A former Chicago restaurateur and music festival organizer has brought an authentic taste of New Orleans cuisine to downtown LaPorte.
John Moultrie has launched Bourbon Street Bistro in the former Etropal Restaurant and Lounge in the historic Etropal (LaPorte spelled backwards) movie and vaudeville theater at the corner of Lincolnway and Monroe Street downtown. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Moultrie owned several Chicago jazz clubs and restaurants, including Louisiana Kitchen, Bayou Kitchen, Toasters and Bazzell’s French Quarter Bistro before going on to a career in corporate America.
Moultrie's restaurants have earned heaps of honors, including 3.5 stars from Zagat, Best Undiscovered Restaurant from Chicago Magazine, and 11 Silver Platter Awards.
He is executive chef and owner of Bourbon Street Bistro, which will serve its cajun and creole dishes at 701 Lincolnway and is celebrating its grand opening this week. The restaurant employs about a dozen workers and can seat about 200 customers in its upstairs dining room, mezzanine and bar areas.
"This was a great opportunity to get back in the business," he said. "I bought the building, changed the name, and have been easing back into doing what I loved. I hadn't cooked in a long time and am getting back to my original roots. I have a passion for doing this, a passion for food."
Cajun cooking runs in his family. His great-grandmother hailed from Louisiana, where she cooked at two plantations before passing her recipes on down the family line.
"I use those recipes and seasonings and things like that," he said. "It's my heritage... I want people to enjoy the flavors of my heritage."
Bourbon Street Bistro's menu includes classics like beignets, gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, blackened chicken, fried alligator, Louisiana crab cakes, and lobster and shrimp D'orleans. Entrees range from $12.85 to $23.95, with most in the $15 or $16 range. The bar serves craft beer and imported wines from South Africa, Chile, Australia, France and Spain.
He also plans to relaunch a line of food products he had while he was a Chicago restaurateur, including hot sauces and corn muffin mix.
Moultrie, who's organized the Ship and Shore Blues Festival and Lighthouse Jazz Festival in Michigan City, also plans to have live music at the restaurant.
Given the authentic New Orleans experience, he expects the restaurant will be a big draw, bringing in visitors from across Northwest Indiana, South Bend and Harbor County in Southwest Michigan. Only a few restaurants in the area, like Seasons Restaurant in Merrillville and Yats in Valparaiso, serve authentic New Orleans fare. Moultrie is also looking at hosting cooking classes and educational events that might chart the history of particular dishes.
"With the Food Network, there's educated diners that come in looking for authentic cuisine," he said. "We want to be a food destination for at least 60 miles."
Bourbon Street Bistro is currently open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, but is looking to expand to brunch and lunch in the future.
For more information, call (219) 575-7261 or visit www.facebook.com/bourbonstreetbistro.