by Ian McNulty
When J’Anita’s closed its kitchen inside the Rendon Inn recently, J’Anita’s proprietor Craig Giesecke said he was looking for another line of work but did leave the door open that someday the noted – though highly nomadic — bar food operation could return somewhere else. It’s taken just about two months for the next opportunity to walk through that door.
Giesecke and his wife Kimmie have a new plan in place to run the kitchen at the Blind Pelican (1628 Saint Charles Ave., 558-9399), a newly revamped and reopened tavern in the Lower Garden District not far from two of J’Anita’s three previous locations. This doesn’t exactly signal the return of J’Anita’s, though Giesecke plans to serve some of the greatest hits he’s taken on his journey through a succession of tavern kitchens.
“This will not be another version of ‘J'anita's at Someplace,’ but staples like the St. Chuck Duck, the Best Fish Sammich and a few others will certainly be on the menu,” he says. “We'll start with a small menu and work our way into things. At this point, at least, I might be a little more seafoody than in the past. I'll also have the smoker out back, so the pulled pork and house-smoked cheeses will certainly be in the mix. The place also has a pizza oven, so that opens all kinds of possibilities.”
Giesecke says the rough schedule at this point is to start serving food at the Blind Pelican next Friday, April 6, and continue with lunch and dinner hours.
The Blind Pelican opened earlier this year at the address that had been Samuel’s for years. It’s a prime spot on the streetcar line with lots of French doors leading to a large elevated deck. The new bar boasts 36 beers on tap, including a good selection of local and regional beers, and for the past few weeks it’s been serving a short menu of po-boys, bar snacks and raw or broiled oysters.
The Gieseckes opened the first incarnation of J’Anita’s in 2007 as a standalone restaurant on Magazine Street. After closing there in 2009, they were almost immediately invited to set up shop in the tiny kitchen at the Avenue Pub. That arrangement lasted about 18 months, but once again, and nearly as quickly, another bar invited them to take over its kitchen. That brought them to the Rendon Inn in November 2010, where they operated until January.
In the meantime, the Rendon Inn has started a new menu of bar snacks and sandwiches, served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Just this week, the tavern added an all-day brunch menu served Saturdays and Sundays with omelets and such extravagances as Nutella and bacon French toast. Rendon Inn manager Jeremiah Lavelle says more items and specials are joining the roster there all the time.
The Blind Pelican
1628 Saint Charles Ave., 558-9399
4501 Eve St., 826-5605