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Seeking kitchy fun restaurant for locals

Hi - I am taking a worldly bunch of locals to dinner. We don't need great cuisine.
I am looking for something along the lines of a Polynesian palace, an old-school Japanese restaurant with sunken tables, a kitschy off the beaten path something, a true underground supper club in a unique location, a Bollywood buffet rabbit hole. Or just an over decorated Chinese place with cocktails and lazy susans,
Any ideas?

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  1. I'm sorry the great old Polynesian restaurants of Pontchartrain Beach and West End are gone. I'm left putting paper umbrellas in my own drinks.

    I think the only time warp places that I know of are steak houses. There is one in Hollywood with white naugahide banquettes and it's so dim it's easy to pretend that Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra are in a corner booth. But in New Orleans it is a place like Charlies Steak House.

    1 Reply
    1. re: collardman

      Yes, the Bali Hai is long gone, but oft remembered. Oh, the stories that I could tell.

      As for something retro, I am just flat at a loss. There is no (that I know of) Trader Vic's in NOLA, and between us adults, those that exist, just do not have that charm, especially in the food arena.

      Collardman, I have encountered exactly what you describe, but in Las Vegas and then in Palm Springs. I could not even begin to come up with similar in NOLA, so you are much, much better, than I am.

      I do not even know if there are any Benihanas in NOLA, but they sort of come close.

      The best that I can do is restaurants like Ralph & Kakoo's (Metairie, if still around), and then some funky spots, like Crabby Jacks. Still, the kitsch is very localized there (or maybe local to down on the bayou?).

      I could come up with a few lounges, that sort of fit the retro bill, but just not restaurants.

      Maybe I will learn something useful from this thread?


      Crabby Jacks
      428 Jefferson Hwy, New Orleans, LA 70121

    2. Jacques-Imo's is certainly kitschy fake New Orleans/swamp decor. Crescent City and the afore-mentioned Charlie's also fit the bill.

      Jacques-Imo's Cafe
      8324 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118

      1. What I'm curious about is WHY? If you're entertaining locals, it's usually about the food, first. Since we don't have any places with your required characteristics, maybe if we knew the angle, we could make more suggestions.

        1. Crazy Johnnie's in Fat City may do it for you. Fun and full of crazy Fat City-ness. 3520 18th Street in Metairie.

          Crazy Johnnie's Cafe & Bar
          3520 18th St, Metairie, LA 70002

          1. expatorleanean, why ask why? Just cause you're local doesn't mean you always need or want the best food available. Sometimes, you want a good experience, food aside. I totally get it.

            My first thought, with my parents living in Mandeville, is Trey Yeun. As a kid I called it China Disney World (very elavorately decorated to the nines, koi ponds outside, flaming appetizers and big "old time" chinese restaurant drinks. BUT...its on the northshore,

            In town, my favorite for a more fun dinner is honestly Margaritaville down in the quarter. Each Margaritaville, I found out, has some set stuff on the menu, but is open to do their own food (the nola one has a surprisingly good bbq shrimp, for example) so its not quite as over the top touristy, chainy as youd think. I love going there when I'm home! Plus, the fun drink menu is longer than the real menu and there's always bands playing and a tire swing bar upstairs. My family will go down there, drink a little too much, and have a blast!

            2 Replies
            1. re: jmorri26

              I asked why to try to figure out what to suggest. Obviously the best food isn't always the point, but knowing what the point is would help.

              1. re: jmorri26

                I'd say that Pat O'Brien's, Les Bon Temps Roulez, Port of Call, Saturn Bar, maybe the bar at the Columns could be construed as being kitschy.

              2. We have no such corny, Guy Fieri-esque restaurant, thank god.

                6 Replies
                1. re: rabeezbabee

                  Actually, not quite New Orleans, but just across the Causeway in Mandeville is Louie and the Redhead Lady. Guy went there, and the oyster dish looked pretty good when I saw the episode. Guy is all over their website, check it out.


