New Orleans flocked to the West End on Lenten Fridays.

lenten fridays

Chic Sale’s, Fitzgerald’s, and Bruning’s in the background. Jeanette Boutall Woest watercolor, 1973.

Lenten Fridays tradition

Prior destruction of the “West End Restaurant Area” by hurricanes and the Corp of Engineers, going out to dinner at West End was a longtime tradition. Some of the busiest days of the year were Fridays during the church season of Lent. Ah, Lent, that time when Catholics reflected on the forty days Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public ministry. Lent is the reason for Carnival in the first place. Fat Tuesday is the big blow-out before the fasting and abstinence began.

 

Let’s face it, unless you have seafood allergies, abstaining from meat on five or six Fridays in late Winter/early Spring isn’t all that much of a sacrifice. Gumbo, fish frys at the parish church, and seafood po-boys all serve as wonderful coping mechanisms. Even cheese pizza in the school cafeteria isn’t such a bad deal.

Restaurants

lenten fridays

Bruning’s from Club My-oh-My by Jeanette Boutall Woest, 1966.

And then there was dining out. While so many restaurants in town offer seafood (even chop houses have “surf-n-turf” items on the menu), going out to the Lakefront in the Spring was fun. The heat didn’t wack you over the head yet, so sitting out on a patio made for a lovely evening. The image above from the porch of Club My-Oh-My illustrates the vibe. Have a cocktail and look out over the lake. Maybe even walk over to Bruning’s Restaurant as you gaze at the restaurant and contemplate your plans.

lenten fridays

Bruning’s in the 1960s by Jeanette Boutall Woest

Bruning’s was my dad’s favorite of the East End restaurants. East End of West End? That’s so New Orleans, isn’t it? The line separating Orleans and Jefferson Parishes isn’t specifically the 17th Street Canal. The line cuts off the edge of West End, making it the “East End” of Jefferson Parish. This was a real thing–if you had a medical emergency at Bruning’s or Fitzgeralds, you had to call JPSO, not NOPD.

Back to Bruning’s. Known for their Stuffed Flounder, the restaurant also offered a full range of seafood, along with spaghetti and meatballs for the kids.

lenten fridays

Fitzgerald’s – Interior view of a curved wood bar and three bartenders standing behind it. (Franck Studios photo)

Fitzgerald’s was my late father-in-law’s pick for West End dining. Both were packed on Lenten Fridays.

Maggie and Smitty’s

lenten fridays

Maggie and Smitty’s Crabnett. Terry Marks Painting.

While I didn’t mind my dad or father-in-law picking up the check for taking us out to eat, the budget of a UNO Education major didn’t support such adventures on my own. That’s OK, we had Maggie and Smitty’s. The legendary Tom Fitzmorris nailed the vibe of the place:

 Maggie & Smitty’s was the most informal and cheapest of all the restaurants at West End. Although some of this can be discounted because of the low prices, a sizeable number of customers were of the opinion that Maggie & Smitty’s had some of the best fried seafood, and certainly the best boiled. They usually served boiled seafood hot—not a common practice in West End or anywhere else in town.

And the cats! Maggie and Smitty’s, offering primarily outdoor seating, was the headquarters of the West End Squad. Those were some badass cats!

lenten fridays

Exterior of Maggie and Smitty’s Crabnett. John DeMajo photo.

“Maggie” was Maggie Hermard, and “Smitty” was her sister, Elaine. Along with their brother, Lloyd, they opened the restaurant in 1956. It became “Maggie’s” in the 1980s, after Smitty passed away. By the time the building was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the restaurant was closed. Ah, but the memories!

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