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Dining out a popular area tradition

STACEY PLAISANCE / L’Observateur / November 4, 1998

Dining out on Friday nights has grown in popularity in the tri-parish area with a wide variety of restaurant options and easy accessibility to the area from neighboring cities.

St. John and St. Charles parishes each have 45 dining options, with severalbeing popular on Friday nights. Erick St. Amant, assistant director of theSt. John Parish Economic Development department, said increases in theparish population and dining alternatives have made eating out about as popular as Friday night football.

“We have 45 restaurants in St. John Parish, and there’s more to come,” St.Amant said. “People like to eat out on Friday nights, and we have a lot ofgood, popular restaurants here.

“Within the next 15 years you can look for almost every restaurant chain to be right here in the parish, like Applebee’s and some other popular chains,” he added.`

Taco Bell, Shoney’s, Burger King, Subway and Wendy’s are a few popular food chains that have located in the tri-parish area in recent years.

St. Amant said population growth and the added convenience of theinterstate system are two reasons for the wider variety of restaurant opportunities.

“We’re such a fast-growing parish with our interstate infrastructure, and a lot of people are moving out here,” he said. “We get about 400 to 500new families each year, and I see it growing even faster than that in the future.

“People love movies, pizza and restaurants,” St. Amant said, and LaPlacehas a lot of dining options available and the only movie theater in the tri- parish area.

Corey Faucheux, director of the St. Charles Parish Department of EconomicDevelopment, said it’s hard to compete with Friday night football but there are some popular restaurants in the parish for Friday night dining.

With 45 restaurants in the parish, East Island and Sal’s Restaurant are popular on the west bank, and Trey Wah and Rome’s Oaks Restaurant are popular on the east bank, he said.

Lori Bourgeois, administrator for the St. James Parish Tourist Center,said there are only 15 restaurants in the parish, but dining out on Friday nights is popular, especially during football season.

“This time of year with the football games, families like to go out to eat,” she said. Nobile’s, Hymel’s and Airline restaurants are some popularnight spots in the parish for Friday family dining because they offer good food and have a nice atmosphere, she said.

“They all have reasonable family prices and a variety of food,” Bourgeois said. “You can get almost anything from a burger or po-boy to a seafoodplatter. They all get good business on Friday nights.”Nobile’s, founded in 1895, recently reopened as a restaurant less than a year ago, and owners Buz and Winky Nobile said they enjoy catering to the Friday night crowd.

“On Friday nights we try to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere, and we serve more popular Friday night food items like gumbo and potato salad, hot wings, burgers and ribs,” Winky Nobile said. “These are the kinds of foodsour customers usually want on Fridays, and we cater to that.”The owners said Friday nights are different from Saturdays, which takes on a more “fine-dining” atmosphere, and steak is a popular food item then.

“On Friday nights we figure people are either going to or coming from the football games, so our menu has more stick-to-your-ribs foods that are faster to eat, while Saturday nights are more drawn out,” Buz Nobile said.

“Everybody knows that if they want good food and good company on Friday nights, they can come here.

“We put on the sports channel and turn it up for everyone to hear game results and see how all the local teams did, and it really brings the community together,” he said.

Nobile’s has always been a gathering place for locals and strangers to the Lutcher area, said lifelong Lutcher resident Ralph Copponex, who works at the restaurant as a cashier on occasion.

“Today, Nobile’s is known as a restaurant, but at one time it was a drug store, a barber shop and then a bar where many of the founding families of Lutcher would gather,” Copponex said. “It’s only been a restaurant off andon for about the last 10 or 15 years. That’s a short time for as long as thebuilding’s been around.”Buz Nobile said, “it’s one of those places where everybody knows one another, and if you’re a stranger, we’re going to find out who you are and make you feel like family.”Nobile’s has only been catering to a Friday night crowd for about four months now, Buz said, as it was strictly a luncheon restaurant upon its recent reopening just a year ago.

“At first we just worked lunch hours, but now we’re opening during more evening hours,” Buz said. “We just see moving forward and getting betterwith more hours and more new dishes.”Copponex said, “This building has seen a lot of changes, and it’s still evolving.”