Broussard's Restaurant Undergoes $1 Million Renovation
By Todd A. Price, NOLA.com | Times-Picayune
Last March, Zeid Ammari and his company, Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, bought a dream property in the French Quarter. The sprawling 19th-century building on Conti Street is convenient to Bourbon but far enough removed to be sedate. The courtyard, which abuts the Hermann-Grima House, is the kind of setting that brides book the moment they get a ring. And amenities include a 128-year-old wisteria tree that shades the entire patio.
Along with the address, Ammari and his partners bought an iconic Creole restaurant that opened in 1920: Broussard's. As his company completes a $1 million renovation of the property, they're trying to honor the memories of the generations who have dined at Broussard's.
"Broussard's has always been a diamond," Ammari said. "It just needed to be polished to preserve the history of it and move it forward for the next 100 years."
Anyone who frequented Broussard's recently will be shocked when they walk in the door. The entry hall used to be crowded with antiques and decorated with tiles of naked cherubs. Now a streamlined and grand hallway leads to an expanded bar, renamed the Empire Bar.
The dining rooms, however, remain familiar. In the main Napoleon dining room, the 1970s colors have been refreshed, new carpets installed and the chandeliers polished. Two temperature-controlled wine cabinets will hold reserve bottles selected by sommelier and general manager Chris Ycaza.
"Chris comes in with a very extensive wine list," Ammari said. "He comes with a price."
In the smaller Josephine dining room, the green hues evoke the courtyard outside. Bird-print wallpaper imported from Italy lines the walls. The light fixtures are new additions, but they're antiques and were recovered from another section of the restaurant.
"We wanted to preserve a lot of the historical parts of our building," Ammari said.
The local designer Brian Bockman oversaw the Broussard's renovation. He also designed Kingfish, also owned by Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts.
In the courtyard, where guests can dine or have a drink, $40,000 of landscaping was planted.
"The landscaping wasn't 'done' before," Ammari said. "It was just kind of put together. We wanted to offer something a bit nicer. It will look very French and European. More whites."
The most radical changes happened behind the scenes, since many maintenance issues had been deferred in recent years. The kitchen needed new plumbing. The bathrooms were rebuilt from scratch. Even though Ammari said the company was not required to make the restrooms handicap accessible, they brought them up to modern standards.
"It's the right thing to do," he said. "And in reality, we're not going to remodel for a good amount of years."
Before Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts bought Broussard's, it had been owned since the 1980s by Evelyn and Gunter Preuss. Chef Guy Reinbolt, who most recently worked at the Sheraton New Orleans, will take over the kitchen. The menu, still under development, remains classic French Creole.
"In reality," Ammari said, "you can't change history."
Bartender Paul Gustings, best known for his time at Tujague's, will oversee the Empire Bar.
The renovations of Broussard's have cost nearly $200,000 more than projected. But Ammari doesn't mind spending the extra money.
"We know it's for the long-term," he said. "We're putting money into the history and future of Broussard's. We feel extremely humbled that we're able to do that."
Broussard's will reopen officially in mid-September.
Check back for more information about the food and drinks at Broussard's as it becomes available.
Source: NOLA.com | Times-Picayune
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