When I moved to New Orleans almost 8 years ago, there was a decided dearth of places to get a standard American breakfast in the downtown, Marigny/ Bywater neighborhood. I don’t know if the phrase “standard American” is a thing in regards to breakfast, or if I just made that up. What I mean by that is a place where you can get, at a minimum: eggs, sausage and/or bacon, hash browns (or some variation on the breakfast potato). Grits. Pancakes. Maybe even waffles, heaven be praised.
There are a lot more options since then, thankfully, because when it comes to 3 square a day, I really am a guy that leans on a big breakfast. (Never mind that, due to my work and sleep schedule, I often eat my breakfast at 2pm in the afternoon.) Elizabeth’s is one of the great little fixtures that has been around since back in the day. And even closer to home for me, Cake Cafe in the Marigny and Who Dat Coffee Cafe, right down the street, are two of my go-to breakfast spots that have emerged in the decade since Katrina.
Now, there’s a new presence in the neighborhood. Horn’s, situated on Dauphine Street in the Marigny triangle, was opened about 6 months ago by Kathleen Horn, who is the owner and founder of the uptown spot Slim Goodies Diner. Billed on it’s website as “a family owned, family run restaurant dedicated to New Orleans and all who love her,” the place definitely has an aura of comfiness and community, from the menu offerings to the kitschy decor to the friendly staff.
Mark Robertson, the bartender who served me today, chatted with me about the family feeling of the place. “I was a friend of [Kathleen] and I left my previous job of 15 years” to come and work with her. Mark also happened to mention that he was involved in a non-profit called the Youth Empowerment Project in Central City, which “helps about a thousand at-risk youth and their families.” When he told me that it struck me as another reminder of how ties between business, family and community run concurrent and overlapping in this city. Just the other day on this blog I introduced you to Diana, who also works a non-profit in Central City for children, and who spends half of her time working for bread and passion, and the other half on just passion alone.
These are the people and the stories that make New Orleans special, that make New Orleans a small town. This is the kind of vibe you’re supposed to get when you sit and have breakfast in your neighborhood joint.
Though I’ve only been there for breakfast, they also serve lunch seven days a week, and dinner every Thursday through Sunday. The breakfast fare is hearty and cozy, yet still a little artful; grounded in a traditional approach of omelets, pancakes and waffles, with the addition of dishes featuring stuff like crawfish étouffée and plantains, and with cute punny names like the Crabby Wife and the Shroomer Omelet. Today, I tried the Waffle Couchon—one of the signature breakfast offerings—featuring a cornbread waffle covered in pulled pork, chimichurri sauce and pickled peppers. Pretty darn tasty.
There’s also a the simple item called the Doc Horn—two eggs any style, two pancakes, bacon or sausage—named after Kathleen’s father, who has clearly had a tremendous influence on both her and her restaurants.
“These are all my dad’s photos,” she told me of the colorful, nostalgic family snaps that adorn every wall. “He had a…just a naturally good eye. He was artistic, he was gonna be an engineer and then decided to become a doctor. But he just had a really good eye.”
Indeed he did. All of the photographs—which Kathleen has enlarged and framed with exhibition quality—are ostensibly snaps of the Horn family from Kathleen’s childhood, but are shot with an eclectic and deliberate eye towards composition, color and context. That unmistakable Kodachrome color and perfectly unsharp muted dynamic that only vintage film prints can have, they remind you of all the snapshots from your own childhood, if someone from your childhood had been really smart with a camera. “When he died…I finally got to see them all, because you know, when we were kids, you didn’t touch those photos.”
Her father never got to see Horn’s, but his influence is unmistakable when you listen to Kathleen talk about him. “The propellers above the bar are his. The floors are cypress because it was his favorite wood. He would have loved this place.”
She revels in telling the story behind his inspiration on her first diner. “He went to Slim’s, he got to see Slim’s everyday. He was the inspiration for that logo. He told me, ‘Kathleen, if you’re ever gonna make any money, those eggs are gonna have to fly out that goddamn restaurant.'”
We both laughed. “That’s funny,” I said. “Yeah, because it’s a flying egg, right?”
“Yes. It’s a flying egg because of Jack Horn.
Horn’s is located at 1940 Dauphine St. in the Marigny. (504) 459-4676