For a half-century, Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 525-1486; www.gumboshop.com) has offered diners Creole dishes for affordable prices (a four-course dinner is $18.99, or a cup of gumbo is $3.99). Over the years, the restaurant has enticed locals and tourists alike to visit its courtyard and 18th century building over and over, and it now ships many of its prepared dishes, like seafood okra gumbo and turtle soup, in gallon and half-gallon containers anywhere in the country.
Gumbo Shop reopened Dec. 8, but still is only doing about 50 percent of the business it tracked before Hurricane Katrina. The good news is that it's easier to get seated quickly at French Quarter restaurants these days, says Richard Stewart, Gumbo shop president and executive chef. "It's a great time for locals to come to the French Quarter to eat. We have a really nice patio, just a half a block from Jackson Square, close to the Presbytere, the Cabildo and the Historic New Orleans Collection."
To make life easier for residents, Gumbo Shop offers catering and sells prepared half-gallon and gallon containers of its specialties from it's corporate headquarters (5900 S. Front St., 899-2460) to people who want to pick them up for parties and other get-togethers. Stewart also wrote a cookbook of recipes from Gumbo Shop for anyone who wants to make the dishes at home. Gumbo Shop, Traditional and Contemporary Creole Cuisine, A New Orleans Cookbook sells for $15.95 at the restaurant or local bookstores, or you can buy it in a gift box with two types each of Gumbo Shop signature hot sauces and spice mixes for $24.95. The Gumbo Shop also will mail those gift boxes anywhere.
Gumbo is the biggest seller at the restaurant, but other Creole dishes include red beans and rice with sausage, crawfish etouffee, alligator sauce piquante and blackened fish, to name a few entrees, as well as po-boys, salads and desserts. Going Mobile Sophie's Ice Cream Parlor (1912 Magazine St., 561-0291) has purchased several pushcarts to add portability to its frozen treats. Each cart holds about 6 gallons of ice cream, and allows the shop to deliver its special flavors to offices or special events.
- The Gumbo Shop offers a boxed "New Orleans Gift Package" with a cookbook, its signature hot sauces and spices, and it will even ship it anywhere.