The other day I got an e-mail from a reader curious for more information about Le Moyne's Landing, the New Orleans-style restaurant that is opening soon in the old Rooney's building on Guadalupe. So I called the owner, Honey Howard (who is engaged to Il Piatto's chef/owner Matt Yohalem),
and we talked for a while about hurricanes, po'boys and
falling in love in New Orleans. Here's an excerpt:
SFR: You and your mother were the owners of Le Moyne's Landing on the riverwalk in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina hit. What happened to your restaurant and your life after the hurricane?
We had had Le Moyne's Landing down on the riverwalk for 25 years and we were in the process of relocating to the French Quarter when the hurricane hit. We lost our homes and cars, everything. We had evacuated to Mississippi, so we were fine, but the economy just hasn't recovered in New Orleans. There aren't enough people to support all the restaurants.
Are you saying you're giving up on New Orleans? Are you never going back?
We're not sure. We still have the property in New Orleans. If things go a little bit better, we'd like to open [our restaurant] there.
Where does the name "Le Moyne's" come from?
It's my mother's maiden name. [The restaurant] was right on the river on the Spanish Plaza. We were the only outdoor bar and restaurant there for years, but our lease was coming up and we found a great location in a historic building that had been vacant for 50 years. My father wanted to fix it up himself.
Was that building damaged by Hurricane Katrina?
No, it managed to survive. But most of the businesses on Decatur Street are not reopening and don't plan to because they just don't have the traffic to keep them alive. A lot of people have walked away. Places that have been there for years…
Did your parents move to Santa Fe with you?
No, they stayed in Mississippi. They found a house to rent and then my mother had a stroke and got pneumonia. There's really no plan. My father was a landowner [in New Orleans], but their house is completely gone and nobody can rebuild. Nobody has a plan for [the] part of the city [they lived in]. The levee's not rebuilt and hurricane season's not that far away. Nobody who's 65-or even 25-wants to go back and rebuild without any reassurance that it's going to be OK.
My God, I can't imagine. Let's turn to the positive now. You chose Santa Fe in part because you're engaged to a Santa Fean.
Yes. We met in New Orleans when he had his restaurant there [Belle Forche Criolle Restaurant and Bar]. It was in the same neighborhood as our new location.
How will the Santa Fe Le Moyne's be different from the original?
It's different because it's not in the French Quarter! …This place is a little smaller than my previous one and the one we had planned, probably half or one-third the size. The building feels like a home and it will very much be a home for us. I'll get a much more intimate relationship with customers.
Starting over in a new city gives you the kind of clean slate many chefs dream of…
I get a little more artistic freedom here and I feel that I might be a little bit more appreciated. I want to give people a taste of New Orleans so they don't forget about New Orleans, our city, our culture, our history and our stories. I'm just thankful that I have the opportunity to have people be excited about [my restaurant]. People stop by during the day and ask when we're opening. It's nice to have people interested in you and where you come from and what you're doing.
What's going to be on your menu?
We're gonna have po'boys, seafood platters, lots of fish and baked oysters on the half shell. We're trying to do a crawfish boil-it's that season now. Mostly we'll have traditional New Orleans Creole dishes which have a combination of Acadian, Spanish and African flavors. There's such a wide array of possibilities. I have so many dishes to create and I don't have any rules to follow!
Have you made many changes to the building?
My manager and some friends have come over to help us paint the place. We wanted to go with the "swamp cabin" look.
Ah, so it's not the same old green and white Irish theme anymore?
No, not at all!
I think that building is ideally suited to a swamp cabin theme. It's so small and squat.
I think so too!
When do you expect to open?
I would like to open up after tax day, right around April 19, but we're not set on a date. I'd like to be open tomorrow, but you know, we're just not ready.
Do you have a date set for the wedding?
This is the third time we've planned the wedding.
Ugh! We hope the third time is the charm. We're waiting to find out when my mother will be recovered enough to travel…and then we plan to do it here, in Santa Fe.
Le Moyne's Landing
402 N. Guadalupe St.
Tell me where to eat! I need your input. Send all of your tips, gripes and raves to