It’s hard to imagine people today developing warm and fuzzy feelings about a public utility provider, but New Orleans Public Service Inc. was different.
Known as NOPSI, the long-defunct local company once provided electric and gas service in the city and operated its streetcars and buses. It provided necessities of modern life and worked its way into the peculiarities of New Orleans life.
NOPSI Hotel (317 Baronne St., 844-439-1463), newly developed in the company’s old CBD headquarters, has been tapping into those good feelings since opening last summer. This week, it’s pulling out the stops for a day of events that doubles as the 90th anniversary of its stately building and a coming-out party of sorts for the hotel.
Around the city, the NOPSI Hotel is picking up the tab for 1,000 streetcar rides, while at the hotel there will be a free-form reception for former NOPSI employees, a collection point for old company memorabilia, and a throwback menu at the hotel‘s restaurant, which is called Public Service (311 Baronne St., 504-962-6527).
It starts Thursday, Nov. 9, in commemoration of the day in 1927 when the building at Baronne and Union streets first opened. That building sat empty and boarded up for some 30 years before being redevelopment by the Virginia-based company Salamander Hotels & Resorts. Its opening in July felt like the excavation of a buried piece of the city’s past, now re-engineered as a luxury hotel.
Free tickets good for one-way fares on streetcars or buses will be distributed beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 at four locations: Mid-City at Canal and Carrollton; downtown at Canal and South Rampart; Uptown at St. Charles and Napoleon; and downtown Canal at the Aquarium of the Americas.
The reception for former NOPSI employees is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the hotel, with refreshments and a chance to see the hotel’s collection of NOPSI memorabilia and donated more to be displayed in the lobby and meeting wing.
For the anniversary, Public Service restaurant chef Dustin Brien turned to the famous NOPSI cookbooks to create a “Then and Now” menu. The three-course dinner brings two dishes at each course — one vintage, one more modern. There’s shrimp and grits Newburg next to blue crab dip; bayou-style short ribs with Creole rice au gratin and cauliflower almondine next to steak frites with stilton butter and truffle steak fries; and Charlotte Russe, a custard cake with cherries and pecans in a crust of ladyfingers, next to pot de crème brûlée Bienville, with sea salt and bourbon Chantilly.
The dinner is $90 and serves two. It will be served Nov. 9-11 in the evenings. On Nov. 9, Public Service will also have a special menu of small plates for 90 cents, marking the building’s anniversary.
Besh Steak trimmed to BH Steak
It’s just a change of two letters, but the new name for the steakhouse inside Harrah’s New Orleans Casino is symbolically significant.
BH Steak (8 Canal St., 504-533-6111) quietly opened last week. It’s the replacement for Besh Steak, which the casino had previously run in a partnership with celebrity chef John Besh.
That arrangement ended last week, with the casino cutting ties with Besh after allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment were revealed in a story from nola.com. Besh has since stepped down from operations at his company, the Besh Restaurant Group.
The name BH Steak is a tribute to the late William “Bill” Harrah, who started his gaming company in the 1930s with bingo parlors and built it into a major player in the casino world.
The sign for BH Steak now over the entrance to the restaurant uses the same font and layout as Besh Steak, making the change a subtle one in practice.
The new restaurant has the same staff as before, including chef Paul Robert and general manager Robert Wailes. The staff are employees of Harrah’s Casino, not the Besh Restaurant Group. The look of the restaurant is otherwise unchanged, from the sleek bar up front to the George Rodrigue Blue Dog paintings lining the dining room wall.
However, more changes for the space are planned soon, said Dan Real, manager of Harrah's New Orleans Casino and regional president for its parent company, Caesar's Entertainment.
Besh Steak was the second restaurant opened by John Besh, coming along in 2003, just two years after the debut of his Restaurant August a block away.