After seeing the entire structure inundated with floodwater from Hurricane Ike's storm surge, it seems incredible that Middendorf's Restaurant is preparing to reopen on Wednesday next week.
But sure enough, owners Horst Pfeifer (pictured at left last spring) and his wife Karen announced they will resume their normal business schedule less than six weeks after all the buildings that make up their Manchac seafood landmark were flooded by four feet of lake water.
A team of volunteers helped the Pfeifers get Middendorf's second, newer dining hall in shape to return to business, and that will reopen first. Karen says they still must decide their plan for the original building, which is a more complicated proposition because of its age. Here's the latest, directly from Karen:
Please know that our goal is to continue with the tradition of Middendorfs, not only the food but the ambiance and décor. Cypress wall, cypress knees, etc., etc. will all be a part of the rebuild."
Founded in 1934, Middendorf's has long been known for its razor-thin fried catfish (pictured below). The Pfeifers bought Middendorf's from its original family owners in 2007. They previously owned the French Quarter restaurant Bella Luna, where Horst's cooking and a rare, panoramic view of the Mississippi River made it a popular destination for fine dining and romantic occasions. That building, part of the French Market, was damaged by wind and rain during Hurricane Katrina and by looters afterward and it never reopened. The Pfeifers also own the Foundry, an events hall in the Warehouse District.
Since taking over Middendorf's, the Pfeifers seem to have poured their heart and soul into the local landmark. They took up residence in the house next door to the restaurant, where the original family owners had lived before them. They planted gardens and raised chickens there. This spring, they opened a new, screened-in dining deck on the back of Pass Manchac, offering breezes and bayou views to go along with the catfish and beer. Here's what Karen has to say about getting Middendorf's back in business:
Returning to work means more than income for most of the staff, the management and Horst and I. I found out with Katrina that I like rules, regularity and consistency in my life. Im not as carefree as I always thought I was. All we want is to be able to offer our family of employees, our staff an opportunity to get back to what we and they considered normal (but really what is normal?). We miss them, we miss our customers, their stories, their love of Middendorfs. I cant wait to hug our first customer and thank them for their loyalty."
Middendorf's reopens Oct. 8 at 10:30 a.m. As before, the restaurant will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Ian McNulty