What do you do when an outrageously popular national doughnut chain opens across the street from your N’awlins-inspired café? Do you keep selling powdered-sugar-dusted beignets and steaming mugs of java? Or do you incorporate the arsenal of skills you know best to rename and rebrand the café into a full-service restaurant? That is precisely what owners Mina and Jimi did at Cranky’s, the popular café in Long Island City.
Now harboring the moniker “1682 French Louisiana,” the new incarnation boasts all of the old favorites, alongside a full menu of classic New Orleans and traditional French dishes. As the website explains, “The restaurant style came naturally as both Mina, a Paris native, and Jimi, a film aficionado, have had a long-term love affair with the beautiful, unique flavors of French- and Cajun-style food. They describe the French Quarter in New Orleans as walking into a movie, a place that is unlike anywhere else. It is that atmosphere that welcomes you as you enter 1682 French Louisiana. Leave New York City at the doorstep and enter New Orleans.”
Dinner service begins with a complimentary basket of peeled sweet potato skins that have been deep fried. They make an irresistibly addictive snack, especially with the herbed aioli served on the side.
Actually, many of the dishes served on the side or as small plates were some of the stars of the show at this little Louisiana kitchen. Take, for instance, the cornmeal-crusted fried chicken. The distinctively southern coating of crispy cornmeal served the perfect crunch for the juicy legs and thighs. But the slab of jalapeño cornbread hugging its side was literally dripping with melting butter, and disappeared quicker than Paula Dean can apologize.
When it comes to macaroni and cheese, few versions rival my own grandma’s quite as seriously. A luxurious béchamel coats traditional elbows of macaroni, which are then buried under a generous bubbling blend of three melted cheeses flowing over the edge of the dish. Nothing makes me feel like a kid again like a warm strand of cheddar stretching from the plate to my fork.
Cajun hush puppies arrive with a kiss of honey. Salads come topped with roasted beets or grass-fed angus beef. And come before 11 a.m. if you want to taste those beignets. Weekend brunch harbors a handful of unique additions, including croques monsieur and madame, eggs benedict, and pancakes with bananas foster or blueberry ricotta mascarpone. From po’ boys and olive-kissed muffaletta to Creole-style barbecue, seafood and chorizo gumbo, and a classic coq au vin, the menu holds a little something for everybody.
“I really felt we had to rebrand to let people know that we truly are a full restaurant now,” smiles Mina as a group of twenty enter from a nearby film studio, and she rushes to push tables together. “In this business, you have to be ready for anything.”
1682 French Louisiana
48-19 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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