03 February 2006

The New Ye Olde College Inn

The original "Almost Actual Size" sign was weathered badly before the storm and KTMB finished it off. The new sign above was reproduced using photos of the original.

Located across from Notre Dame Seminary, Ye Olde College Inn has been a South Carrollton Avenue tradition since 1933. Up until four years ago the restaurant was owned by the Ruffin Family. Ye Olde was a place in which nothing changed--the food was the same, the waitstaff was the same, the stuff on the walls was the same, and the regulars in the bar were the same--FOREVER. And nine times out of ten (at least during the day) the 80+ year old owner was seated in the same seat at the bar overseeing things. And that's the way it was supposed to be--and the way I knew Ye Olde to be in a stability of the universe sorta way. When the announcement came that Mid City Rock N Bowl owner John Blancher acquired Ye Olde from the Ruffins, I have to admit I was nervous. A few weeks before the deal went down an article on the sale appeared in The Times-Picayune. John Blancher stated that the traditions of Ye Olde College Inn would be preserved and made the remark (paraphrased): "the place has been there since 1933--obviously they are doing something right so why would I change a thing."

The first time I went there about a week after the sale one of the sides I ordered was the cucumber/onion salad (a Ye Olde staple). When its brought out and placed on the table by some guy I never saw before I look down and its got a red Italian dressing instead of the tradition clear Italian dressing. The first thing I ordered was different--ouch. As time went by the gumbo tasted the same but it was served in a different bowl. Then they stopped serving gumbo daily and only on Fridays. Within a few months, the entire waitstaff including the old lady waitresses who had been there for years were no longer working there. Then, a flat screen television was placed in the bar, a Sunday morning brunch with live music was introduced, they stopped using the front door and made all enter through the bar, etc., etc. I had a period of anger over these changes but as time progressed I got acclimated to the changes--and accepted the new vision of the place. The food was still good and mostly the same . . .

I know all of this sounds really stupid (like my wife having to hear me complain about such things as the bread rolls not being the same size or the switching of brands of melba toast), but the thing about Ye Olde is that for the 50+ years that my family has frequented the place the aura within those walls remained constant--and full of memories. And I guess from a personal level the same issues and fears I had with the changes that occurred with Ye Olde with the new ownershipI now have with the changes forced upon New Orleans since KTMB. Perhaps its not going to be exactly the same place, but that's not necessarily a bad thing--that's the glass half full approach anyway.

In a few days (4 February) the New Ye Olde College Inn will be opening in a building on the same block riverside of the original building. The original location received two to three feet of water--and unfortunately I have a feeling its going to be torn down. The new location was in the process of being renovated by Blancher to be home to a Thai restaurant. Luckily, interior sheetrock hadn't been yet hung before the storm so the damage within that building was minimal. After the storm, the decision was made to relocate Ye Olde there . . .


At February 03, 2006 1:17 AM, Anonymous ashley said...

When driving home from Vaughn's tonight, I saw the same sign you have the picture of.

First thing went through my mind was: that can't be the same sign, can it?

At February 03, 2006 6:58 AM, Blogger Seymour D. Fair said...

Its an almost perfect reproduction of the original. I have a pic of the old sign I took in 1999. They did a pretty good job with the new one. How was Vaughn's?


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