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Hear The Pulse of New Orleans on Frenchmen Street

The second episode of the GoNOLA Radio New Orleans podcast explores the music, food and history of Frenchmen Street with the people who create it.

Frenchmen Street is one of the most common answers from locals when visitors ask where they should go in New Orleans that’s not Bourbon Street. Not that there’s anything wrong with Bourbon Street, but to find real, everyday New Orleans culture and soul, Frenchmen Street is the place. The street that begins on just the other side of Esplanade Avenue where it divides the French Quarter from the Faubourg Marigny is where you will find some of the best music, food and people in the city.

Host Sunpie Barnes leads this episode of GoNOLA Radio that examines why Frenchmen Street is one of New Orleans’ most intriguing destinations with the people who make it so. New Orleans Food Goddess, Lorin Gaudin, talks with Chef Brady Broussard of Frenchmen Street’s newest addition, the speakeasy inspired restaurant Melange. George Ingmire explores the depths of the Frenchmen Street music circuit with one of its major players, the Delta blues musician Luke Winslow-King who treats us to an in-studio performance. Mikko speaks with the Frenchmen Street music pioneer, Alan Langhoff, who started the Dream Palace which first hosted famous New Orleans musicians on the local strip.

GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes to download all the episodes. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.

Podcast Transcript 

Sunpie: Welcome to GoNOLA Radio. My name is Sunpie Barnes, and, I will be your host of hosts as we explore New Orleans to learn about the cities rich cultural heritage, food, and music. We bring you experts. The real deal experts who will talk with you about the people who make New Orleans such a wonderful place to live and visit. It’s GoNOLA Radio. 

Today we are going to talk about the culture of cool in New Orleans’s known as Frenchmen Street. You won’t find neon signs or daiquiri shops along this favorite local strip. But, rather, musicians, chefs, and club owners at their home away from home. Frenchmen Street is not only were traditional Jazz survives and thrives in New Orleans but were new exciting bars and restaurants keep cropping up. New Orleans’s food goddess, Lauren Gaudin, is here to speak with the executive chef of Melange. A new fine dining restaurant just off of Frenchmen street that is starting to turn heads. 

Lorin: As our host told you we are talking about Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. Frenchmen Street means a lot to many people if your of an age it means the dream palace, it means a lot of dancing, and drinking, and snug harbor, and for me, as the food goddess of New Orleans, it means yummy, yummy food. In studio with me today Chef Brady Broussard of the relatively newly opened Melange and the Speak Easy Bar, which is just off of Frenchmen. I mean literally right around the corner off of Frenchmen where Cafe Brazil once was. If you know that neighborhood, know that area, you’ll know were Melange and the Speak Easy Bar are. Welcome to the show Chef Brady Broussard.

Brady: Hi. Thanks for having us today. 

Lorin: Thank you very much for being here today. A native New Orleanean, yes?

Brady: Oh, yes, raised. New Orleans is in my blood.

Lorin: Great. Melange and the Speak Easy Bar. Tell me about he menus. Tell me about that place, and, kind of the vibe, what’s going on there.

Brady: We’re a 1920’s themed supper club. We have small plate menus. We have about nine, ten entrees. We have a dessert and cocktail menu. Our main focus is. A lot of other places around there they have music and then they food. We are a restaurant with music. There on the weekends we have The Nola Jitterbugs, their swing dancing. We constantly have great Jazz trios that always play there. We’ll have two sets a night. An early set and then we’ll have a late night set for the later crowd.

Lorin: Fantastic. As far as the food is concerned, I had read that basically your traditional New Orleans fair with a twist. You have menus. I noticed on the website, and if anyone’s interested in taking a look it’s Melangenola.com. I noticed on the website you have a bunch of different menus. A main menu, desserts and cocktails, late night, and brunch. Take us through the signature dishes from each one of those menus. Let’s start with the main menu. If someone went in and wanted to get that whole vibration right there on the plate, what dish would it be?

Brady: That’s hard to say. Our menu is split up. Our main menu. We have small plate, that’s for people who want to come in and sit down and listen to music and have a bit of food. It’s substantial enough to were it’s not just a cup of soup and it’s not an entree. It’s in between appetizer and an entree. 

Lorin: I was really impressed. I like the tin-roof beer batter okra.

