Antoine's Restaurant (pictured with staff during its 150th anniversary in 1990) has a reputation for deep-running French Creole tradition and a resistance to change that has made its menu practically a museum exhibit. But some business moves since Hurricane Katrina are giving that reputation a run for its money.
After the disaster, the restaurant added brunch service for first time. Last spring, Antoine's transformed one of its many dining rooms into the Hermes Bar, the first bar in the restaurant's 169-year history.
The next planned move is to open a coffee shop and casual café on Royal Street, right around the corner from the restaurant. It will be called Antoine's Annex and serve coffee drinks, gelato, pastries and light lunches, such as sandwiches and salads, according to Charlie Daroca, chief operating officer of Antoine's.
"We're trying to do new things to hopefully make us less of a seasonal business," says Daroca. "Hermes Bar has a local crowd now, especially on the weekends, and we hope this (Antonie's Annex) will have an appeal not only to visitors but to shopkeepers and people who work here in the Quarter."
He says Antoine's Annex should open in late October at 513 Royal St., in a newly-renovated storefront that Antoine's has long owned. It previously leased the space to a costume shop called Rumors, which has since moved to a new location down the block.
The new café's name is a reference to the earlier addition to the restaurant's footprint, originally called Antoine's Annex. It was the same part of the restaurant's interconnected complex of buildings that now houses the Hermes Bar, and the name is still visible in tile work by its St. Louis Street doorway.