Jim Rivas, chef and owner of Braxton's Restaurant & Lounge (636 Franklin Ave, Gretna, 301-3166; www.braxtonsnola.com) knew he wanted to work on the West Bank as soon as he saw the light gray building with its wraparound porch that now houses his restaurant.
"I fell in love with this building," Rivas says. "Some people have tables on sidewalks. We're sitting on a porch ... it's romantic."
Rivas renovated the building and opened his restaurant last April, offering a sophisticated dining and bar experience at an affordable price. The interior has a formal dining area, stage and bar. Rivas says he wants the feel of the French Quarter but prices of a neighborhood restaurant.
"I wanted to give the restaurant a French/Italian feel that incorporates live music," Rivas says. "I look at this space as a music venue. People can rent it for office parties or birthday parties or come here with their families."
Featuring pale green walls and linen tablecloths, the dining room provides a fast lunch for those on the go or a more leisurely dining experience at night. The bar's granite tops, leather stools and wood paneling create a laid-back atmosphere for enjoying a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail. The light from lamps hanging over the bar morphs into different colors, providing a jazzy ambience. Drink prices begin at $2 for domestic beers, $4 for well drinks and $7 for premium liquor.
The menu offers staples like gumbo, fried seafood platters, pasta, po-boys, T-bone steaks, and daily specials like red beans and rice. Every menu item is under $20.
"(We're) not going for gourmet food. We're not going for pretentious, but for comfort," Rivas says. "My goal is for Braxton's to feel like a neighborhood joint."
Starting this month, Rivas hopes to have live entertainment featuring blues, R&B, jazz and gospel every night with a gospel/jazz brunch on Sundays.
A Chicago native, Rivas began working in French Quarter restaurants when he moved to New Orleans 20 years ago, and formerly worked as chef and general manager of The Original Pierre Maspero's.
"My first love is always cooking," Rivas says.