Plate Lunches, Pints And Sweet Potato Pie
Restaurants Lead The Way In Recent Downtown Development
By Brad Goins
The biggest stars in recent downtown development are distinctive new restaurants. But a lot more’s been going on since the last time we looked at the downtown. A major retail operation has set up shop and a number of new services are being offered. A new mural is on view and several historically prominent buildings are being renovated. Let’s look at the details.
Pint House Pizzeria
329 Broad St.
This building, which has housed the American Press, Rikenjaks and Dharma, is now home to an Italian restaurant that specializes in gourmet pizza and high quality beers and microbrews.
Pint House Pizzeria is run by the same family that runs MacFarlane’s. You can safely assume that the beer selections and the quality and quantities of the foods served will be comparable.
All of that is by way of saying that when I stopped by for lunch, I was served a Big Cheese Calzone that was massive. A fat stuffing of mozzarella, cheddar and provolone was wrapped in hand-baked pastry thoroughly covered with parmesan.
The calzone was divided into three large parts. If you can imagine the best features of a cheese pizza put into three enormous turnovers, you can imagine this dish.
The nine specialty pizzas include the Atomic Rooster, with its white sauce, crispy bacon, fresh jalapeno and sriracha drizzle; the Herbi, with its sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and garlic; and the Funky Chicken, with its chicken, bacon, barbecue sauce and pineapple.
The deep dish pizzas weigh 6 pounds each. They can feed six to eight. There are two varieties: the Feast, whose dozen ingredients include two kinds of sausage and two kinds of bacon; and the Ultimate Supremo, a more Italian style of pizza, whose 11 ingredients include Italian sausage, olives and fresh garlic.
The flat breads at Pint House are a bit like individual pizzas. The Southwest Flat includes barbecue, chipotle, mozzarella, chicken, smoked sausage and bacon.
There are also menus for salads and wings. And then there’s the stellar beer selection: I had a Wasatch Devastator — a Utah microbrewed doppelboch with a slightly sweet taste and a smooth, almost light, consistency. Other exotic beer titles here include the Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, Founders Dirty Bastard and Belgium’s own Delirium Tremens.
Of course, you can count on such well-known high-grade imports as Harp, Guinness and Bass. Louisiana microbrews include the Tin Roof Pale Ale and the La. 31 Biere Noir.
Gelatos are made on site by Sara Knox, who says she’s “proud to create” them and has heard them praised by authorities on the dish. She’s devised the recipes for several of the flavors. She’s especially proud of her lemon merengue and turtle flavors. She gave me a little spoon of the espresso and chocolate biscotti. I would gladly have eaten a cup of it if I’d eaten a little less for lunch.
The building has been decorated in three basic colors: bright red, black and white. The red dominates; it covers the entire exterior wall — and serves as a real attention getter. It continues inside, where it’s accompanied by an original tin ceiling that’s been painted white and an original interior wall that’s been painted black.
There is a space for entertainers.
After nearly a year of business, James Bittner III — the executive chef — says, “I think we’re doing well now.” He feels the venue experienced an uptick when it moved to a full Italian menu, with a wide variety of pastas, sandwiches and dishes such as chicken parmesan.
Pint House offers 22 different handmade sodas; 12 different ice cream sodas and the traditional milkshakes and malts. There’s also a variety of “beer floats.”
Mama Reta’s Kitchen
345 Broad St.
If you’ve dreamed of a place that serves home-style cooking and old-fashioned country food right in the heart of downtown, your dreams have come true. The slogan at Mama Reta’s Kitchen is “all homemade.” Any place that has tea cakes and sweet potato cookies on the menu is likely to serve the sort of food your grandmother used to make for you from scratch.
Let’s cut to the chase; here’s the plate lunch schedule:
— Monday: baked chicken (dark or white), red beans and rice.
— Tuesday: smothered pork steak, rice and gravy.
— Wednesday: meatball stew, rice and gravy.
— Thursday: smothered chicken (dark or white), rice and gravy.
— Friday: fried or grilled catfish.
Plates come with cornbread on Monday through Thursday and Texas toast on Friday. All meals also include a vegetable of the diner’s choice and the cake of the day. At $7.95, the lunches are competitively priced.
The Sunday Special Lunch (served 10:30 am-3 pm) includes the diner’s choice of two pieces of baked or fried chicken or barbecue pork steak or barbecue ribs. The diner also gets to choose between rice or cornbread dressings. There are the customary sides; price is $11.95.
The dinery also serves gumbo, poboys, wings baskets and burgers. Homemade desserts include peach cobbler and sweet potato pies.
Catering is available.
Need more info? Call 656-2798; or follow Mama Reta’s Kitchen on Facebook.
Hours are Monday-Friday and Sunday 10:30 am-3 pm.
110 Broad St.
After housing Mary Ann’s Diner for well over half a century, the storefront at 110 Broad St. is now home to Cotten’s Downtown.
The selection of sandwiches includes a variety of distinctive hamburgers. The Donut Burger has a glazed donut on top. The Hole-y Moley Burger includes onion rings and guacamole. Jim Serra’s Hot Button Burger has a fried egg and fried jalapenos. And the Jam Good Burger features cream cheese, seven-pepper jelly and bacon.
Salads at the venue include a high protein shrimp and chicken mix on a bed of spinach. Other dishes include a crawfish and shrimp-stuffed potato. The restaurant offers lunch specials. One recent plate featured smothered hamburger steak and rice, green beans with pork and Texas toast.
There’s a full breakfast menu at Cotten’s Downtown. Breakfast is available all day, including Saturday and Sunday.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 7 am-8 pm; Sunday 8 am-3 pm.
Need to know more? Call 436-9115 or visit the Cotten’s Downtown Facebook page.
