by Ian McNulty
Filets, strips and giant porterhouse cuts are now sizzling up in the CBD at a new steakhouse from the owners of Uptown’s well-established Mr. John’s Steakhouse.
Desi Vega’s Steakhouse is in the ground floor of the Lafayette Hotel, and it replaces Mike’s on the Avenue, a fusion restaurant that quietly closed around the end of 2012.
The restaurant is named for Desi Vega, the managing partner of Mr. John’s and a front-of-the-house alum of Commander’s Palace, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Emeril’s Delmonico. He explains that customer demand propelled the expansion.
“We’ll have 130 covers a night (at Mr. John’s) and we’re turning away another 100 people,” says Vega. “We can’t expand here, so we decided to open down the street in the CBD.”
He says having two restaurants named Mr. John’s about a dozen blocks away on the same street might have been confusing for customers, so this new restaurant bares his name. It’s also a concept he and his partners plan to expand. Vega says they intend to open the next Desi Vega’s Steakhouse on the Gulf Coast.
Mike’s on the Avenue had some Super Bowl buy-outs on the books, which the steakhouse is now fielding, and Vega says they’ll wait until after the big game to make renovations to the interior design.
“We’ll make it look more like a steakhouse,” he says.
The restaurant space had been a steakhouse before as the short-lived local branch of Mike Ditka’s Steakhouse. More recently though, as Mike’s on the Avenue, it became an experiment in resurrecting a culinary hit from the ‘90s.
Restaurateur Vicky Bayley and chef Mike Fennelly were the team behind the original Mike’s on the Avenue, which was open from 1991 to 1999 and drew raves for a fusion cuisine blending Japanese, Indian, Southwestern and Creole flavors. They reopened it in 2010 at the same address, but this time the response was much less enthusiastic. In a message that had been posted on the Mike’s on the Avenue Web site, Bayley explains that Fennelly, who is also a painter, plans to open an art gallery in Maine while she will be involved with Desi Vega Steaks.
A grand opening for Desi Vega’s Steakhouse is scheduled for later in February, after Mardi Gras. The menu is similar to the classic steakhouse line-up at Mr. John’s, though it omits Mr. John’s roster of Italian entrees and adds some different appetizers. The lunch menu includes burgers and sandwiches to the dinner options.
Desi Vega’s Steakhouse serves lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Desi Vega’s Steakhouse
628 St. Charles Ave., 504-523-7600
Mr. John's Steakhouse
2111 St. Charles Ave., 504-679-7697