Saturday, May 21, 2011
Here's my article on LeBlanc's Restaurant that ran in the May issue of the West Bank Beacon.
LeBlanc’s Restaurant – Neighborhood Cafe
In 1973, Karen and Tommy LeBlanc opened LeBlanc’s Grocery at the corner of Lafayette and 3rd Streets in Old Gretna. It was a quintessential neighborhood grocery store where you could buy everything you needed for the day. A limited menu of lunches was available, too. And Karen and Tommy were always there to greet you with a smile.
In 1992, they closed the grocery and opened a full service restaurant - LeBlanc’s Restaurant - a block away at the corner of Lafayette and 2nd Streets. Sadly, Karen passed away in 1994 just as the restaurant started taking off. Tommy continued to work hard to fulfill the dreams he and Karen imagined for themselves and their children, Lynn and Tommy, Jr.
Throughout the years, Karen and Tommy generously gave back to the community. They were early benefactors of the Boys & Girls Club of Gretna. They were also active in the Gretna Business Association where Tommy served as president.
During its 19 years of operation, LeBlanc’s has become a touchstone in the community. The clientele has always been a melting pot. Judges, lawyers, and politicos meet there early for coffee. The Entergy and BellSouth crews stop in for breakfast. Workers from Zatarain’s, Stone Oil, Richard Tools, the Gretna courthouse, and Gretna City Hall come in for an early lunch. Old Gretna natives like my dad and his cousins convene there now and again to catch up over a home-cooked lunch. It really is a neighborhood meeting place where you are bound to run into someone you know.
In 1998, Tommy added a bar to the restaurant that was operated by his son, Tommy, Jr. At that time, Tommy, Jr. started learning the ropes of running the restaurant, too. It was Tommy’s dream for Tommy, Jr. to one day take over the day-to-day operations of the entire enterprise.
Tommy LeBlanc never met a stranger. His big, booming voice and gentle smile always made customers feel at home. You always felt Tommy was glad to see you. He was generous and kind. Unfortunately, Tommy died earlier this year after a long illness. Gretna lost a terrific citizen, and many of us lost a great friend.
Tommy’s planning 13 years ago paid off. Tommy, Jr. was a good student of his dad’s and has run the day-to-day operations for some time, well before his dad’s passing. The place is still as welcoming as ever and the menu mostly the same. To spice things up, Tommy, Jr. has added some new lunch items to the menu. He told me that he and his dad have been working on these recipes for some time but just didn’t get around to putting them on the menu until now.
Breakfast at LeBlanc’s starts at 6:30 a.m. and runs through 10:30 a.m. Monday – Friday. There are breakfast combos including 2 eggs, grits or hash browns, bacon, ham or sausage, and biscuit or toast ($4.39); 3 pancakes, bacon, ham or sausage ($4.39); and, a 3 egg omelet, bacon, ham or sausage, cheese, biscuit or toast ($4.99). There’s also a selection of breakfast sandwiches ranging in price from $1.69 - $5.49. On Saturdays, breakfast is served all day from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The Monday through Friday daily lunches are only $6.49, and the portions are huge. Mondays offer red beans & rice with either a breaded pork chop or smoked sausage, and a salad; beef tips & egg noodles or creamed potatoes, vegetables, and a salad; or beef liver & onions, creamed potatoes, and vegetable. On Tuesdays, choose from a hamburger steak, creamed potatoes, and vegetables; baked chicken, baked macaroni, vegetable, and salad; or pasta labella with a salad. Wednesdays its spaghetti & meatballs or Italian sausage, and beet salad; white beans & rice with a breaded pork chop or smothered rabbit; stuffed chicken breast with rice & gravy, vegetables, and a salad; baked lasagna and a beet salad; or veal parmesan with a beet salad. Thursdays is my favorite day at LeBlanc’s. The fried chicken with smothered cabbage and yams is excellent! Also offered are BBQ pork ribs, baked beans, and potato salad; or beef stew and potato salad. And Fridays offer lots of seafood: stuffed pepper with baked macaroni, potato salad, and vegetables; shrimp stew over rice (delicious!) and potato salad; fried catfish filet, baked macaroni, and potato salad; smothered okra with shrimp over rice with potato salad; and, seafood gumbo and potato salad.
Throughout the week, look for the new lunch items which include: seafood enchiladas – shrimp, crab and crawfish topped with butter garlic cream sauce ($7.49); pan-seared shrimp remoulade po’boy ($7.49); softshell crab po’boy ($7.99); and 2 crab cakes over angel hair pasta with crawfish cream sauce ($7.99).
