by Ian McNulty
Alas, the Saints will be watching the NFC Championship game this weekend rather than hosting it. But, as ever, sports mania marches on and a new restaurant aiming squarely for hungry fans will be unveiled this week.
Manning’s Restaurant (519 Fulton St., 593-8118) is slated to open Thursday at the upriver end of Fulton Square, the pedestrian mall developed by Harrah’s Casino. Archie Manning, the former Saints quarterback, created the restaurant in partnership with Harrah’s. Manning’s will serve lunch and dinner daily and will accept reservations.
Naturally, sports play a big part in the program at his restaurant. Its motto, after all, is “Eat, Drink and Cheer." Manning, a one-man NFL talent development lab, is the father of both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, and family sports memorabilia will deck the halls here. Wall space should be at a premium, however, since this 210-seat restaurant will have some 30 TVs, including one screen stretching 13 feet long.
The large restaurant is in a completely new building fitted out with a balcony and courtyard. One special feature is a private seating area called the End Zone, which is furnished with 17 leather recliners and available by reservation on game days. The restaurant also has a sports anchor desk intended to host visiting media personalities and programs that may broadcast from New Orleans during special events.
Snacks and appetizers at Manning’s offer some twists on familiar sports bar fare. The wings, for instance, are “gris gris duck wings” with pepper jelly, the potato skins are made from sweet potatoes and the cheese fries are done poutine style, with cheese curds, and topped with cochon de lait. They’re also pricier than standard sports bar fare, with first courses starting at $10. There are entrée salads, burgers and po-boys (the Crystal-brined fried chicken po-boy sounds good) and entrees that follow the comfort food format — meatloaf, roasted chicken, catfish, grilled fish and short rib jambalaya. Most main courses are between $11 and $17. Hubig’s pie a la mode, banana pudding, Pepsi-Cola cake and Abita root beer floats are part of the Southern-centric dessert list.
Manning’s joins a long-running trend of sports figures in the restaurant business. Another relatively recent example is Shula’s Steakhouse, a chain developed by Don Shula, the NFL Hall of Famer and coach of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. The New Orleans Shula’s opened in the JW Marriott Hotel in 2006. Mike Ditka has some of that action too through his Chicago-based Dikta’s Steakhouse. The small chain had a New Orleans location, which opened in 2000 just days after “da coach” was fired by the Saints. It lasted until 2002.
519 Fulton St., 593-8118