish and other menu items. The Pfeifers bought the restaurant in 2007, making some improvements on the building but keeping the restaurant’s menu intact. — KANDACE POWER GRAVES

Smart dining at La Mensa

People who remember the old French Quarter restaurant Maximo's in its heyday likely recall the open kitchen, deep booths and regional Italian food. Maximo’s was a hot spot through the 1990s and along with neighboring G&E Courtyard Grill, it helped make its stretch of lower Decatur Street near the French Market a destination for French Quarter dining that drew the locals.

The new restaurant La Mensa (1117 Decatur St.) has opened in Maximo’s old address with the potential to serve the same role today. It fired up its stoves in June and serves modern regional Italian food in a casual fine-dining setting, with an open kitchen and booths, a long bar for drop-in meals and snacks and a balcony overlooking one of the historic neighborhood’s busier blocks.

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A view of the open kitchen and main dining room La Mensa in the French Quarter.

La Mensa isn’t a Maximo’s imitator. But by setting its tone a notch higher than the prevailing touristy trends, La Mensa is contributing to a rising tide of interesting independent French Quarter restaurants.

This is a place for a plate of carpaccio or arancini, stuffed squash blossoms and octopus salad, pizza, pasta and a short list of more composed entrees, like fire-roasted scallops with grapefruit butter over risotto.

Pizzas are half price during happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For the past few years, the space was the contemporary Creole restaurant Trinity, which closed earlier this spring. La Mensa was created by Britten Carboni, who also runs cafe Louise in the Central Business District and operated its predecessor G&O Food Co. The New Orleans native has worked in the business for years, including a tenure at her family’s restaurant the Pelican Club, a modern stalwart of French Quarter dining.

She ran a periodic pop-up based around her love of handmade pasta, which was the start for La Mensa. The restaurant takes its name from an Italian term for canteen or cafeteria. The menu takes its cues from a different page of Italian dining than the local red sauce norm. It is more aligned with the style of Domenica or the nearby Paladar 511 than Creole Italian.

The new restaurant's layout is the same as Trinity but more casual and playful than the white-on-marble style of its predecessor. Like its neighbors along the block, the building is steeped in history. It once was owned by the Ursuline nuns, whose historic Old Ursuline Convent abuts the property. By the 1920s, when this part of the Quarter was full of Italian groceries and food distributors tied to the nearby French Market, the building was home to a fruit company. That’s when its distinctive plasterwork facade with decorative cornucopias was added.

It became Maximo’s in the 1980s and the following decade was rocking along with G&E Courtyard Grill, which eventually became Cane & Table. The dim sum specialist Dian Xin opened in January a block away. Add them up and Decatur Street is becoming a likely place for locals to mix it up again.

La Mensa is open 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (the bar opens at 4 p.m.) and 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday. — IAN MCNULTY/THE ADVOCATE

Gus's brings its fried chicken to New Orleans this week

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (308 S. Diamond St.) will open its Warehouse District restaurant at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 9.

The chain, which has been reviewed and praised by national critics and publications, now has more than two dozen locations in 14 states. The New Orleans location will be company-owned rather than a franchise, the first company-owned location in 12 years, a Gus’s spokeswoman said.

Gus’s decided to move to New Orleans after being a vendor at the National Fried Chicken Festival in 2017, where it won third place best fried chicken.

The restaurant menu has its roots in the still-secret recipe for marinated, spicy, crisp chicken created by Napoleon “Na” Vanderbilt 60 years ago in Mason, Tennessee. Vanderbilt and his wife Maggie sold the chicken from the back door of a bar there before eventually opening a free-standing restaurant called Maggie’s Short Orders in 1973.

In 1984, Vanderbilt’s son, Vernon “Gus” Bonner, inherited the recipe and the restaurant. He and his wife, Gertrude, reopened under the name Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.

The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. — ANN MALONEY/THE ADVOCATE