by Ian McNulty
A sprawling new sports bar and restaurant complex is now pouring pints and serving waffle-cut cheese fries by the bushel in the CBD.
Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar and Happy's Irish Pub, both expansions of Baton Rouge-based concepts from the same management group, have been under development for a while, and now both come skidding across the finish line just in time for the Saints home opener this Sunday. They took over an 11,000-sqaure-foot Poydras Street address, about four blocks from the Superdome. The building had been home to a Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, but had sat empty since Hurricane Katrina.
Walk-On’s started as a sports bar and grill practically within field goal range of Tigers Stadium at Louisiana State University. It has since grown into a chain with another location in south Baton Rouge and one in Lafayette.
The dining room of the New Orleans location is covered with big, flat-screen TVs, and it sports a large bar with booths equipped with self-serve beer taps. Customers seated at these booths pour off their own drafts while the beer dispenser keeps a running tab. The restaurant’s menu covers familiar bar-and-grill territory (burgers, fried appetizers galore, entrée salads) and adds a sort of Louisiana-meets-Tex-Mex theme (lots of tortillas, cheese, crawfish and fried seafood). Walk-On’s serves lunch and dinner daily and is open to all ages.
Just next door, though sharing the same address, Happy’s is strictly a bar, and it's one that seems to follow the “breastaurant” trend. Barmaids wear the classic Catholic-schoolgirl-gone-bad uniform, with skimpy skirts and midriff tops. Members of the staff have been making the rounds about New Orleans lately, variously posing by local landmarks and with cops, construction workers and other game fellows. This bar has two rooms fitted with deep booths and more TVs, plus an open courtyard.
Happy’s took over the former site of Maylie's Restaurant, an old-school Creole restaurant that dated back to 1876 but closed for good in 1986. Its building later became part of the Smith & Wollensky restaurant.
The arrival of Walk-On’s and Happy’s is part of a small wave of new expansions that should be familiar to some LSU alums and Baton Rouge transplants. The Chimes, a popular bar and grill that started just outside LSU’s campus gates, recently opened a location in Covington, while Izzo’s Illegal Burrito, a Baton Rouge-based chain of quick-serve Mexican restaurants, has an outpost in Metairie.
Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar
1009 Poydras St., 309-6530
Happy's Irish Pub
1009 Poydras St., 304-9236