Brady: A lot of people do like that one. One the small plates our biggest seller is smoked quesadillas. Those fly out of our kitchens.

Lorin: That’s a house smoked duck with provolone cheeses and a tomato mango chutney. You’re really pulling in a little bit of that New Orleans Caribbean feel and that local vibe with the tomatoes. Then of course house smoked duck and goats cheese. Provolone I don’t know how you could go wrong that. That sounds spectacular. In the main courses I was noticing very easy going things. You could have a meat dish, a pork dish, I saw rabbit.

Brady: Right. We want to cover all basis there on the entree area. We wanted to have fish. Also when we look at writing the menu and opening the restaurant we looked at what everyone else had around that area and we wanted to have things that people didn’t have.

Lorin: You’ve done a beautiful job.

Brady: That’s were the rabbits come along.

Lorin: I love it. The late night menu really made me smile because it is really breakfast centric. If someone is really feeling late night and wanted to have their eggs or their breakfast they can get that late night. Tell me about your brown sugar bacon waffle because that sounded like something I need right now.

Brady: It’s a Belgium waffle with chopped up bacon in it. It’s served with [steamed cane] syrup. It’s local here. Not in New Orleans but Louisiana.

Lorin: Right. Local to Louisiana.

Brady: Right. It’s candy bacon. It’s bacon it’s baked coated with brown sugar.

Lorin: So we’ve got sugar, we’ve got bacon.

Brady: You can’t go wrong with any of it.

Lorin: We’ve got toasty, yeasty. You just can’t go wrong that sounds phenomenal. I also was blown away that you have this really significant brunch menu that you serve as well. Your open and rocking for that whole vibration that happens on Frenchmen Street. Where you going to have cocktails, where you going to dance, where your going to listen to music and get great food. If you go in for brunch, you’re doing Sunday brunch only?

Brady: Yes.

Lorin: That’s great. What would you tell me if I was going to say, “what’s the dish I should tell people to go there to eat for brunch on Sunday after a really sassy Saturday night?”

Brady: People go crazy over the ditch called Eggs Esplanade.

Lorin: What is that?

Brady: It’s a potato cake with grilled pork tenderloin sliced on top of it with two poached eggs and brandy peppercorn sauce. You get your starch, you get your eggs, you get your meat. Basically it’s our steak and eggs, but, it’s the best steak and eggs your ever going to have.

Lorin: Right. So, It’s going to cure what ails from your night before.

Brady: Exactly.

Lorin: You can have a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary to go along with it. You’ll be good to go.

Lorin: It’s fantastic. I loved the menu. I loved the brunch. I love the fact that you have classic cocktails available as well. Of course, gorgeous desserts classic in nature. The restaurant is called Melange and the Speak Easy Bar. We’re going to give you the address. Can you take care of that for us?

Brady: It’s 2106 Charters Street.

Lorin: 2106 Charters. On the corner of Charters and Frenchmen.

Brady: And Frenchmen.

Lorin: I want to thank you once again Brady Broussard the chef of the fabulously new and wonderful, Melange and the Speak Easy Bar. Thanks for coming in.

Brady: Thank you very much.

Sunpie: Frenchmen street is defined by it’s music. Luke Winslow King is a prominent fixture in the Frenchmen Street music scene. New Orleans music aficionado, George Ingmire, talks with Delta Blue’s Band about he musical community of Frenchmen Street.

George: I am here with Luke Winslow King, a musician I have know for a few years now. It is quite a pleasure to welcome you to GoNOLA Radio.

Luke: All right George. Thanks for having me.

George: You brought your guitar.

Luke: Yeah.

George: This is kind of a GoNOLA first. We are going to have some live music now if you could tell us a little bit about. For one thing, tell us what’s your plan. You’ve got a nice older guitar there with a beautiful, I believe, Gibson amp.

Luke: That’s right. Got it back in the corner. My Gibson Falcon. I was watching this Mance Lipscomb film, I was telling you before the interview started. Who is a really awesome songster out of Texas. He’s influenced a lot of tunes on my new album. Some lyrically, some musically, and some spiritually. He’s a really great guy. I just watched this film about him the other night and it really convicted me. I really want to be a simple guy. I really want to be like him. I want to move slow.

George: Great. Great. Great.

Luke: I think I’m going to do one that I wrote that’s inspired by Mance. It’s called You and Me. I’m going to put this on my new album, I think.

