NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Eli Manning is headed back to the Super Bowl and, thanks to his dad, his hometown will have a hot new place to watch the big game.
A restaurant in New Orleans bearing the Manning name was going to pack the house no matter what. Archie Manning’s a classy guy, though, so you could expect that he would deliver an establishment with style and sophistication. At Manning’s, you’ll find a big, airy sports bar that has plenty of hospitality and enough warmth to make it appeal to women too.
The newly opened restaurant in the Big Easy’s trendy Warehouse Arts District features a large patio, which will host live music, as well as a banquet hall and 300 televisions, including a dominating 13.5-foot-by-7-foot screen that will catch the eye of anyone passing by. The menu from chef Anthony Spizale includes well-known southern favourites like Shrimp Po Boy sandwiches and Gumbo, along with some eccentric choices (Pig Skin Sliders and Alligator Sliders) that might surprise tourists.
“I’m real excited about it,” Archie Manning told me on Thursday, a night after the 210-seat restaurant held a grand opening celebration at its 519 Fulton Street location. “I’ve been on the road a lot and this business will help me stay closer to home.”
Manning, the former quarterback for the Saints, lives in the city’s Garden District (his home is on the walking tour of the posh neighbourhood) and is one of the most popular figures in New Orleans. He was walking around the restaurant on Thursday taking photographs with all of the guests and smiling wide inside his new digs. He had the idea for the restaurant about five years ago and opened it in time for this weekend’s NFL playoff games, which included his youngest son, Eli, quarterbacking the New York Giants to victory over the San Francisco 49ers. They will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on February 5 in Indianapolis, on the field where Peyton Manning, Archie’s other quarterback son, has led the Colts.
The dinner menu at Manning’s has a No. 8 Burger that bears its owner’s uniform number. The lunch menu features the No. 18 and No. 10 Burgers, using the uniform numbers of Peyton and Eli, respectively. There’s also a No. 14 Burger in honour of Cooper, the one son who never reached the pros.
“I haven’t tried the burgers yet, but I hear they’re pretty good,” said Archie Manning, who partnered with casino giant Harrah’s in the venture. “I like the Gumbo a lot. The Simply Grilled Fish is real good, the two steaks are excellent.”
I tried the Gumbo ($8) and it was delicious, with andouille sausage and chicken, and in a broth that wasn’t too thick. The Shrimp Po Boy ($13) was okay, nothing special, but you do get lots of shrimp. The Spinach Salad ($9) was fresh and tasty, served with bacon. Manning’s offers a lengthy wine list and a beer list with several local craft brews.
There’s competition in the area, with Gordon Biersch, an excellent microbrewery restaurant, and the popular Ernst Café both close to Manning’s. With Archie’s name, though, and with the quality of the food, ambience and service, Manning’s is going to be a winner.
Come Super Bowl party time, you can bet it will also be packed with a lot of Giants backers rooting for the owner’s kid.