At Restaurant des Familles (7163 Barataria Blvd., Crown Point, 504-689-7834, www.desfamilles.com), diners can peer out over Bayou des Familles while enjoying classic Creole and Cajun dishes. Co-owners Bryan and Brooke Zar focus on modern takes on classic dishes.
"The lady who started (the restaurant) was Patricia Morrow," Bryan says. "Her background was as a schoolteacher. She knew the people who owned this house on the property where the restaurant now sits. Unfortunately, there was a fire and the house burned down. She made an offer to purchase the property, which she did, and she had the perfect idea to put a restaurant here, knowing that the bayou in the back would make a great backdrop."
Bryan was hired as a busboy at the restaurant when he was 16 years old, and he considered Morrow a mentor. In 2009, the Zars purchased the property.
"One day [Morrow] called me and told me she needed to retire and she wanted to sell the restaurant," Bryan says. "My wife and I were able to figure out an agreement where we came in and purchased it."
The Zars worked in corporate restaurants such as Houston's Steakhouse in San Francisco before purchasing and refurbishing the much smaller Restaurant des Familles. It was their opportunity to leave the corporate world behind and own a personal and intimate space, Brooke says.
"For the past eight years we've been renovating, modernizing, updating the menu while trying to stay true to the Creole roots," Bryan says.
The Zars bought new, modern furniture, renovated the bar and installed a courtyard patio with a stone fireplace and a garden. The restaurant soon will offer outdoor dining. Plans to build a pavilion with an area for a band and a small dance floor also are in the works.
"We've done a lot of modernization with the menu as well," Brooke says. "Some things can't change. The gumbos and the jambalayas are still (prepared traditionally), but we've included options that are gluten free, vegan, and pescatarian. We can now offer many of our dishes in that style or allergen-free."
Restaurant des Familles gets its seafood about twice weekly from Higgins Seafood in nearby Lafitte. The Zars have good relationships with local fishermen. They also added alligator to the restaurant menu after several customer requests.
"We get a lot of referrals from swamp tours in the area," Bryan says. "One of the requests we always get from out-of-town (guests) is that they want to try alligator. We put our heads together and came up with a dish."
"I want people from out of town to feel like they've experienced Louisiana," Brooke says. "A lot of people come and experience the city [of New Orleans], but a short drive away, we're all about the swamp tours and the local fishermen."