When Muriel’s opened in March 2001, the goal was to deliver the ultimate New Orleans experience, complete with a nightly soiree on the upstairs level. But with the events of 9/11, a shift in dining proclivities forced restaurateurs to rely less on pomp and circumstance. The Muriel’s hospitality family was not spared from the downturn, with the abandoning of a theater project in San Francisco and the eventual shuttering of the original Muriel’s Supper Club in Palm Springs. But 10 years later, Muriel’s in the French Quarter lives on, much like the spirit of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, the building’s former owner whose ghost is believed to roam the Séance Lounges on the second floor.
While Mr. Jourdan is said to subsist on the fresh bread and glass of cabernet that the staff sets out at his place setting every night, the living and breathing patrons of Muriel’s have their own favorites. One of the most popular is the crawfish and goat cheese crêpes, a dish created by former Chef Erik Veney. While the crepes are filled with a smooth mixture of goat cheese and cream cheese year-round, the buttery rich cream sauce is fortified with either shrimp or crawfish depending on the season. “We only use fresh Louisiana crawfish tails,” says managing partner Rick Gratia. “We just switched over to crawfish in February. Last year with the cold snap during the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, we had to use shrimp for longer than we usually do.”
Beginning with its first year as a vendor at French Quarter Fest in 2002, Muriel’s has served the same two items—crawfish and goat cheese crêpes and eggplant dressing. “I think there would be a riot if we tried something else,” says Gratia. While he is happy to serve what the people love, he is aware that the high demand can create a bit of a traffic jam at the booth located just across a stone’s throw from the restaurant’s front door on the corner of Jackson Square. “I hate the long lines. But they won’t give me a double booth, and we like being close to our kitchen. So we just move as fast we can.”
As for his personal plan during French Quarter Fest, Gratia says that he will move back and forth between the booth and the restaurant throughout the four-day event. But he will take a few hours for himself to enjoy the music and festival dish from his French Quarter neighbor. “I’m from Bucktown, so I like dressing. I usually walk over to Tujague’s booth and grab an order of shrimp and crabmeat stuffed mirliton.”
Perhaps he will kindly leave an order of mirliton at the place setting of Pierre Jourdan. Not even ghosts can live on bread and wine alone.
At French Quarter Fest: Jackson Square Food Area. Crawfish and Goat Cheese Crepe, Eggplant Stuffing, Dual Plate (Eggplant & Crepes)