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).
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.
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.