Donald Barkemeyer has been preparing Louisiana food for most of his life, from childhood fishing trips where he and his friends would cook up the day's catch on a stick over a campfire ("I was cooking blackened redfish long before Paul Prudhomme made it famous," he quips) to his latest venture, Uncle Bucks Cajun & Creole Grill (811 Conti St., 299-8496; www.UncleBucksGrill.com).
Uncle Bucks, with a kitchen located in the back of Monaghan's Erin Rose bar in the heart of the French Quarter, offers a packed menu of choices from alligator, crawfish or shrimp sausage (as an appetizer or a main course on a stick or bun), flavor-infused boiled lobster, crawfish etouffee and seafood pot pies to pizzas and even a breakfast omelet. It's hard to leave without sampling some type of seafood, unless you opt for baby back ribs, vegetarian ravioli made with portobello and crimini mushrooms and cheese, or spinach and artichoke creations.
Food -- and especially fresh -- Louisiana products, are in Barkemeyer's blood. He has worked in the retail grocery and wholesale produce industry for about 20 years, supplying customers such as Winn Dixie, Albertson's and Sam's Wholesale Club. While working at a seafood company in Atlanta, Barkemeyer appeared on the QVC home shopping program and sold more than 4,000 seafood gumbo baskets.
"At that time I realized there was a niche for shipping Creole and Cajun cuisine to other places," he says. In 1995, Barkemeyer founded New Orleans Overnight Inc., which uses overnight shipping for muffalettas from Central Grocery, seafood gumbo, jambalaya and numerous other items. The company still ships orders nationwide through www.nuawlins.com. "As time progressed, some of the items I had in my mail order company I felt there was a niche for in the retail market: alligator sausage, shrimp and crawfish boudin. Barkemeyer began selling those items as well as seafood pizzas he created to grocery stores, but he still felt there was something else he wanted to do.
"To complete the whole wheel, I had the opportunity to open a grill to offer the locals and tourists alike my great food," he says. "I was excited to get that because I can do mail order business and feed people around the country, grocery stores, and now people who come to New Orleans can come in our grill and enjoy the great food I offer."
To further his appeal and capitalize on word-of-mouth recommendations, Barkemeyer set up his menu and prices to be affordable to service industry workers employed in the area as well as locals who venture to the French Quarter bar. A favorite entree is a pound lobster that has butter, lemon, garlic and secret spices injected into it before it is cooked in seafood boil and served up with Cajun boiled potatoes and corn for $14 ($13 on Mondays and Fridays).
"I built my pricing around the service industry workers in the Quarter, so they can come in and afford to get a big bowl of seafood gumbo for $6 or a seafood pizza for $7 or a lobster," Barkemeyer says. "A lot of our business is late-night food service workers, doormen from the Famous Door, Rick's (Cabaret), the Monteleone. We hope if someone asks them where to eat, they'll tell them we have the best food and the best prices in the Quarter. Word-of-mouth is really strong."
Because his combined ventures give him tremendous buying power at the seafood market, Barkemeyer says he can pass on the savings through lower menu prices. In fact, he sold about 500 pounds of boiled Louisiana crawfish last week. "We will serve only Louisiana boiled crawfish -- never the imports -- at the best price known to man," he promises. "I want to do for crawfish in the French Quarter what Popeye's has done for chicken in New Orleans."
Open since mid-August 2002, Uncle Bucks serves up Barkemeyer's creations from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday, opening at noon on Fridays and 10 a.m. on weekends.
Profits for Nonprofits
People involved with nonprofit organizations, from board members to volunteers, will find helpful information during 24 half-day workshops that are part of the Center for Nonprofit Resources' 14th Annual Managing for Excellence Conference Jan. 27-30 at the Radisson New Orleans.
Classes at the conference are focused on providing tools and techniques that can improve the performance of nonprofit agencies with sessions on topics such as board development, strategic planning marketing and fundraising. Other workshops include "Pitching Your Dreams to the Corporate World," headed by Donna Goldstein; "Managing Your Resources in Tough Times," by Barbara Miller; "Fundraising in Tough Times" and "How to Ask for a Major Gift," by Michael Guillot; and two classes presented by Frank Omowale Satterwhite and Patricia St. Onge.
Registration is $75 for a half-day workshop, $125 for a full day. Call 483-8080, ext. 232 or log onto www.nonprofitresources.org for more information and registration.
- Uncle Bucks owner Donald Barkemeyer says he plans to make his crawfish delicacies a household word in the French Quarter.