For two years, the fate of the former K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen has been an open question, after the famous and highly influential New Orleans restaurant closed amid pandemic woes and its building remained idle.
Now, though, it has a new owner with a plan to transform it into a hub for breakfast, brunch and lunch in the middle of the French Quarter.
Local businessman Robert Thompson and his partners completed a purchase of the former K-Paul’s building at 416 Chartres St. last week.
Work is now underway to open French Quarter Boulangerie, which Thompson describes as a large, all-day breakfast and lunch restaurant designed for high volume and swift service. It is slated to open mid-2023.
Fitting the name, French Quarter Boulangerie will have many types of pastry and a menu of savory dishes, with coffee drinks and a full bar.
The key to the concept is making these daytime meals quick and accessible. It will be a large restaurant, at more than 12,000 square feet over two floors, using a counter service model.
“When I moved to town, I wanted to understand what the pulse and the needs were in the community,” said Thompson. “What jumped out at me is there just aren’t enough places serving breakfast and lunch for the 18 million people who come here, and there’s long lines at the ones that are.”
He described the approach as “polished plates in an efficient, counter service environment,” comparing the intent to the energy and versatility of a food hall.
In the evenings, French Quarter Boulangerie will be available for private events.
A new start
Thompson is a Mississippi native who got his start in the restaurant business in Denver in the mid-1990s. He later was founder and CEO of Punch Bowl Social, a chain of “eatertainment” venues with bowling lanes, arcade games, darts, ping pong and karaoke rooms. The brand grew to 20 outlets across the country over a dozen years before the pandemic. He left the company in 2020.
This latest project will mark a new start for a property that has for decades been synonymous with Paul Prudhomme, who died in 2015 at age 75. Prudhomme and his wife K Hinrichs Prudhomme opened it in 1979 as a small and casual spot, with communal tables and no reservations.
With its casual approach and focus on a regional American cuisine, the restaurant helped set the table for the modern American restaurant scene and inspired a generation of chefs, and this was where Prudhomme himself made the leap from local innovator to global ambassador for Cajun cooking.
But in July 2020, the family owners who were carrying on the restaurant’s traditions closed for good, citing the changing restrictions and uncertainties of the pandemic. It was by far the most significant New Orleans restaurant to shutter for good through the coronavirus crisis.
A renovation to create French Quarter Boulangerie will bring a design style mixing classic French café with contemporary touches. Thompson’s partners in the project include OnPath Credit Union and GBX Group.
Thompson said when he started looking for right property for the concept, he was immediately drawn to the former K-Paul’s. The many nearby hotels are a key to the plan, and there’s also the legacy of the building.
“I like taking on the responsibility of a building where Paul Prudhomme found success and became an icon,” he said. “We like stretching into that challenge.”
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