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Neighborhood Dining

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Like many local eating establishments, Hedges Bar & Grill (4 Galleria Blvd., Wyndham Metairie, Metairie, 620-9412) aspires to be a neighborhood restaurant that offers fine dining in a casual atmosphere. And it is succeeding on those fronts, attracting a cadre of regular customers from the surrounding area who find that its location in the lobby of the Wyndham Metairie makes it more convenient than more traditional neighborhood haunts.

There is complimentary parking in a covered garage attached to the building and a driveway at the Wyndham entrance that allows a driver to drop off passengers before parking. The bellman on duty also will park a diner's car on request.

"We want to make Hedges into a neighborhood restaurant that stands on its own from Wyndham but shares the conveniences," says Fernando Calix, director of food and beverages for Hedges. "It's a semi-casual restaurant, but we're coming to you as a fine-dining service."

Located just steps inside the Wyndham's lobby, Hedges offers a visually warm and pleasant atmosphere for having cocktails and a cigar at the bar or an entire meal. The walls, floor, furniture and bar are made of dark wood brightened with contemporary paintings and a backlighted stained-glass olive motif artwork behind the bar. There's an elegance to the place, made more comfortable by friendly servers and tasty Louisiana cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Scott Hensley.

One feature that draws regulars every week is the champagne brunch on Sunday, which features carving stations with prime rib or some other beef and ham, caviar, smoked salmon, soups, salads, chocolate mousse and other desserts and more displayed in silver serving domes. The regular lunch and dinner menus feature Louisiana favorites with Hensley's special twists. Regulars go for the large Gulf shrimp with shellfish stuffing, basmati rice and lemon-thyme sauce and the grilled Porterhouse pork chop topped with pecan praline butter and served with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. Other tasty options are fresh-made pizzas covered with ingredients such as chicken, goat cheese, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and other options, then baked in a brick oven. There also are a host of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts to choose from.

"We go with fresh Louisiana cuisine," Chef Hensley says. "We use lots of shrimp and sausage and crab fingers. We make our own dough for the gourmet pizzas. We buy good quality products and just pay the price.

"We've found that working out here (in Metairie), we have a lot more locals to serve; the service and food has to be better. We have to mind our Ps and Qs. People out here know what they want and they're very demanding."

For visitors who stop in during their stay at the Wyndham or attend an event at the hotel, Hensley says the menu is a friendly adventure into Louisiana foods without excessive seasoning but ripe with ingredients associated with the state and particularly with New Orleans. The restaurant also runs daily featured specials like stuffed shrimp on Mondays and special promotions such as tequila night, in which customers get to taste different selections of the liquor.

The extensive wine list is designed to cover the bases without intimidating the diner or forcing them to defer their decision to their waiter. "My wine list was penned with everyone in mind," says Calix, who composed the list. "It's user friendly. Everyone should be able to find something on it that they like."

Hedges is an attractive, new restaurant that is making people readjust the way they think about both suburban hotel restaurants and what they expect from neighborhood joints. "There's really nothing exactly like this out here," Calix says. "We want people to see what Metairie has been missing."

Worth a Toast

Well-told tales of New Orleans' two most revered pastimes -- eating and drinking -- have earned the Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour Gray Line Worldwide's title of "Most Creative Tour of 2002."

Interesting to both locals and visitors, the Gray Line Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour takes guests to restaurants such as Galatoire's, Antoine's and Brennan's and bars including Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop and others. It also imparts classic stories of the city's eateries and drinking establishments as well as the history of now common drinks that were first concocted here, such as the Sazerac, Pimm's cup, hurricane and hand grenade.

The tour was inspired by the book Obituary Cocktail, written and photographed by local artist Kerri McCaffety, and was founded by Ann Rogers, president of Taste of Adventure Tours. It begins at 4 p.m. daily at the Gray Line office at the base of Toulouse Street and takes guests through the French Quarter. Tickets are $24. Call 569-1401 for information, or visit the Web site www.gralineneworleans.com.

Fernando Calix (left) and Executive Chef Scott Hensley watch over the buffet line at Hedges Bar & Grill in the lobby of the Wyndham Metairie.
  • Fernando Calix (left) and Executive Chef Scott Hensley watch over the buffet line at Hedges Bar & Grill in the lobby of the Wyndham Metairie.

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