                  1. re: James Cristinian

                    The reviews from average joes on Louie's are awful. I was going to hit it on the way to Biloxi and was so disappointed to read all the horrible things about it.

                    1. re: texasredtop

                      I've been there twice, once for lunch and once for breakfast. I wouldn't say it's horrible, bit I also wouldn't say it's worth going way out of the way for. It's decent, not anything overly special.

                      1. re: expatorleanian

                        Try Liz's down the road from Louie's. She ran Louie's for years before splitting off about two years ago. It is breakfast and lunch only and is sometimes hard to get in as it is popular.
                        Nothing from Sysco here. Killer hamburger poorboy that feeds two. Very good sweet potato frys too.

                        I also used to go to Cathay when I lived in that neighborhood. That was a time warp.

                        1. re: collardman

                          I would bet you are wrong on one thing. I don’t know anyone in town that does their own sweet potato fries. I could be wrong, but I think most of them are straight out of the freezer and straight off the Sysco truck.

                          1. re: shanefink

                            You could well be correct. Potatoes are a real problem, as they are both popular (in many forms), and are also profit centers. That has not been lost on the Or-Ida folk.

                            Not that many years ago, I was reading some trade mags, in a client's office, and hit upon a long article on various frozen potato dishes, that were available to restaurants, and also the profit margins attached. I was floored.

                            Now, where I grew up, all fried potatoes were done in front of the patron, in a large, hot black iron pot, and they showed their character. I have always judged ALL other fried potatoes by those from Elsie's, and none even come close.


                2. One of the Chinese restaurants on the West Bank has that typical old school Chinese place decor and silly cocktails. Maybe it's China Doll on Manhattan? I don't remember for sure.

                  1. Haven't been in a while, but Cathay on Airline Drive in Metairie is Chinese as you describe. It might even have lazy susans and if it doesn't, you'll leave thinking they did. Old time Chinese restaurant decor, the silly old timey cocktail list, and as an added bonus, has pretty good food. Another plus you didn't mention but I'll bet it fits in with what you're looking for -- it's in a strip mall!

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: rouxdauphine

                      Wow. That's a blast from the past I grew up right around the block from there and remember when it first opened. I think that was the first time I had Chinese.

                      1. re: roro1831

                        It's hidden inside the prince conti hotel the Bombay Club. Dark Martini bar good food not way over the top. Decorated like someone's den dark woods and comfy leather furniture.


                        1. re: don515

                          why dignify this request? just let them go to the melting pot on st charles, eat fondue and leave the real food spots to those who aren't trying to recreate some corny thing from the food network.

                          1. re: rabeezbabee

                            That's very sweet, but I am definitely not looking for anything as seen on Food Network, or any kind of tourist trap. Looking for good, off-the-beaten path fun.
                            Trey Yeun might be the thing for us!
                            Thanks for all the helpful suggestions!

                            1. re: anita_cocktail

                              I had a couple more ideas - not that Trey Yeun wouldn't be good:

                              1) Shogun in Metairie (one of the first Japanese restaurants in town) has hibachi tables. What could be more kitschy than Benihana-style teppanyaki!

                              2) I know you said dinner, but Panda King next door to the Hong Kong market serves dim sum on Sundays during brunch hours. Perfect for a large group, fun and exciting.

                              3) Last night there was a "pop-up" wine bar that also served food at the Company Burger on Freret Street. Obviously it's too late for that one, but if you keep your ear to the ground maybe you can find a pop-up dinner that would sort of mesh with your "underground supper club" example.

                              Have fun wherever you end up!

                            2. re: rabeezbabee

                              I'd rather eat at a cheesy Chinese restaurant once than eat 17 gumbos in 4 days. To each his own.

                              1. re: uptownlibrarian


                                slam was recieved--

                                and in response--I say......really ?

                                but you're right about one thing--to each his own

                              2. re: rabeezbabee

                                Uh, because maybe every now and then it's fun to lighten up and be a bit silly? Just saying.