949 Ryan St.
This very highly anticipated restaurant is set to open later this summer inside the Phoenix building. It will offer a full menu and extensive wine bar. Early promotional material promises “classics with a local twist.”
1910 has already gotten a lot of local attention by serving signature dishes at several large downtown events.
Vallier At Home
619 Ryan St.
If you’ve been wondering whether the retail space in the front of the old Muller’s building would ever be occupied, you now have your answer. The first tenant is Vallier At Home, which was located for several years at Ryan and 12th Streets.
Vallier At Home occupies a large space. The owners have taken great care to preserve the original architecture of the 142-year-old structure — even to the point that holes and other flaws have been left in the walls. Note a dark green walkway that runs high along the north wall.
The bulk of this space is given over to the display of furniture and accessories for the home. A large portion of one wall is devoted to art works from the Sowela Graphic Design Dept. Among the original art sold here is Summer Boudreaux’s prints of historic buildings.
Even though Vallier At Home may appear to be only a large furniture and art store, readers should be aware that the company also offers design for both residential and commercial property and construction and project management.
Owner Brian Vallier says that in general, prices at the new location will be lower than those in the old.
“We do great” at this new location says Vallier. The store’s reputation, its huge size and its banner location are all likely to be helping businesses.
Lindsey Janies Photography
726 Ryan St., suite D
Of course, Lindsey Janies Photography is not a new business. But a recent relocation to a historic downtown building has altered the business so much that the move is worthy of special mention.
The photography business is located on both the first and second floors of the building that also houses Business First Bank.
Until recently, Janies was obliged to split her time between her office in the Charleston Hotel building in Lake Charles and her studio in Sulphur. Now she always goes to the same place when she goes to work.
“This will be the first time since 2006 that everything is in one place,” she says. “We have [in the 726 Ryan St. location] a full shooting studio. All the editing is done in one place.”
The new, extensive space also includes a gallery and Janies’ office. Fine art prints as well as numerous images of commercial photography are displayed in the gallery.
There’s also a downstairs lobby with its own gallery space.
Janies still shoots wedding photos on a regular basis. But recently she’s been doing a tremendous amount of commercial and industrial work, particularly from the aerial perspective. (You can see a great deal of her work on the Facebook page for Lindsey Janies Photography. Among the sets are impressive, highly detailed, dramatically lit, close-up shots of pieces of jewelry at L’Auberge.)
Janies says her two specialties are now commercial work and wedding photographs. The nature of commercial work can be complex, so if you have questions, call 439-5367. Janies now has two full-time employees to man phones and do paper work.
“We have more space [now],” says Janies. And, of course, the business is located at what many would say is the central intersection of the downtown. “We feel more in tune with the area,” says Janies. And she likes the idea of greeting visitors and clients on the second floor of a building. When they make it up the stairs and down the hall, says Janies, she says, “Welcome to the club.”
The location, says Janies, “has absolutely strengthened our service.”
A Model K-9
416 Broad St.
This large facility offers complete indoor dog training. Other services include behavior modification, day care and grooming.
A Model K-9 will provide clients with service and therapy dogs. The business is dedicated in particular to providing service animals to veterans with PTSD or mobility issues.
Another distinctive offering of the business is boarding. Rates are $25 a night for small dogs; $30 for large. Call 532-6802 or visit amodelK9.com.
318 Pujo St.
David Eakin’s outfit offers graphic design, website design, printing and video production. Among the other design services available are logo design, posters, sales sheets, flyers, brochures and promotional items.
The designs on the front window are clean and clever. You can see additional designs on the company’s Facebook page.
Expressions Dance Studio
420 Broad St.
Set to open in August, this studio will offer instruction in tap, jazz and ballet. If you need to know more, call Jovan Charles at 499-0006 or Chiara Dodson at 249-4505.
The Noble Building (324 Pujo St.) is one of the landmarks of downtown commercial architecture. Its status was recognized nationwide in June, 2014, when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A sign on the front window reads “under rehabilitation,” and the extent of the recent rehabilitation work inside the building is evident.
The project is taking place under the auspices of the Empire of the Seed, which is doing an outstanding job of making sure that many downtown landmarks stay in existence and on the map.
At present, if you look in the front window of the building, you can see much of the original interior architecture exactly as it was when the building was last used. It’s a sight that’s definitely worth the drive.
Well-known artist Candice Alexander’s new downtown mural is a representation of an expansive “tree of life.” The work depicts a large, leafy tree that winds its way through a community that closely resembles Lake Charles and the Lake Area.
The American Press recently reported that students from McNeese University came to the site of the mural and painted thumb prints on it. They also designed small flowers for the work.
This is in keeping with Alexander’s desire to create a work that can potentially involve the entire community. Those who like can sponsor one of the large leaves on the tree, at sponsorship rates ranging from $50 to $2,000. Each leaf will be painted so that it bears the patron’s name. Interested parties can visit Alexander’s site at candicealexander.com.
Tee shirts with the design of the mural on them are now available.
The mural will occupy a 150-feet long, 40-feet high space on the south exterior wall of Alexander’s studio at the former Charleston Hotel at 901 Ryan St.
If you were concerned before about the limited amount of seating at Botsky’s (104 West Pujo St.), be aware that the eatery now has an expanded seating area, and there are now occasional music performances in the new space.
The construction of the new office building for United Way of SWLA at 815 Ryan St. is proceeding rapidly. The wooden structure of the building appears to be nearing completion.
Properties in the process of development include 723 Ryan St. and the Berdon Campbell Building at 619 Ryan St. Although the work at the latter location is brisk, I wasn’t able to determine the nature of the renovation. As I’ve mentioned before in these stories, the old Berdon Campbell lettering is now visible on the front of the building, and you might enjoy seeing it while you have the chance.