Saturday, May 21, 2011

LeBlanc's Restaurant | Neighborhood Cafe

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.

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