In Memoriam – Trolley Stop Café

This one was a long time coming. And no, it’s not due to the hurricane.

If you read the article, you probably heard about the episode of 24 Hours to Hell and Back that Gordon Ramsey did on the place.

When that was first announced, I didn’t hear about it. Was busy with my own life, and I don’t pay much attention to TV unless someone recommends shit to me.

My parents called me in a grave tone…”Trolley Stop has gone to shit”

To be honest, I didn’t think it would make it much past that…

Lets rewind the clock a bit, what WAS this place? Well, a couple made a classic diner right off the St. Charles Street Car line in New Orleans. They served basics done exceptionally well. One they decided to retire and left the restaurant to their son, who completely fucked it up, and now its closing after almost 30 years… That’s pretty much the basics.

But, in a city full of some of the best cuisine in the world, how did it even get on the radar at all? When I was in college, this is probably the single restaurant I ate at the most. In fact, it is probably still in my top 5 for most frequent meals.

How did all of that happen. Well, at that point (almost 20 years ago now) Trolley Stop had a ton going for it.

1. It was open 24 hours. You would think in New Orleans that would be easy to find. Oh no. Oh no not at all. Back then, it was MUCH easier to find a bar open 24 hours than a restaurant. Most of my meals here occurred between 10pm and 3am for that very reason. The only other restaurant in that era I can even think of that had those kind of hours was Angeli’s (also gone) and you would have to go all the way to the quarter for that.

2. It had standard breakfast. This was one of the little secrets about New Orleans….at least back then. It’s not a breakfast town. Like if you wanted standard breakfast fair, you had to drive your ass all the way to Metairie, and even then choices were limited and mostly chains (Waffle House, IHOP, etc). This was honest to goodness diner fair. You wanted some fucking flapjacks after bombing around the quarter, this was like the only place to get it.

3. The food was cheap. Well, cheap for full sit-down meal fair. You could get 2 plate specials and drinks for like $15 bucks. For college kids with no money, that is always an attractive proposition.

4. The food was always fucking good. At least back then. It was consistently great. Had New Orleans fair, so red beans on Monday, fried catfish on Friday. And it was great. And plus their omelets and shit were out of this world. Hell, I remember getting their chicken club a few times and it was great.

It was no wonder the place was packed. Like Sunday Morning…fuckin good luck. You had a pile of the church going crowd coming out of Greater St. Stephen’s piled into that joint (back when they were off of Jackson Ave). And every other time, the place was CRAWLING with the police. NOPD, Jefferson Parish, Causeway cops. You name it, they went there.

My wife, then girlfriend, first introduced me to the spot, and it became our regular haunt. It had magical properties.

God, I remember one night we went to our favorite sushi place, and it was one of those things where people ordered too much food, and I decided I was going to make up the difference and eat everything they didn’t. Well I got fucking sick.

Real bad. In retrospect, it was probably food poisoning, but I didn’t think that at the time. I thought I just ate too much raw fish, and my body just fucking rejected it. But, dear congregation, I was fucking played out. The next 24 hours was delirium. I didn’t go to class. I mostly just rolled around in my bed in pain. I remember I took the time out to watch a bootleg The Passion of the Christ that I downloaded from Limewire that must have been recorded in a theater in India (Devanagari subtitles). I felt like I had to watch it in order to hate on it, and being sick as fuck felt like the right fucking mental perspective. Spoiler alert: its fucking awful.

It got to be the next night, and I was just lost in my mind. I get a call at about midnight from my girlfriend (wife) telling me I have to go to Trolley Stop. That I needed it.

I managed to find the energy to get up and like slide down the stairs to my girlfriends waiting car.

I don’t remember what I ordered. I don’t remember eating.

I just remember the feeling afterwards. A million bucks. Was totally fine. Not just recovered but 1000x better.

It was like that with me and Trolley Stop. It became like punctuation mark in the sentences of my college life. Came home from an interview (went to trolley stop). Studied for an exam (at Trolley Stop).

Once I moved off campus, it was a hub. The meetup spot. I once famously declared “Do you know how many second dinner’s I’ve had!”

Cause all those second dinners were at Trolley Stop.

After Katrina…It did kind of fade from my life a bit. But that was mostly a reaction to my graduate year at college. Katrina was basically a wasted year between internships and my semester in exile (a future blog post for sure).

My masters year was off on my own in a new apartment with no one around. Still went to Trolley Stop with my grand parents from time to time, but it wasn’t the same. They stopped being 24 hours (not sure if they ever went back). The food was good, but I found it hit or miss at that point. Not sure if it was the storm or the year, but it lost some of its luster.

If memory serves, my last meal there was some time right after I graduated on a Sunday morning. And it was packed, and I remember it being just as good as it ever was.

And you know what, those are the memories I will keep forever. I don’t need to even think about the downturn. I never went in the struggle years. I hadn’t been there in at least 15 years. Never saw the redesign. Never went when that old couple wasn’t running the joint. Never went during the new menu.

That’s probably for the best.

Trolley Stop, you will live on…at least in this preacher’s memory…eternal. Shiny and chrome. Forever open. Forever welcoming. Right down the street car line.

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