1Q8A7915

***THURSDAY SPECIAL***

  25c Martinis w/purchase of any Entree!!!

Rips, which is nearly 80 years old, sits right across the street from Lake Pontchartrain.  It was gutted after hurricane Katrina and rebuilt on 17-foot tall pilings by new owners.  The result was a more elegant restaurant with a beautiful covered front porch that seats 70, which is perfect for al fresco dining in the spring.  You have an incomparable view of the lake from the porch.  There are 40 more seats indoors, around 20 seats in the bar (where we dined), and another 40 upstairs.

You can sit outside beneath ceiling fans, sip drinks, nibble on delicious seafood creations, and enjoy watching the boats passing by during lunch, Sunday brunch, or early dinner.  At night, it is harder to see what is traveling across the water, but the splendid view and breeze still offer a wonderful evening’s ambiance.  Just the drive there is nice, and the upscale neighborhood is bordered by water.  For a moment, I felt as though I was driving through Seaside near Destin as I approached the restaurant. 

 

You ascend a flight of stairs at the entrance (or take the elevator) up to the first level of the restaurant, and walk through wide French doors into a handsome, large bar appointed with a fireplace, antique ceiling fans, prints of yachts owned by family members, a moose head, and rustic cypress storm shutters.  Locals frequently come to Rips to socialize with the owners.  Roslyn and Clay Prieto (Clay’s grandfather was the town mayor and his sister is the Clerk of Court). Roslyn is the chef and she created the recipes.

“This is my life” she says.  “I just love it.  When we lost the restaurant during the storm, the town was so kind to us.  People just wanted us to get back open.  I thought about changing the name but we kept it because our customers wanted it.  The public comes to see my husband and me.  It’s like a social.”

“We frequented the restaurant because we lived two miles away,” Clay reflects. “The guy who was running it was leasing it from the owner at the time.  He came to ask if I knew anyone who would buy it,” explains Clay, who is in real estate.  “Roslyn is a wonderful cook and she always wanted to own a restaurant, so we bought it.”

But the Prietos were in for a few surprises after its purchase in 2002.  After a rapid 67 day remodeling, Rips opened.  Just one week later, tropical storm Isadore brought 18 inches of water into the building, followed by Lily a week later.  After twice shoveling out the mud they were paid a visit by tropical storm Bill in June 2003.  “People were eating and drinking as the water came over the wall,” Clay said.  “We had to run them out.” Several cars floated down the Lakefront and rested on the lot next door.  Everyone showed up again the next day to help clean up the mess and Rips reopened.

Entering their third year of ownership, sales continued to soar until the late summer of 2005, when hurricane Katrina approached. “Mayor Eddie Price came by and joked with Clay that this may the last meal served at Rips,” Roslyn says.

Clay and Roslyn went home to ride out the storm nearby, never dreaming of what was about to happen.  The next day, they saw that the surge had blown right through the restaurant and the contents were scattered for blocks.  In January 2006, the couple met with a building designer in Hammond, Roslyn’s hometown, and the process of rebuilding began.  Construction of the new Rips began in June and the restaurant reopened in October 2006, to the delight of its customers.

“I first started cooking for my grandparents when I was eight years old,” Roslyn says.  “I used to climb up on the counter to cook. I’ve loved it ever since.” For lunch, Rips has great oyster, shrimp, and catfish po-boys as well as upscale specials such as crabmeat stuffed tilapia topped with grilled shrimp; blackened tuna on a bed of shrimp scampi pasta; and black and blue salad (sirloin and blue cheese tossed in a vinaigrette).  Sunday brunch is also great due to the view (try the eggs champagne topped with crawfish etouffee over an English muffin or Roslyn’s grits and grillades).  But I like to enjoy an early dinner, when the chef really shines.

I recommend ordering from the list of specials for dinner.  They do a very nice job of grilled oysters, with just the right touch of garlic.  Even better are the baby buster fried soft shell crabs topped with crabmeat bordelaise.  The menu is predominately seafood but for those who like steak, order the rib eye, which is large and juicy, grilled and topped with barbecue shrimp and set atop grilled asparagus, served with a grilled tomato (this comes with baked potato and a salad). The blackened salmon is excellent, very fresh and set on a bed of wilted spinach, topped with crawfish bordelaise, finished with a hollandaise sauce, served with new potatoes and a house salad.

Other dinner menu hits include trout amandine, pan-seared mahi mahi, fresh broiled drum topped with crawfish tails and artichoke hearts and finished in a lemon cream white wine reduction, crawfish Monica, and blackened Florida grouper topped with jumbo shrimp and finished with a basil cream. The desserts are phenomenal: try anything with chocolate.  The ladies bathroom is prettier than most, adorned with a lovely mural painted by a visiting Galveston artist who stayed in the couple’s home. For reservations call (985) 727-2829; 1917 Lakeshore Drive; Mandeville, LA.