What did the A and G in A&G Cafeteria stand for? I remember the location inside the Clearview Mall. What’s the restaurant chain’s history?
R.L. “Bob” Atkinson and Clifton L. Ganus were the names behind the popular local chain, which became best known for cafeterias but began with sandwich spots.
The first location opened in 1932 at 2627 Canal St. near Broad Street. “Office workers in the midtown business section can flee the sun-baked pavements of the area during their lunch hour these days and dine under cool, shady oak trees,” wrote The New Orleans Item in August 1932. The newspaper’s headline called it a “Pig Stand,” explaining it was a local outlet of a Dallas-based chain of restaurants by that name.
Local specialties included Creole barbecued beef, Creole barbecued pork, hot dogs and ham sandwiches. The chain grew to 10 locations in just five years, including spots on Carrollton Avenue and in the French Quarter, Gentilly and Marrero.
A&G opened its first cafeteria in 1950 inside the California Oil Company building at Tulane Avenue and Elk Place. A second cafeteria opened in 1954 on Gentilly Boulevard with seating for 300 customers.
Two new bakeries — and a third about to open — rise up in New Orleans.
The 10,000-square-foot location at Clearview Mall in Metairie opened in 1969, offering lunch and dinner. By that time, the company also had expanded to Houma and Lafayette and there were nine A&G Cafeterias in the New Orleans area, according to a November 1972 States-Item article. In addition to Clearview, there also were A&G Cafeterias in the Lakeside, Westside and Carrollton shopping centers.
The parent company of A&G, Finest Foods Inc., also manufactured and sold Mrs. Drake Sandwiches, a line of packaged sandwiches offered at local retailers. It was co-founded by Atkinson and Ganus.
Ganus, a Texas native, also founded the private Lake Terrace School on Paris Avenue, which was renamed in his honor after his death in 1955. His son, James Ganus, followed his father as president of Finest Foods Inc. He died in 1998, about the same time the A&G location in Clearview Mall closed. It now is the site of the AMC Dine-In Clearview Palace 12 movie theater.
There’s always something new to try in New Orleans.