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Thu March 24, 2011
A Roast Beef Rivalry
By Ian McNulty
New Orleans, La. –
To those out on a jolly spree this past St. Patrick's Day, all might have seemed copacetic in the Irish Channel. Parasol's Bar & Restaurant and Tracey's Bar & Restaurant each hosted their own, independent block parties for the holiday, but the two taverns are so close that, to the happy reveler at least, it may have seemed like one big, green-clad bash.
However, as soon as the paper shamrocks were folded away after the holiday, Parasol's and Tracey's got back to a roiling new food rivalry that's drawn a sharp line down the short block between them.
In business since 1952 and long famous for its roast beef po-boys, Parasol's made news last summer when its family owners sold the ramshackle corner joint to John Hogan, who moved here last year from Florida with his New Orleans native wife Thea to buy the business. That didn't sit well with Jeff and Jaime Carreras, the couple that had leased Parasol's and operated the business there for 12 years. They decided to open their own place, now called Tracey's, just one block away, and they took with him their staff, the old Parasol's recipes and everything else they could pack up, from the bar's framed memorabilia to its battered beer coolers. That essentially makes this new Tracey's the old Parasol's in exile.
Compared to the original place, Tracey's is huge, airy and bright, though the food remains true to the Parasol's heritage. This is where to find the roast beef po-boy you remember from down the street, with the beef done in thick shreds and long strands and served on Liedenheimer bread.
Meanwhile, today's Parasol's, the one in the familiar old address, is essentially an all new Parasol's. It has an established name and well-known location but new owners, new recipes and an obligation to introduce itself to customers.
The roast beef po-boy here is quite different from its predecessor. The beef is done in the New Orleans debris style, all tiny particles bound together in gravy as thick as a glaze. This too is packed into a Leidenheimer loaf, only here a streak of parsley-flecked garlic butter goes across the lid.
That's one example of how this new Parasol's does business. It's clearly traditional but it puts some different ideas into play too. That seems a sound course for a place trying to earn its own following, and it proves out with a clever novelty called the Irish sundae, which is a paper boat of horseradish-laced potato salad topped with debris.
Given the New Orleans penchant for food nostalgia and the laudable loyalty of so many local eaters, the story behind the Parasol's and Tracey's situation is bound to inspire some partisan posturing. But where it really matters, when you unwrap that po-boy at the table - or at the bar top - what we have are two po-boy restaurants on the same block. Tracey's is a bustling spot with an emerging reputation as an Uptown sports bar, while it's clear Parasol's is making an inspired effort to win the hearts and stomachs of skeptics. It doesn't take a pair of emerald-colored glasses to see that this is good news.
2533 Constance St., New Orleans, 504-302-1543
2604 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504-897-5413