[King sings You and Me]

George: Frenchmen Street is kind of like a place your doing residency. A lot of people are these days having gigs. A lot of traditional jazz players. Your drawing on more than just jazz. Your drawing on pre-war blues and what not and just jazz itself. Talk about the scene down there just as place to be a musician. And the fact that you know people are going to come see you and walk down to another club because Sundays is when there’s a certain style of music. There are people that love a certain form that come see you and then go down to say the Spotted Cat, or. 

Luke: Yeah. We’re really blessed to have it as place to do our residency’s, like you said. And have a lot of working relationships, a lot of colleagues, we all have huge lists of three or four bass players, and two or three sousaphone players. Everyone has this big pool of musicians. It’s a little bit incestuous at time but it’s also all inclusive, pretty awesome that way. It’s a really good place to be influenced by a lot of different genres within out New Orleans structure. You got your jazz, blue, Dixie land, gospel, and your bunch of cowboys. There’s a few different genres in there on Frenchmen Street. 

It’s cool to have older guys who are working a lot to look up to and see how their career have developed and what their relationship is like with their audience. I feel like I have been kind of caught in the middle between a lot of genres. I really love the Cotton Mouth Kings and the swing jazz, Dixie land thing. I really love preservation hall, the raw traditional jazz, like Washboard Chaz, and Delta Blues, kind of stuff. I’ve been kind of caught in the middle of it and rather than be confused I’m just trying to find my own music mixed up in that. 

And Frenchmen Street has really influenced me a lot. Washboard Chaz was telling me the other day the other day at rehearsal “It’s awesome to not go on tour and have the world come to you.” It’s really great to be able to stay home and meet new people every night, or, play your gig on French Quarterfest weekend, and see the same people coming in town for every year for ten years. Your like, “Oh, your back in town. Good to see you again. Thanks for coming down to the gig. I have a new record for you.” Whatever it is. 

It’s a really strongly developed scene. It’s great the word is getting around the world more and more through these different channels people are starting to find out about Frenchmen Street.

George: You can always visit Luke on his website.

Luke: That’s right, it’s lukewinslowking.com real easy to remember. We play every Thursday at Three Muses down on Frenchmen Street if you want to come say hello, and lots of other places around town. We’d love to see you and say hello to you folks.

George: Thank again for coming to visit us at GoNOLA Radio.

Luke: Thank you, George.

Sunpie: The Dream Palace Music Club was the beginning the Frenchmen Street as we know it when it opened in 1977. New Orleans cultural historian, Mikko, is here to talk with the man responsible for the historical institution, Alan Langhoff. About how he started a movement in New Orleans.

Mikko: When friends come to New Orleans to see the real deal for music and night life. Most visitors would be surprised by my suggestion, Frenchmen Street. A strip of about a dozen clubs and restaurant just off the edge of the French Quarter. The amazing thing about Frenchmen Street is that it cam about organically. Not through any urban planning or marketing group. Hello, I’m Mikko and today we are going to be talking about one of the most exciting bits of one of the most exciting towns in the world. This is called Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. Today I have a gentleman that was there when it all began. I’m talking about Alan Langhoff who opened the legendary Dream House. Which is a club I remember going to back when, oh my god, I was probably still in college. It was like a dream in there. Alan welcome to the show.

Alan: Hi. Nice to see you.

Mikko: You brought people like James Booker, the Radiators, the Nevilles…

Alan: Right.

Mikko: …to Frenchmen Street. This was 1977. Were there any other clubs doing that in that neighborhood at that time?

Alan: Well, I would say, as we got out start, The Radiators didn’t exist yet. The Radiators were still the [Rapsidisors] with great Becky [Curry] playing bass. They played out at a lake front club called [Louigi’s], they played on Wednesday night at Louigi’s, they played around a little bit other than that. [Eddy Vogue], who is, of course to me, one of the great song writers of the genre. He was very prolific in his writing and they played around some. They played the famous set of [Gator Balls] and stuff like that. 

When I first started to play music like that it was the Rapsidisors and the Radiators evolved out of that. It is the beginning, the nexus of the these band, the Rapsidisors are becoming the Radiators, The Neville Brothers, [Little Quitty] and the [Perculatos], and several other bands were just an explosion of musical talent in the jazz realm you had Johnny [Buldokovich] and James [Singleton], and Ramsey [McClean], these guys coming along. They formed a very fluid network of serous jazz bands whose name went on to build was who booked the gig. 

