French Quarter Excellence

arnauds french75bar

Arnaud's brings homes its first James Beard Foundation Award

and begins preparations for its 100th anniversary next year.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar brings home to New Orleans the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program after being a finalist for the last three years. The French 75 Bar is the wood-lined bar located inside Arnaud’s, the historic Creole restaurant in the French Quarter.

“To be named a James Beard Foundation Award finalist among four other esteemed peers is an honor in itself,” Arnaud’s co-owner Katy Casbarian says. “To be a nearly century old restaurant and have your name announced as the winner in front of thousands of industry leaders Arnauds SoufleePotato with French 75 cocktailfor the first time in as many years is an absolute dream come true. We’re humbled and honored to bring home the award for ‘Outstanding Bar Program’ to our amazing staff, loyal customers, our beloved New Orleans and our late father, who had a vision that we carry on to this day and will continue to do so for years to come.”

The French 75 Bar was originally a “gentleman only area” when Arnaud Cazenave founded the restaurant in 1918. “Arnaud believed, quite simply, that the pursuit of the pleasures of the table is as worthy as anything else one chooses to pursue in life,” says the Casbarian family. The Casbarians have owned Arnaud’s since 1978.

Arnauds drink

Arnaud’s is owned and operated today by Katy and Archie Casbarian, along with their mother, Jane. The brother-and-sister team took over the company about eight years ago from their late father. In the late 1970s when Jane and Archie Casbarian acquired the restaurant, the husband-and-wife team renovated  Arnaud’s. “The French 75 Bar is the vision of my mom and dad,” Katy Casbarian says. “It’s a timeless space that serves amazing, classic cocktails. It’s a place you don’t want to leave.”

“You can go from Bourbon Street to a nice, beautiful atmosphere,” Archie Casbarian says. “In the ‘70s there weren’t a lot of options like that out there.”

Head bartender Chris Hannah leads the bar program at Arnaud’s French 75’s Bar and prides himself on reintroducing customers to classic cocktails and keeping the menu fresh with innovative new recipes. Hannah uses only fresh ingredients, homemade syrups, drams and liqueurs. Unlike the dining room menu, the bar’s cocktail and limited food menus do change seasonally.

 Centennial Celebration

Arnaud’s next year will celebrate its 100th anniversary in New Orleans. Although it’s been tempting to take a different route or follow trends, the Casbarian family has stayed true to the restaurant’s roots. “It’s an exciting thing trying to have one foot in the past and the other in the future,” Katy Casbarian says. “We have some of the same menu items since 1918.”

Katy and Archie Casbarian are the future of the restaurant and focused on preserving the important, historical aspects while keeping it fresh and fun. “The French 75 Bar is a reflection of that,” Archie Casbarian adds. “This is a family business and Katy and I are fortunate that we share the same vision of what Arnaud’s can be, should be and is.”

Arnauds Main Dining Room Overhead

Arnaud’s spans 11 buildings and features 17 dining rooms, which the Casbarians joked is more like a hotel than a restaurant and bar. The buildings are hundreds of years old, requiring an enormous amount of maintenance. “It’s great to eat in a 100-year-old building, but not to feel like you are in a 100-year-old building,” Katy Casbarian says. “Preserving the buildings are just as important.”

Arnaud’s remains the quintessential New Orleans fine dining experience with a main dining room that is restored, but never changed. Chef Tommy DiGiovanni continues to deliver Arnaud’s classic dishes and his innovative contributions are destined to become Creole classics.

To celebrate its centennial, Arnaud’s has festivities planned for every quarter next year. In January, Arnaud’s will host a dinner to pay tribute to Jane and Archie Casbarian because they are the reason the restaurant still stands and Katy and Archie Casbarian have taken over.

In the spring, the restaurant will host a cocktail reception to highlight Arnaud Cazenave, the founder of Arnaud’s. In the summer, it will celebrate Germaine Cazenave Wells, Cazenave’s daughter. The festivities will culminate next November with an event that will focus on where Arnaud’s is today and the future.

Coinciding with Arnaud’s 100th anniversary next year is New Orleans’ tricentennial year. “The fabric of New Orleans is meals, cocktails and celebrations; it fits hand in glove,” Archie Casbarian says. “It’s a wonderful coincidence and will be a celebration for everyone.”

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