N’Orleans Stands Empty

Tables in the N’Orleans Resturant sit covered with white tablecloths for customers that won’t be showing anytime soon. The landmark eating establishment is closed.

Built as hostelry in 1806

I’m not even going to try to rehash the history of the place.

One marker says that it was the “site of the first hostelry in Cape Girardeau, built in 1806 by Capt. Wm. Ogle, one of the first west of the Mississippi River. In 1868, the Turner Society erected the present building as turnverein or a community center. Masonic Order owned the building from 1888-1891. Later became known as an opera house and many famous personages appeared on its stage.”

Opera house, Masonic Lodge, newspaper office

The building has been used for many things over the years.

A marker posted by Old Town Cape says, “Royal N’Orleans: Turner Hall, as this building was once known, was built in 1868 with contributions from members of the community. Designed by Nicholas Gonner, an architect, civil engineer & contractor in 1888, the Mason’s purchased Turner Hall & it became the opera house and Masonic Lodge. In 1904, the Naeter Brothers started and published the first issue of The Daily Republican on these premises. In 1954, the Royal N’Orleans was opened.”

Dead plant in the window

I shot this the day before seeing the screaming plants at the Plaza Galleria. If it had been the other way around, I wouldn’t have given this a second glance.

Protest in the 60s

SEMO students picketed the N’Orleans in 1967. See more photos of the rowdy group here.

Photo gallery of the N’Orleans

The place has been called the Royal N’Orleans, the Petit N’Orleans and is now just N’Orleans. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.


32 Replies to “N’Orleans Stands Empty”

  1. My wife and I dined there when we were first married. Of course, our dinner guests paid the tab, as we could have never afforded such a fine dining establishment on our meager salaries. I have great memories of this place. Thanks so much for the review. It is so very sad to see this happen.

  2. “Gentlemen wear coats at dinner, and only gentlemen eat at the Royal New Orleans”…and then they gave you a smelly old sport coat to wear for dinner…You DID NOT forget twice!
    I have had several great meals at the place and old piano bar was a meeting place for all the big hitters in Southeast Missouri!
    I used to take my Mom and Dad there, but as they aged and mom passed away 5 years ago, my Dad and I just order a Domino’s piazza from the Sprigg street store and call it a night…

  3. I recall that when it opened in 1954 the story was that it was financed as a tax shelter by Bing Crosby and several friends. The tax code at that time encouraged such tax shelters and income tax rates were sky high so that was most likely true.

  4. Sorry the restaurant is closed. It was a special dress-up treat to go there for Dinner. I believe it was operated by the Barnhouse family for years. A great place to eat, the steaks were excellent. Hopefully it will be reopened again. The building appears to be in good shape. It doesn’t take long for empty buildings to go downhill.
    Ken, you picked another great subject, you always do, thanks!

    1. Yes, Mr. Barnhouse owned it. My Mom, Ruby Vick at the time, played piano there …1957, and also Purple Crackle when it was an elegant night club with orchestra in dining room, piano bar in lounge and private club out back for gambling. The Petit N’ Orleans was indeed elegant. Mr. Barnhouse used to use a giant pepper mill in a red velvet bag to apply the fresh ground pepper to the Cesar salad… had a little gong he would hit for the presentation! The best dry aged steaks …filet wrapped in bacon and fluted mushroom cap on top. Salads had garbanzo beans. Formal dining. I returned there on my 40th birthday, 1988.. it was good but a far cry from the old days.

  5. Thanks for the pictures of the Petite! (and all your pics) I sigh each time I pass by, as it obviously holds so many memories for me. My parents began the business in the fifties and we sold it a few years after my mother’s death in 83. We used to live on the top floor which afforded a great view of the river ,the parades passing by, and last but not least- great food for dinner! In the early years, where the KFVS building is today, there were large terraces where one could dine outside. Some of my classmates may remember parties we had there. Crosby didn’t finance the business, but my dad did work for him as v.p of his ice cream company when we lived in Hollywood.

    1. Hi Judy, I worked there from ‘86-‘93 as a busboy & cook. I agree, great memories from these photos & wish I had more. (I was hired by Grace & worked with Jan & Jeri(sp?). Marty was in the kitchen.)

  6. The meals were ok, but the bar was without compare. A double on free pour at about the cost of a watered regular drink at a Drury, and in the days before kairioke Annie knew every song one could recall including the W&L Swing.

    I’d like to hear poems from the Friday Poets, and the best proposition Jan ever received.