One night you could book it and it would be Ramsey’s band and they would do Ramsey’s stuff and it would be Johnny and James and Earl [Turpleton] and whoever. The next night or next week, I would book jazz on Sundays nights a lot, and it would be Johnny Buldokovich’s band so it would be James and whoever and they would be doing Johnny’s stuff. It was a very fluid beginning of a terrific music community which persistently has grown to this day.

Mikko: That’s for sure because at the Dream Palace you might find any style of music. I made a list up for the state of Louisiana, there was nine clubs at the time that had specific different music styles.

Alan: Right. Right. Right.

Mikko: The Spotted Cat. There’s DBA. The Dream Palace today is called.

Alan: The Blue Nile.

Mikko: The Blue Nile. There’s the [Magan]. Each one has there own style of music and each one is full.

Alan: Right. Right now on Frenchmen Street when you go to Frenchmen Street you can walk down the street and sample every genre and decide which one you want to listen to more than the other. For those of short attention span it’s sort of like a mini jazz festival in the street were you can walk literally from club to club and experience national jazz acts at Snug Harbor through local [inaudible 18:47] stuff might be playing at the Spotted Cat, there’s a reggae club, there’s no telling what’s at the Blue Nile. Blue Nile actually does two floors. Generally they do some sort of DJ thing on the second floor though sometimes early it’s live bands. Several of these clubs do more than one act a night. Were they’ll have a seven o’clock band that’s free and they may or may not have a cover for the ten o’clock show.

Mikko: Tell me as a club owner and a [denizen] your self of Frenchmen Street. One issue is that it grew in spite of neighborhood resistance do you have any stories about that?

Alan: Absolutely. When I first purchased the building in June of ’76 it was in pretty bad shape. I immediately began to renovate and as I began to renovate I had people in, I was using the second floor as a guest house some rooms I rented out and we had a room call the pit room which was actually guys who stayed for free and returned for some set amount of work a week. One of the fellows on the pit crew was a drummer. He set up his drum set downstairs in the bar, which was essentially empty and being renovated. 

The first Saturday afternoon he played at 2 o’clock in the after, just the drummer playing by himself, the police came by knocked on the door wanting to know what the hell was going on. It sort of goes on from there where early on I had magic sliding doors that covered the front doors to have a double door to keep the music in. It was a very long belabored beginning of getting the neighborhood used to the fact that we were going to be there for a long time. As the economic impetus grew that this was an obvious thing for Frenchmen Street to happen then the waves sort of parted. 

I guess by, I think, this might be wrong, this has got to be maybe 2000. I’m not sure the year that we actually become a legitimate music district. Incidentally I would say one interesting things of that was in 1976 I figured it would take 10 years at most. In 1980 they announced the 1984 World’s Fair which caused the money to go to the other side of Canal Street for some years. But then eventually caught up and things came back our way. My original vision was to have a place that I enjoyed as a native. As a young man I’d been a denizen of the French Quarter. I was familiar with what went on in the French Quarter, what clubs I liked and which ones I didn’t. The number one thing was, hey man, the drink prices. 

When I first opened my bar cocktail my bourbon and coke was $0.85. Which was probably about that time $2 every where else. It was just to create this neighborhood feeling and the music became part of that. Frenchmen Street has now become a musical estuary. When you go down there on a big night like Halloween or Mardi Gras it’s just wall to wall people and it is an incredible celebrations of the culture. It’s been very enlightening to me to watch this thing evolve because you never really think anything like that would really happen. 

It was just the opportunity was offered for people to have cultural expression in a sage environment and I might add in a racial environment. I was the first club that made very obvious that I was going to serve both races. That grew Frenchmen Street and it’s been a hell of ride.

Mikko: Alan Langhoff, thank you very much.

Alan: A pleasure.

Mikko: Best of luck to you and I’ll see you down on Frenchmen Street.

Alan: Okay. Let’s do it. 

Sunpie: GoNOLA Radio is a production of New Orleans tourism and marketing cooperation in conjunction with FSC interactive. Music by Cale Pellick. My name is Sunpie. Tune in next week by subscribing to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or Gonola.com.

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