Robert Thompson, the founder of “eatertainment” company Punch Bowl Social, is set to open an all-day cafe in a historic French Quarter building. It continues the hotelier’s foray into big New Orleans development deals, including the Frenchmen Hotel, the Whitney Hotel, and Jaguar Bolera, a forthcoming dining and entertainment venue that Thompson calls “the best version of eatertainment” he’s created yet.
According to a press release from Thompson’s company, the cafe, called the French Quarter Boulangerie, will open in 2023 at 416 Chartres Street, the former home of K-Paul’s — one of New Orleans’s most well-known restaurants and a 40-year-old institution that closed two years ago. The restaurant’s historic building went on sale at the time, and Thompson’s hospitality company recently purchased it for an undisclosed price (it was listed for $6.5 million). The Boulangerie will serve breads, pastries, and other baked goods; sandwiches, desserts, coffee, and alcohol: wines, bottled and canned beers, and all-day cocktails, including frozen drinks. A pastry chef has not yet been named, said a representative for Angevin.
The building was originally constructed in 1864 and has three floors, two full kitchens, and a bakery, according to Biz New Orleans. A rendering of the upcoming cafe shows a fairly standard bakery layout, but that’s just the view of one floor — overall, the restaurant will cover 12,000 square feet and all three levels, a representative for Angevin confirmed to Eater. The first two levels will be for guests, operating with food hall-style counter service, and the third floor will be for back of house (the building has an elevator).
Thompson resigned from Punch Bowl Social in 2020 (the company filed for bankruptcy shortly after) and moved to New Orleans in 2021. He purchased and renovated the Frenchmen Hotel at 417 Frenchmen Street and launched its bar and live music venue Midnight Revival, then bought the Whitney Hotel, which had been closed since the pandemic. He hopes to reopen to guests in early 2023, according to Biz New Orleans.
Then there’s Jaguar Bolera. Coming to New Orleans in 2024, as Thompson announced at last month’s ICSC Conference, the venue will be the second location after Raleigh, North Carolina. The brand is Thompson’s new bet on entertainment, this time with a food-hall-style format, he says, “woodfire-cooked” American South and Mexican food, and duckpin bowling. There will be three bars throughout the building, but no full-service dining. Instead, guests will order at a counter and be given geo-tracking devices so their order can be delivered to them directly (which sounds a little like the restaurant version of a surveillance state). Beyond duckpin bowling, activities might include cooking classes, fashion seminars, “naughty needlepoint,” and karaoke rooms, Thompson told QSR.
In recent interviews, Thompson describes some of the reasoning behind launching this new “eatertainment” format. For one, he says, he’s been fielding a ton of interest from landlords and investors now that “the economy is moving past the financial shock of COVID-19.” Jaguar Boleras can employ 10 to 15 percent less staff than was required at his previous brand because of the switch to counter service, Thompson also said. That pared-down service model combined with Thompson’s plan for high-end culinary, beverage, and design, “will allow it to charge higher prices while reaping the cost savings of smaller locations,” he told Restaurant Dive.
The French Quarter Boulangerie will open in the second half of 2023 at 416 Chartres Street. An address for Jaguar Bolera is not yet available, a spokesperson for Thompson’s company said.