The brick and stone in the walls have at least a couple centuries of stories to tell, and some of the diners can remember going there before it was Bourbon Street Hideaway, so we know the place is steeped in legend, whether the diners are willing to ’fess up or not.
But the magical thing about Fort Wayne’s little corner of New Orleans on The Landing is how it’s always new there.
Maybe it’s the sparkles in the romantic darkness. Maybe it’s the bright, fresh flavors of the food. Maybe it’s the wit of the cocktail menu. Whatever. Gotta love Bourbon Street Hideaway.
“The food is our drawing card,” owner John Freistroffer said, “the tantalizing taste of it. It’s unique. There’s nothing around like it. We’ve rallied around that.”
It’s a popular date night destination (Valentine’s Day reservations, anyone?), as well as a gathering spot for groups of friends who’ve realized they can’t go too long without another taste of Alligator Sausage and Shrimp Quiche (most popular on the appetizer menu) or the seriously addictive Twisted Mac & Cheese.
The cocktail crowd just goes straight to the tiny bar for an oh-so-classic Sazerac or a very elegant gin and tonic they call a St. Charles, or ... , well, you know how it goes.
Dining room manager Noelle Baugher welcomes newcomers nearly every night the restaurant is open it seems.
“New people usually love it,” she said. “They can’t believe they never heard about it.”
Part of the explanation has to be that Bourbon Street Hideaway seats only 66 people, which includes the seats at the bar. And it is open Thursdays-Saturdays for dinner and on holidays. So it’s not a high-traffic place.
But it’s a high-quality experience place, in addition to the top-notch food and drink that is served there. It's one of three different drinking and dining experiences available in the historic pre-Civil War building.
The main floor is occupied by Columbia Street West, a bar, food and music venue. The third floor has been remodeled into a large and lovely banquet room. The Freistroffer family also owns Henry’s Restaurant on West Main Street.
Bourbon Street Hideaway opened six and a half years ago with a menu of food and cocktails developed by Todd Downs.
“We are still sticking with all his recipes,” Freistroffer said. His Jambalaya is the restaurant’s signature dish, and the menu claims it’s the best outside of the bayou. The cocktail menu includes the New Orleans “Big Breezy,” a Downs original combining mango, green tea, lime juice and blood orange syrup with vodka, shaken and served tall over ice.
The current staff works together to develop weekly features and seasonal cocktail specials, all carefully aligned with the Bourbon Street Hideaway’s New Orleans aesthetic.
“People stereotype Cajun or New Orleans food as hot and it’s not,” Freistroffer said. “It’s just seasoned. We can ask the cooks to spice it up or not.”
The alligator quiche is a good example. It has Andouille sausage for seasoning but the calm of a Romano cheese crust and the sweetness of shrimp as a foil for the finely ground alligator meat, while the whole thing is topped with the richness of a creamy crawfish etouffe sauce.
Freistroffer, whose eye for color and sense of fun in combining decor items set the style for the interior, Baugher said, has a particular interest in the historical part of the whole situation.
“The building is pre-Civil War. The stones in these walls were brought in with horses and wagons from the riverbeds around here. That’s how old the building is.
“That’s one of our marquee claims to fame: How neat it is down here.”