Around this time last year, the Marigny’s oldest restaurant was preparing to begin a new chapter, with a new owner and a new approach. Now, Feeling’s Cafe is changing once again.
The historic restaurant on Chartres Street is up for sale, and several potential buyers are now looking at the property for new restaurant projects, according to its current owner.
The change at Feelings is just the latest for a part of town that has quickly grown into a dining hub but has seen more than its fair share of restaurant shakeups recently. Nearby in the Bywater, Booty’s Street Food closed recently and its space is up for lease, while the former home of Maurepas Foods, which closed in October, is up for sale.
Until its own sale closes, Feelings Café, will remain open, though with a new chef and a much different menu.
Chef Anne Churchill will now run the kitchen at Feeling’s Café. On Wednesday (Jan. 20) she will begin serving a new, casual menu, one that’s more about bar food than bistro fare and one that’s split between vegan and non-vegan dishes.
It’s a change of pace for the historic restaurant, though Churchill said her stay here is intended to be a limited-time gig. She expects the building’s future owners will have other plans for the space.
“Actually knowing this won’t be forever gives you a little more freedom to do something different,” she said.
Long history, recent changes
Feelings Café is built in the vestiges of a plantation established in the 1700s, and it retained the feel of a French country house even as the Marigny neighborhood grew and changed around it. The building became a restaurant in 1980. Serving a Creole menu, it cultivated a reputation for romantic dinners in its dining rooms and cloistered courtyard, while its bar developed a green room feel thanks to the many local performers who frequented it.
Longtime owner Jim Baird sold the restaurant late in 2014 to local attorney Tony Marino. It closed for renovations and began reopening in stages last winter as Carnival season got rolling. By the summer, its new chef Brian Doyle was serving a much more modern bistro menu here.
But after a year, Marino said he needed to devote more of this time to his practice, a teaching position and his family, who live in both New Orleans and Paris.
“I reluctantly put it on the market,” Marino said. “It’s bittersweet. I really love the building. But after the attacks in Paris we are reevaluating some things.”
The property is now listed at $1.7 million, and Marino said he hopes to close on a sale by early spring. Doyle, meanwhile, is now cooking at Herbsaint while continuing to help run Feelings Café.
An interim menu with a history
Until the sale, Churchill’s interim menu at least brings some measure of continuity to the changes at Feelings, as she has been involved with the restaurant for years in various capacities.
“I feel pretty attached that building,” she said. “When I walk inside in the morning it makes me smile.”
Churchill is a well-known chef around town, though not for any particular restaurant. Instead, she has charted a less conventional culinary career that has included catering, culinary events and serving as chef to the stars for traveling music and theater productions. Cooking for these performers helped her hone her vegan culinary skills, though she is not a vegan herself. In 2014, she ran an all-vegan pop-up at Feelings called Bhava.
Her new menu at Feelings, served from 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, mixes dishes from her Bhava days with others that represent a “greatest hits” list from her other ventures. For instance, her mojo criollo braised pork panino, part of the Feelings Cafe menu, got its start on a bar food menu she served at Bridge Lounge (now Barrel Proof) back in 2004.
Feelings regularly hosts weddings and other private events, and these will continue through the sale.
During upcoming Carnival parades in the neighborhood – Krewe du Vieux on Jan. 23, the sci-fi-themed Chewbacchus on Jan. 30 -- Feelings will sell tickets for private seatings with open bar, buffet and access to the restaurant for the night.
2600 Chartres St., 504-945-2222
Feelings Café bar menu (begins Jan. 20)
Khmer Pumpkin Curry Soup
Artisan Vegan Cheese Plate
Seared Tempeh with Tamarind Chile Sauce
Molten Chocolate Cake
Top Shelf Fries
Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Waffles
Mojo Criollo Braised Pork Panini
Miso Mirin Glazed Salmon
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Chocolate Flourless Cake
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.