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Dinner and a Show

00:00 April 29, 2013
By: Kristal Blue
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[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Entertainment is found in a multitude of forms. One of the more vintage and sophisticated forms is the dinner theater. The earliest dinner theater, dating back to the Middle Ages, hosted dining in one room and the performance of music or drama in another. The fi rst formal dinner theater in the United States was founded in 1953 by a couple in Richmond, Virginia. Their venture, the Barksdale Theatre inside Hanover Tavern, showcased on-stage performances where an adjoining room accommodated a buffet for diners attending in groups. The modernized changes to these venues have conjoined the dining room and the stage, presenting the meal while simultaneously entertaining. It's a mutually benefi cial situation for the guests and the venue, as keeping clients satisfi ed in belly and spirit makes for the best overall experience.

More adjustments have occurred over the years, including restaurants that function independently from the theatric operation. Cafes and restaurants that are the resource of provisions for the shows oftentimes remain open separately from the presentation, continuing to welcome guests interested solely in dining. Craftier cocktails and show-themed accoutrements authenticate the overall participation, and in some cases, popular chefs are tasked with creating the menus for some of the more popular arenas and shows.

Today, there are limitless options for the dinner and show experience. There are theaters that pride themselves on music and/ or history education; those that celebrate the era of cultural refi nement and social elegance. Take, for example, the WWII Museum's Stage Door Canteen Theater. The concept honors the wartime tradition of celebrities and performance artists entertaining GIs headed off to war. In this particular venue, meals are pre-show, but beverages and small plate service are available during the performance. A "prix fi xe with options" menu is annexed for showtimes from a separate kitchen housed inside John Besh's The American Sector, also a part of the museum. Executive Chef Jeff Mattia brings the meal service to attention with a crew that is passionate and sound. From Molly LeBlanc, the very helpful hostess who signals the usher your seat location for your directional escort, to insightful servers like Alex Wilkinson, who helps ease indecision with recommendations, everyone who works at the Canteen is passionate about what they do. Chef Mattia confi rms the elemental core of the menu is artisanal and locally procured: "The vegetables are from Coveyrise Farms, and the shrimp we get off the shrimp boats in Chalmette."

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[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Emily Crotty, the pastry chef for the Stage Door Canteen and the museum's Soda Shop, admits that working at the Chef Besh venue has granted her immense inspiration. "The plating and presentation to fl avor combinations are all so inventive". Her chocolate mousse is enough to bring down the enemy, along with other clever in-house marks, like the Blood and Sand cocktail, which brings Dewar's scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and orange juice together in delicious concert. General manager Gino Capriotti has fi ve years of Vegas under his belt, making him a great fi t for the theatre. He suggests that the Sunday Swing, an instructional swing dance event set to the tune of the house band and a 16-piece orchestra, is a popular interactive happening. Entertainment director Victoria Reed proclaims that what makes the venue so special is how it all started with GI entertainers. "Music was an integral part of WWII. I'm so proud of the cast; every show is an amazing treat and tribute." Andy Myer, the museum's communications director, hopes to broaden the appeal of the event to an audience that might not be familiar with the Golden Age of the 40s.

Venues that present comedy in a casual setting tend to draw diverse crowds. Everyone loves a good joke—who doesn't like to laugh? Open mic sessions involving the general public and the amateur comedian make the entertainment limitless. The House of Blues on Decatur in the French Quarter presents the free Give 'Em The Light: Open Mic Comedy Show every Tuesday evening. If you have the nerve and ever wanted to know what it felt like to be on the comedian's stage, here's your chance. The shows are always free, meaning that most revenue is generated from food sales. Food and drink is always available from the HOB Crossroads restaurant; however, a meal purchase is not required.

On Thursday nights, the Allstar Comedy Revue owns the stage, where professional comics do long sets showcasing tested material. Leon Blanda, the comedy show's host, producer and booker, has shared the stage with famous faces, from SNL's Darrell Hammond to Mark Normand. The menu, redesigned by Aaron Sanchez (Chopped), has since been added to and subtracted from. Mega hits on the taste buds come via the Voodoo Shrimp—huge spirals of yummy shrimp in an outstanding savory sauce, while the Lobster Mac and Cheese punches your ticket with enormous portions of lobster buried in silky cheese and gargantuan elbow noodles. On the lighter side, their Seared Tuna Salad is a fantastic complement to their fruit-infused house cocktails that bartendress Mary serves up in the most hospitable fashion. A crowd-pleasing favorite, the Ginger Noir is procured by combining Grey Goose cherry noir vodka, ginger syrup, pomegranate juice, and fresh lime.

Comedian Duncan Pace, who has joked on the same stage as Zach Galifi nakis and Hannibal Buress, admits, "There are so many opportunities to do comedy in this town that I only end up doing about half of them. I am regularly at Leon Blanda's All-Star Comedy Revue at the HOB. It's a great show for comics because of the crowd that Leon assembles every week. It's [mainly] tourists. You can work a variety of great rooms here that are mostly locals, but HOB most resembles a comedy club on the road, where you need to build a rapport from scratch with a random mix of people from all over. Also, Leon books a good mix of comedians and knows how to put a show together and host in a way that builds a fun cohesive event."

PubliQ House on Freret Street may be the new "it" place for locals and uptowners breaking free from the humdrum of the average bar. Owner Rhett Briggs explains that the space once served as a neighborhood grocery store, yet based on its current state, one would have

never imagined so. A plethora of spirits and a commendable selection of beers, doled out in chilled mason jars, make this spot its own rustic couture gem. Vintage (if not by age, by distressed aesthetic) chandeliers dangle from the ceilings, and a repurposed Army vehicle serves as a DJ booth, turning this place into the font of a million Pinterest inspirations. While food trucks are the main source of fare, popcorn fl ows as steadily as the cocktails in house. The stage is capable of grand performances; however, at this early point in the venue's career, it's the live music and fl at screen TVs utilized for game day that fi ll the docket. A fi ne gem to keep on the radar in regard to the dinner and show arena, PubliQ House is well on its way to fulfi lling its spot among NOLA theatres.

If you're more into the silver screen setting and want some Class A nibbles to sidecar your popcorn, the Theatres at Canal Place is the spot. Fine wines and cocktails are available, and the elevated cinema eats are all created by Chef Adolfo Garcia. In late May 2010, Chef Garcia opened Gusto, the theatre's restaurant, setting a new standard for cinema fare. The small plates are perfect for grazing or sharing, and allow moviegoers to savor restaurant-quality Mediterranean cuisine while in the comfort of the theatre. Offerings, ranging from house-cured artisanal salumi that comes from Garcia's a Mano, smoked salmon, and fl atbread pizzas, highlight the heartier courses, while White Truffl e Oil or Parmigiano and Black Pepper Popcorn are temptations for the less hungry. There are fi ve theaters total, and the viewing list fronts desirable features, with tickets available for online purchase. For in-theatre dining, the Theatres at Canal Place recommends you arrive 30 minutes before showtime.

All locations are non-smoking, based on the restaurant smoking ban. Unless otherwise stated or shown, no specifi c attire is required; all venues have a casual dress code, as well as optional seating available apart from the venue's main attraction site. Whether you're a music lover or history buff, or just in it for some laughs, there are a variety of venues that are at your disposal. Where we are located regionally imparts an incredible dining experience along with the entertainment. Lucky us!

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