by Ian McNulty
The Hyatt Regency intends to reopen at long last on Oct. 19, and today — one month out — its PR team released details of the restaurants to expect inside the huge, redeveloped hotel.
The Hyatt has been one of the biggest pieces of the New Orleans hospitality sector still to return after Katrina, and now the 32-story hotel is nearing the finish line of a $275 million rehab and revamp.
Its executive chef is Eric Damidot, a Frenchman who was previously executive chef at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and he’ll be in charge of food for a property with nearly 1,200 guest rooms and some 200,000 square feet of meeting space.
The flagship restaurant for the property is called 8 Block Kitchen & Bar, so named, according to a Hyatt release, in “homage to the eight blocks that comprise Upper Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, one of the city’s most iconic and historic attractions known for local culture and classic cuisine.”
It will be nearly as big too, with 360 seats (for the sake of comparison, that’s roughly the same size as the Drago’s inside the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel).
The menu looks like a mix of regional and French flavors, with examples like fried oyster eggs Benedict, beignets, garlic and pepper shrimp, duck confit and muffulettas. In addition, 8 Block will have a 70-seat bar with “cheeses from the finest local cheese mongers and a variety of house-cured meats and sausages from the city’s best butchers.”
The Hyatt will also have a new bar called Vitascope Hall. The name is a reference to an early New Orleans movie theater once found on Canal Street, though with 25 flat-screen TVs around the room it seems to be going after the sports bar crowd that once patronized Hi-Tops, the jersey-decked watering hole at the old Hyatt that was a popular pre- and post-Dome drinking destination. Vitascope Hall will serve burgers, sandwiches and bar snacks, plus a raw bar for oysters and sushi.
The hotel will have a Starbucks location, as well as an outpost of the Little Rock, Ark.-based barbecue chain Whole Hog Café, which is now located next door to the Hyatt property inside the Entergy Building. This Hyatt-based Whole Hog won't be a sit-down restaurant, but rather it will use a 2,000-pound smoker to supply meats to the other hotel restaurants, provide off-site catering for tailgating for such and operate a booth at Champions Square outside the Dome before Saints games this season.