If These Walls Could Talk: Antoine's in New Orleans
If the walls in restaurants and bars could talk, what stories would they tell about the people who passed through and the events that occurred there over time? Like an old, venerable relative, they can be full of fascinating, quirky, and sometimes sordid tales of the past. In this series, we uncover some of those intriguing histories.
The annals of the Big Easy are full of stories of corruption and charity; tragedy and prosperity; vice and virtue. And few cities in the US have a knack for celebrating through it all. Anyone who wants to understand the history of New Orleans should start at its oldest restaurant. Antoine’s, opened in 1840, tells the story of a city, a family and the restaurant business.
Antoine’s claims to be the country’s oldest family-run restaurant. The original Antoine’s was not exactly a restaurant at first, however, according to Rick Blount, the fifth-generation family member who is its CEO. Young Frenchman Antoine Alciatore, Blount’s great-great-great grandfather came to New Orleans and opened Antoine’s as a pension, a small boarding house. New Orleans was a shipping center at the time, so merchants and seamen waiting for their next passage settled into spots like Antione’s pension until their ships came in. Along with the room came meals, and fortunately for Antoine’s boarders, he happened to be a great cook. His prowess behind the stove made his pension particularly popular.