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Shoptalk: Katie's Restaurant & Bar 

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Though Katherine d'Aquin obtained her position as co-owner of Katie's Restaurant & Bar (3701 Iberville St., 488-6582; www www.katiesinmidcity.com) unexpectedly, a career in the food industry is consistent with her lineage: She's a direct descendent of Edmund McIlhenny, who concocted Tabasco hot sauce in 1868.

  "We have all the Tabasco flavors on every table," says d'Aquin, who returned to her native New Orleans after a seven-year sojourn in New York City. She intended to bartend at Katie's a couple of days a week and assist with the restaurant's reopening after an extensive post-Katrina renovation. "Before I knew it, I was painting (the walls) and managing everything, and I became a partner in June," she says.

  The menu is filled with local favorites that beg for a healthy dash of hot sauce. Crawfish beignets, char-grilled oysters, seafood pizzas and Italian dishes draw a customer base that ranges from Mid-City neighbors to international tourists. A hefty sandwich menacingly titled The Barge (it's an entire loaf of French bread laden with shrimp, catfish and oysters) got a mention on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in March.

  "We definitely have seen people from all over the country who have come in just because of the (TV) show," d'Aquin says. "Some are from Brazil and Canada."

  However, general manager Brandon Gourgues says Katie's is a neighborhood restaurant first and foremost. "If you look around our bar, all of these (people) are regular customers who live and work here," he says. "I live four blocks away, and it is its own little community."

  During the daily happy hour, regulars sidle up to Katie's granite-topped bar for specialty cocktails like Key lime pie martinis. Long time customers, some of whom have been dining at Katie's since it opened in 1984, earn a special distinction: their names are engraved on brass plates mounted on the bar.

  "Every single day, people are like, 'Where's my plaque?'" d'Aquin says. "But you can't give everybody a plaque. Then it wouldn't be special."

Katie's Restaurant general manager Brandon Gourgues (left) and co-owner Katherine d'Aquin love the Mid-City restaurant's neighborhood feel.

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