The Bon Ton Of New Orleans

On Friday, I came to New Orleans to speak at the American Bar Association’s 33rd Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime . That’s right, I waited until Marti Gras was over and came to New Orleans for Lent. As many on the blog know, I used to call this city home when I taught at Tulane Law School. I have never lost my deep affection and connection for the city. As is my custom, I wanted to share some notes and pictures on the trip. I started with one of my favorite spots for lunch: The Bon Ton restaurant.

The Bon Ton is actually the third oldest restaurant in New Orleans. (It was thought to be the fourth oldest until a historian founds that Commander’s Palace was using a date associated with the building rather than the restaurant).

Debbie Pierce

I first came to the Bon Ton as a clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit with my judge, the Hon. Eugene Davis. The bread pudding (heavily soaked in bourbon) will leave in intoxicated — both literally and figuratively.

The restaurant is famous for its incredible bread pudding and authentic Louisiana cuisine. Unlike many tourist traps, this restaurant is a local favorite with unchanging staff and dishes. It is a family business and I was able to chat not only with owner Debbie Pierce but to see her young grandson and son arrive with a glimpse of the next generation.

Wayne Pierce inherited the place from his aunt and uncle and the menu remains based on Pierce family recipes. He studied to become a dentist but after finishing his training, he decided to continue the family restaurant. They moved across the street in their long standing location at 401 Magazine Street just off of the French Quarter.

Hall, Benjamin, and Phelps (from close right to left)

I had my usual meal. My favorite is the turtle soup which has been made for 42 years by Willena Banjamin. I follow that with the Crawfish Etouffee, which has been made by head cook Dot Hall for 46 years. The bread pudding is the work of Mary Phelps who has been with the restaurant for 42 years. I went back into the kitchen to chat with these three iconic women.

I truly love this restaurant which has no pretense. Just good food and local authenticity. I have literally never come to New Orleans without eating at the Bon Ton. I truly hope that little boy clinging to Debbie’s hand will be the next generation of Pierce’s in carrying forth this wonderful family tradition because there are generations of Turleys who will need their fix of Turtle Soup and bread pudding.

15 thoughts on “The Bon Ton Of New Orleans”

  1. Anon……Maple Leaf….yeah…Up near Carrollton? Our daughter and friends went there…..they loved Marengo bar. Remember that place? Only locals new about it. A white frame house with no sign out front. Between Mag and St Chas, uptown from Garden Dist. Personally, in the 90’s I loved staying at the Columns…Hubby hated it. A bit too much like Fawlty Towers for his liking..LOL .but had a great bar. A guy named George sat at the West end of the bar every night. He’s probably sitting there right now.

    1. I didn’t know Marengo bar. Sounds great. The 90’s is when I visited NO often.

      1. Anon…….I meant to say Milan on Milan St, not Marengo. Our daughter thinks It’s still there. Between Mag and St. Chas

      2. Anon…..It WAS great in the 90’s wasn’t it?
        Gautreau’s on Soniat, a couple of blocks north of St Chas was really fine back then…and of course, Cafe Degas on Esplanade in MidTown…..don’t know if it survived Kat. It was outstanding! Tujagues in the Q was still good.I’m getting hungry. 😊

  2. I love NOLA too. But Turley – having spent years there – should certainly know that it is not “Marti” Gras, but Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday in French).

  3. Fais Do Do by Doug Kershaw……Music of the bayou

    We dance, laugh & eat anything that goes

      1. Great musician, Jerry. Thanks. The last time I heard Kershaw play was in 1971 in Georgetown, DC on corner of M and Wisconsin? I think? If there was a bar/music venue there, around the corner from Maison des Crepes. Anyone remember that place? Seems like there was sawdust on the floor. It was a terrific live performance.

  4. Great photo feature.

    Interestingly New Orleans ranked among America’s 10 most populous cities for most of the 19th Century. It then ranked among the 20 most populous for most of the 20th Century. But in the last 50 years New Orleans has essentially ‘fallen off the map’ as a population center. The city has dropped out of the Top 50 and even the metro region ranks below the Top 40.

    The rise of Houston and Dallas, as commercial super-hubs, more than likely came at the expense of New Orleans. Saint Louis, another Mississippi port, suffered a corresponding decline. But unlike New Orleans, Saint Louis still has a fairly big metro region; ranking in the Top 25.

  5. Sounds like a delicious trip.
    Napolean House was always my favorite….not for the food as much as the history. And Ct. Two Sisters. Morning Call’s coffee was superior to Cafe du Monde, until they moved out to Metarie because of crime in the Quarter in the ’70’s. The old days were the best…but glad you’re enjoying it today!

    1. Maple Leaf for live music up close and personal. Smaller than Tipitina’s.

      1. Anon…..I left a reply upstream for you re: NOLA bars. I was wrong about Marengo bar…. It was Milan (on Milan St.)

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