In addition to the daily lunches, LeBlanc’s has an extensive selection of po’boys and sandwiches ($2.99 - $7.25). There are also several salads including a caesar salad ($5.25), chef salad ($5.99), grilled chicken salad ($5.99), tuna salad ($5.99), and shrimp salad ($6.59).
Good news for nearby businesses - LeBlanc’s is delivering again. Call in your delivery order early to beat the lunch rush. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
When they opened LeBlanc’s in 1992, Karen and Tommy LeBlanc envisioned a family-style, neighborhood restaurant where friends could gather over a reasonably-priced, home-cooked meal. Without a doubt, that vision was realized through their hard work, appreciation of their customers, and commitment to their community. Their children, Lynn LeBlanc Hamilton and Tommy, Jr., are determined to honor the tradition. Stop by for a visit soon.
LeBlanc’s Restaurant is located at 136 Lafayette Street, Gretna, LA. The phone number is 361-9216. The hours are: Monday – Friday: breakfast 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., lunch 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m., breakfast all day and a selection of daily lunch specials.
Reprinted with permission of the West Bank Beacon.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Here's my article on One Smart Cookie Company that ran in the April 2011 edition of The West Bank Beacon:
Meiko and Jimmie Ditta are both lifelong Westbankers. Meiko graduated from Immaculata High School and UNO. Jimmie graduated from L.W. Higgins High School and obtained a Bachelor’s and Masters degree from Loyola University. Meiko worked for the Copeland’s organization for 8 years and Jimmie worked in law enforcement, most recently for the Department of Homeland Security.
One of Meiko’s lifelong hobbies was baking cookies and pastries for family and friends. Her sugar cookies were particular favorites. Eventually Meiko began selling her baked goods to supplement the family’s income.
In May 2009, one of Meiko’s lifelong dreams was fulfilled when she and Jimmie opened the first One Smart Cookie Company at 1331 Barataria Boulevard in Marrero. The goal was to provide the community with a neighborhood bakery reminiscent of bygone family bakeries like DeSalvo’s and McKenzie’s. The business thrived and in November 2009, a second bakery was opened at 110 Belle Meade Boulevard in Gretna.
All along, Meiko and Jimmie envisioned a bakery and full service restaurant. In March 2011, that concept materialized with the opening of The Bistro at One Smart Cookie Company in the Physicians Center at West Jefferson Medical Center.
The menu at all 3 bakeries is extensive. You can choose from sugar cookies, turtles with fudge and pecans, mega fours, chocolate chip cookies, lemon cookies, wedding cake balls, and red velvet cake balls, just to name a few. Then there are the specialty pastries including: Bavarian cream-filled eclairs, Bavarian cream-filled cream puffs and cream cheese brownies. One Smart Cookie also offers cookie bouquets, king cakes, and cakes for all occasions. Special requests for specialty cakes for birthdays and showers are welcome.
The newly-opened Bistro menu offers 6 and 12-inch po’boys ($3.99-$9.49), club
But it’s the chicken salad that the Dittas are most proud of. According to Jimmie, the 80-year-old family recipe originated with his grandmother and passed on to him by his mother, Jane Ditta. The family used to make 75 pounds of the chicken salad once a year at Christmas and give it out to family and friends. Now, that family recipe is available to the public as Granny’s Famous Chicken Salad on your choice of bread ($4.49-$9.99).
The Bistro at One Smart Cookie Company has a catering menu that includes finger sandwiches, mini-muffalettas, meat trays, bbq sausages and meatballs, artichoke balls, and vegetable trays.
One Smart Cookie Company’s hours are as follows: at 1331 Barataria Boulevard, Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., phone number is 301-9329; 110 Belle Meade Boulevard, Monday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., phone number is 304-6326. The Bistro hours are Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., phone number is 309-9067.
Meiko and Jimmie are realizing a dream for themselves and their children Mia, age 8, and Colin, age 4. Accomplishing their goals would have been impossible without the help and support of family members including Jimmie’s mom Jane Ditta and brother Tony Ditta, along with Meiko’s sisters Kailey, Demi, and Lauren. And with the addition on the Bistro, they are thrilled to be part of the West Jefferson Medical Center family.
One Smart Cookie Company is a family-run bakery and restaurant. Meiko and Jimmie invite you to join them at any of their 3 locations for quality baked goods and food accompanied by personal service with a smile.
Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.