One of the original operators of Santa Fe plans to reopen the restaurant in a new location in Faubourg St. John this month.
Alan Gilbert is finished up renovations to the restaurant space at 3201 Esplanade Ave. (pictured above), previously home to the pizzeria La Vita and, prior to Hurricane Katrina, the fine-dining restaurant Gabrielle. He says the newly revived Santa Fe will feature the same menu as the original Frenchmen Street restaurant.
"We're even using the same printer. They had the menu in their archives and just brought it up again," Gilbert says.
The restaurant's unique menu always stood out among the city's pre-Katrina collection of Mexican-style eateries, thanks to an emphasis on seafood and plenty of Creole and European influences that found their way into the recipes. Dishes like seafood chile rellenos, chicken stuffed with chorizo and asadero cheese, pork tenderloin with demi glace and a combination platter of seafood tamales, enchildadas and other items garnished with nuts were representative.
Gilbert worked alongside German-born chef Mark Hollger at Santa Fe from 1986 until Katrina. A new owner bought and reopened Santa Fe for a brief period after the storm, but later converted it to a pizza restaurant, Del Forno, which was damaged in a 2008 fire and never reopened. After the hurricane, Gilbert worked for three years as chef at Marigny Brasserie.
"I've been trying to reopen Santa Fe for years but the right space was never there, and now I have a window of opportunity with this location," he says.
Gilbert hopes to open for business as early as next week, and certainly in time for Jazz Fest later this month.
-- Ian McNulty