                                That's in reply to the poster who questioned why we should "dignify" this with a response.

                                BTW, I sure hope you post about the night out resulting from this.

                                1. re: rouxdauphine

                                  Sure. Lighten up. Let's all go to Applebee's and eat blooming onions tomorrow and then gab about how "kitschy" it was.

                                  1. re: rabeezbabee

                                    Kitschy and corporate rarely go together. i think that was the OP's point.

                                    Dining out is part dining and part out.

                                    1. re: collardman

                                      Thank you, Collardman, I didn't see the "Applebee's" remark until I saw your reply to it and it's not rocket science to see which one of the two of you "gets it."

                                      Sometimes you just want a silly throwback.

                                      Life's too short to not have fun. And, frankly, even t hough Applebee;s would not necessarily be my tenth choice on any given day, if I were with old friends and that's what they wanted, I would enjoy it in their company irony free.

                                      1. re: rouxdauphine

                                        "Silly throwback" is one thing, but corporate "kitsch" is another, at least in my book.

                                        A wonderful little family restaurant, with a wall signed 8 x 10's of notables, is one thing, and then a corporate designer's layout with "nautical gear," is another. One is real, and the other is an art director's concept of what "kitsch" should be.

                                        Now, to keep me happy, maybe we should delete an Applebee's references? [Grin]


                                      2. re: collardman

                                        Actually, kitschy AND corporate fit together, at least from my observations. There are high-rise offices, filled with commercial interior designers, who do nothing but define a "concept," and then send their minions out to secure the "kitsch," to make it happen, and often many times.

                                        Now, I do not think that is what the OP was alluding to, but could be wrong.

                                        Maybe I am way off base.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          I don't think that you are at all off-base, Bill. The fact that there is already at least one food network show devoted to this terrible stuff already proves your point.

                                          "Kitschy" food in 2011 is a highly codified, totally characterless marketing scheme in the same way that "tall and small" plates were all the rage in the 90s. To me, there is nothing less "kitschy" than purposely seeking out "kitsch."

                                          1. re: rabeezbabee

                                            Now, I have dine in the realm of kitsch, and have enjoyed those. Two that come immediately to mind, are Weidman's in Meridian, MS, where all dining areas are adorned with photographs of local folk, who made some sort of history, and also dined there. The other is Parkway Bakery and Tavern, where on can tour the photographs of Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park.

                                            In both locations, the food is very good, for what it is designed to be. I also do not believe that any corporate interior designer was at work with either, trying to create something, that did not exist.

                                            Now, I seek out such places for the food, and then enjoy the decorations, feeling strongly that they are not from some warehouse of "restaurant items."

                                            Maybe it's just me,


                          2. I'm reading the new issue of New Orleans magazine, with Best of Dining on the cover. The Chef of the Year writeup made me think of this post. "New Orleans is not about 'cute.' outrageous, yes. Over the top, for sure. No concept of moderation, absolutely. But 'cute' we don't do. Many cities around the country are settings for restaurant concepts that are cute. Not here. Even when a former church is taken over and transformed into a restaurant, we don't take it to cute. Here, we take what's on the plate seriously: ingredients, proper presentation and kitchen talent win the day."

                            1. I like this idea - exploring good food off the beaten path in NOLA is fun...I like the Trey Yuen idea, I also like Nine Roses Vietnamese on the west bank. They have awesome wooden table over the top asian decorations and reall fun cook your own meat grill style entree that I love. I also like going to the west bank for Papusas at the Papusaria. Caretta on Verterans is pretty fun too.... there's one night they have mexicanmusic and its lively. Good luck!

                              1. For years, i had my birthday party at Trader Vic's in San Fransisco. it was so much fun to drink the drinks with umbrellas and eat "pupu's" , i was a chef, this was not the kind of food i did, but for a fun time, we did this to "get away from it all'.