West End Blues Revisited

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Visiting Beebe's (above), a new lakefront restaurant reviewed this week, I couldn't stop thinking about how much the area around it has changed.

After all, New Orleans people my parents’ age can tell tales of a restaurant scene along the lakefront that was always hard for me to imagine. Where I had seen a marina, a sprawling parking lot and only a handful of seafood places, they remembered restaurant after restaurant, many of them perched over Lake Pontchartrain on stilts, all of them serving gargantuan portions of local seafood.

Farther back in time still, people my grandparents’ age can tell stories of the area as a summer resort, with jazz clubs, dance halls, hotels and bathing pavilions. Louis Armstrong himself sang the "West End Blues" about that scene.

Someday, I might tell my own kids stories they likely will find just as hard to reconcile with the contemporary area they see along the New Orleans lakefront.

I’ll tell them about Bruning’s where we ate raw oysters served on ice-filled platters and whole flounders stuffed with crabmeat dressing and broiled in butter.

I’ll reminisce about crossing a footbridge over the 17th Street Canal to go to Sid-Mar’s, where we had trays of spicy boiled crabs on a screened-in porch watching the little shrimp boats bobbing gently at their piers just outside. I’ll describe the hot crawfish and cheap pitchers of beer in the old dining hall at Jaeger’s Seafood and Beer Garden, where kids ran rampant and everyone ate too much.

Who knows what this storied part of town will look like in another generation? I'm just glad that now, at least, there's a place like Beebe's where we can go to have a bite, hear some live music and take in the cool lake breezes.

-- Ian McNulty

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