When I was a teenager back in the 80s I read a magazine article about Chez Helene and how their chef Austin Leslie was putting out the best soul food and fried chicken hot plates in the Deep South.

Period.

Time to head to New Orleans. Back then I only lived 5 hours away in Birmingham. and even though I had yet to begin my career as a chef I still knew and loved good food.

Vanessa was a knockout Russian Jew who loved to eat just as much as I did and in a twist of fortune had an uncle who owned a shotgun on Bourbon Street that we could stay in.

Done deal.

Chez Helene Was Located At 1540 N. Robertson Street

Chez Helene Was Located At 1540 N. Robertson Street

Austin Leslie began his kitchen career in 1942 (he was 8) at the long departed (and much loved) Howard’s Eatery which was owned by his aunt, one Helen Pollock. After stints at Portia’s and DH Holmes, Mr Leslie was installed as the chef at the newly opened Chez Helene on N. Robertson St. in 1964.

Ms. Pollock knew talent when she saw it and the young Austin Leslie had a surfeit. Leslie would eventually become famous when the TV show Frank’s Place modeled themselves after his Chez Helene (he became owner in 1975).

Chez Helene shuttered in 1995. Ten years later Katrina trapped Austin Leslie in his home. He would die a month later at a hospital in Atlanta.

The photo is of the Chez Helene sign now mounted on the wall of a junk store on Burgundy Street in the Bywater.

One of our dearly departed (not dead, just moved to Denver) Scrumptious Chef cooking crew members Meghan always used the Texas Crutch when she cooked pork ribs.

What is the Texas Crutch? This hotly contested cooking technique involves throwing a rack of ribs on a smoker for a couple hours then wrapping it tightly in aluminum foil and finishing in the oven for another hour or two.

We were daydreaming about Meghan’s ribs a couple weeks ago so we ran by the market, procured a rack of pork ribs and got busy in the backyard building a fire.

Bywater Daily Photo: Texas Crutch Ribs

Bywater Daily Photo: Texas Crutch Ribs

Our standard build consists of 18 hardwood, lump briquets and six hardwood Hickory chunks. When the briquets go to ash, smother fire with Hickory and put meat on smoker.

We had business in Mississippi so after getting the meat on the smoker we hightailed it out of town returning about eight hours later. The fire had gone cold which did not present a problem. We wrapped the rib rack in aluminum foil, put it in the oven at 300 degrees and cooked for one additional hour.

Texas Crutch ribs are a rare treat, the meat slips off the bone with zero effort from the eater. Normally we like a bit of a chew on our ribs but perhaps once per annum we break out the Texas Crutch to good effect.

We were overjoyed when we found out a Turkish kebab joint was opening on Saint Claude near our home in the Bywater.

2315 St Claude Ave

2315 St Claude Ave

Then we ate the food.

They couldn’t make a penny in Istanbul, the capital of the Kebabistan region of the world.

But the lads running the place are earnest and the French fries are good.

Perhaps they can organize a field trip to Turkiye and discover the art of the kebab.

2315 St Claude Ave
New Orleans, LA 70117

Hours
Sun 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Mon 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Tue Closed
Wed 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Thu 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Fri 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sat 11:30 am – 11:00 pm

One of our favorite things to do is season a rack of pork spare ribs, build a big fire in the backyard, barely open the vent on the smoker and let the rack cook for about seven hours while we’re at work.

Seasoned Pork Spare Ribs

Seasoned Pork Spare Ribs

If everything goes exactly right the ribs are perfectly cooked and slightly warm when we put the knife to them. The rack pictured is as plain as it gets, seasoned with just salt and pepper. Sometimes we get fancy and do them Cajun or Turkish-style. Yes, there are plenty Muslims who love pork.

Years back we got a good laugh out of our waitress at Jack Dempsey’s when we asked if the restaurant was named after the old New Orleans-based crime reporter.

Jack Dempsey's Restaurant

Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant

“Honey, you sure do know New Orleans, everybody thinks that we named this place after the boxer”

Mr Dempsey, the reporter, retired in ’81 after four decades in the game but our New Orleans roots extend well past the eighties.

We know and love this city.

We go to Jack Dempsey’s for the finest macaroni and cheese in New Orleans. They also have a deft hand with the fryers as they put out some of the best fried, grease-free, seafood in town.

If y’all know a better source for mac and cheese let us know.

Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant
738 Poland Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117

Hours:
Sunday Closed
Monday Closed
Tuesday 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 – 9:00 pm

Our daily constitutional often takes us by the former Louisiana Center for Retarded Citizens, housed in a solid rock of a building on Dauphine Street near Satsuma Cafe.

The building currently houses Piety Street Recordings.

This is where Cash Money did work for a time prior to Katrina.

Louisiana Center For Retarded Citizens

Louisiana Center For Retarded Citizens

Over the years, producer Mark Bingham has seen musicians like Superjoint Ritual, Marianne Faithful, Nick Lowe, Dr. John and Monk Boudreaux come through these doors.

Piety Street Recordings opened in 2001.

If you live in the Bywater prior to 1980 this is where you went to buy stamps, pick up your mail or drop off a letter; a post office, right in the heart of our neighborhood.

We’ve been walking by this tiny building on Dauphine Street in the Bywater for over a year and have long wondered what its history is.

Last week the elderly couple who live next door were outside pulling weeds and playing OZ good and loud when we strolled by so we figured an inquiry was in order.

“Well, it was a barbershop for about 40 years”

“Do you remember the name of it?”

“It’s written on the side of the building”

Bywater Daily Photo

Bywater Daily Photo

We walk over to investigate but there is nary any indication of a sign, ghost or otherwise-just a mad, slobbering beast of a boxer dog who appears to be nearly losing his mind.

“What year did it close?”

“Oh not that long ago, maybe ’72 or ’73”

When you’re around 90 years of age, 1972 was just a snap of the fingers away we reckon.

The Scrumptious crew eats well whether it’s in a tumbledown diner that only we know about or handmade food that we crank out of our kitchen on a daily basis.

Pictured: A plank of catfish blackened with our Cajun Dust seasoning blend, sitting on a bed of creamy grits and surrounded by our earth-shaking Etowah County green beans

This may have been the best plate of food created in the Bywater. Ever.

Another Masterful Creation By RL Reeves Jr

Another Masterful Creation By RL Reeves Jr

Blackened Catfish With Creamy Grits http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2012/06/15/austin-daily-photo-blackened-catfish-with-creamy-grits/

Etowah County Green Beans http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2010/10/05/the-art-and-science-of-soul-food-part-3-etowah-county-alabama-green-beans-with-tons-of-bacon/

Irvin Mayfield’s legal problems have just begun.

On a recent morning ramble across The Bywater we spied a fetching portrayal of the jazz band leader.

Irvin Mayfield Portrait In Our  Bywater Daily Photo

Irvin Mayfield Portrait In Our Bywater Daily Photo

In the finest tradition of outsider art Mayfield is being skewered for his alleged fiscal irresponsibility.

Maybe his old buddy LaToya Cantrell can lend a helping hand to the young entrepreneur?