Ye Olde College Inn (3000 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-866-3683; www.collegeinn1933.com) was founded in 1933. Over the generations, it evolved into a beloved, if increasingly dowdy, neighborhood standby. The Blancher family, proprietors of the bowling alley/music venue Rock 'N' Bowl, bought the restaurant in 2003. Following Hurricane Katrina, they reopened it in an adjacent building and began a radical modernization of the menu. This was well underway when Brad McGehee was brought on as executive chef in 2011, but since then he has helped complete the College Inn's transformation into a casual but modern Creole bistro. The restaurant runs its own farm on an adjacent lot to help supply the kitchen and it sources grass-fed beef from a ranch in Acadiana operated by relatives of the Blancher family. McGehee also oversees the food at Rock 'N' Bowl.
: What impact does running your own farm next door have on your kitchen?
McGehee: It means planning the menu isn't just what I'm going to buy but what I'm going to plant months in advance so we can have it on our menu. That forces you to think not two steps ahead but 10 steps ahead, but it's been very interesting. Having a farm like this really opens the door to a caliber of young, rising chefs who are passionate about this and want to work here with us. That's been a blessing in the kitchen, and it's not something I ever take for granted.
: Your menu changes often, but are there some dishes you can't touch?
M: There are still people who have been coming in here every week or a few times a week for years, and because of that there are certain dishes we won't fiddle with. The veal dish, that's a great dish, the onion rings, the burger. Those aren't going anywhere, even if we've made some quiet adjustments, especially with the beef program.
: What do you think connects the restaurant to its history?
M: It has been so many things over the years, I think that just shows that it's adaptable, it's a survivor. I think that speaks volumes for the place. It's here to give customers what they want, and that changes over time. — IAN MCNULTY