Tujague’s isn’t the only notable restaurant marking a return in the French Quarter this week.
Café Sbisa (1011 Decatur St., 504-309-7477; sbisasnola.com), a fixture of the French Market area for more than a century, is scheduled to reopen Friday evening in time to greet crowds in town for the Southern Decadence festival.
Local restaurateur Bob Barton took over the historic property and began reviving it earlier this year after closing his previous venture, Mélange Restaurant and Speakeasy Bar in Faubourg Marigny. Café Sbisa manager Brian Halley says the restaurant will offer its first meals over the weekend and begin regular hours next week.
“It will be a Creole restaurant, bringing in the things that worked for us at Mélange and the history of this building,” said Halley.
That building dates to 1820 and was used as a ship’s chandlery during the time when sailing vessels lined the nearby riverfront, according to the book “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans,” by Tom Fitzmorris and Peggy Scott Laborde. The Sbisa family turned it into a restaurant in 1899, and it was operated as such by a succession of owners until Hurricane Katrina shuttered the business in 2005. A new ownership group reopened Café Sbisa in October 2008 but it closed again before the end of that year.
The latest edition of Café Sbisa looks very much the way patrons of the pre-Katrina restaurant will remember it. A main dining room with bistro tables and a long, red leather banquette is dominated by a large mahogany bar, over which hangs a three-panel painting by the renowned French Quarter artist George Dureau. A mezzanine seating area looks down into the main dining area, and private dining rooms stretch across two more floors of the old building, which has balconies overlooking Decatur Street.
The dishes on tap for this weekend are a mix of Creole, Southern and French bistro classics, including crab ravigote, shrimp and grits and steak frites. Halley says this represents a preliminary menu that his crew plans to refine as the new Café Sbisa gets rolling.
Café Sbisa has a full bar and will feature a piano player on most evenings and a jazz trio on Sundays. It will serve lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday and an all-day brunch on Sunday.