  8. Ah, how sad to see our favorite restaurant closed. We always had dinner there when we returned to Cape and even took our young sons once. Jerry and I had dinner there with our friends after our wedding reception and in all those visits we never had a bad experience. We quit going when the Barnhouses sold it so can’t vouch for it after that.

  9. The Petit has a special place in my memory and heart. My mother was a waitress there for many years. While working there she became good friends with a young college student bartender named Ricky Valleroy. He was later ordained a priest and is pastor in Farmington. He said the Mass for my parents 50th wedding anniversary and officiated at the funerals of my dad, brothers Roger and David, and, most recently, my mother’s funeral on Tuesday.

  10. I remember visitng there with my then fiance the first year we moved down to Cape Girardeau (as a couple) in 2005. The steak had been one of the best I had ever had. By the end, we found the quality had really, REALLY gone downhill and I got worried the one time we chose to eat out only to find it closed.

    I am considering working on an exhibit about the building and the restaurant and if anyone has information that they would like to share with us, please let us know. Who knows? Perhaps your blurb maight become a piece of local history?

    1. You need to talk to Judy Barn -house Davis who’s parents owned the restaurant . She lives up around St. Louis?-
      Ask Margie Whitwright who sends out the Tiger Letter. She probably has Judy’s email address.

  11. I, too, have fond memories of the “Petite N’Orleans”: the elegantly prepared food (loved the cherries jubilee), the people and the general ambiance.
    It’s sad to watch long time institutions go.

  12. What a loss! Brings back good memories. Phyllis(Reitzel) and I were married in St vincent’s Church on December 28, 1963. For a rehearsal dinner, we and our wedding party were treated at the Petite by Phyllises uncle, Norman Greenberg and his wife, Mary Rose. We could have not eaten there otherwise. Norman owned and operated the Payless Drug stores in Paducah, Ky and other places for over 55 years. He passed away in Feb 2010 at the age of 93. One of our ushers arrived at the Petite without a sport jacket, and was provided one to wear while dining.

    1. Norman is my great grandaddy, I didn’t get to know him or mary rose very well growing up. My mom took me completly away from my dad, David Greenberg (Norman’s Grandson) and I grew up without the chance to get to know any of them. I’m only 19 now but my dad refuses to have anything to do with me. I know my great grandaddy was a wonderful man though, Just wish I could have gotten to be around him more than the 5-8 times I was thoughout my childhood.

  13. Used to be THE elegant place! My Mom (Ruby) played the piano there,around 1955,1956..She then went to the old Purple Crackle,across the river and played the piano bar there. While at the N’Orleans,a Mr. Barnhouse ran,or owned the place. The steaks were awesome,the filet mignon with a bacon wrap and large mushroom cap,the salads with garbanzo beans(that was just sooo exotic!) and they had a giant pepper mill(quite comical now) that had a red velvet cover and ther was a gong that was struck when someone requested fresh ground pepper…what a laugh! There was a little “bar” just inside the front entry that had sawdust on the floor…when I went there in 1988 for my 40th b.d. dinner it had changed,but the steaks were still pretty good…place was worn and not so elegant. I was so proud of my Mom playing the piano in such a “high class” place!

  14. my older sister worked there when the barnhouses owned it. they lived up stairs..classy place. every time i set a table i think about how the forks and knifes go and in what order..

  15. My GGGrandfather, Michael Dittlinger did the construction of this building. Nicolas Gonner was married to his sister. So sad to see such historic buildings go to ruin.
    I did get to eat there in 1962 when my date, dennis drum took me there before a college dance. so much fun.

  16. I worked at the New Orleans restaraunt back in the early sixties until my father pasted away. I worked for the parents of Judy Davis. I started working as a busboy, and later worked in the kitchen. It was a very beautiful place and may of the well-to-do people ate there on the weekends. The operahouse that was upstairs must have been very beautiful in its time. I was taken to look at it serval times by the owners at that time, Mr. and Mrs. Barnhouse

  17. I was told that women weren’t allowed in the bar area at one time. Is that true? When did it change? I always loved that building and have dined in Katy O’Farrell’s. William Clark was a bartender there, before moving to Last Chance. I love Cape, and plan to return again next year!

  18. My question remains: when did the N’Orleans Restaurant CLOSE?
    I’ve been living in New Mexico for over 30 years and was unaware it
    had closed. Please respond. Thank-you. -Mona Ruehling

    1. It’s been closed and opened under at least two names. I ate there last year and had one of the best steaks in years. (Or course, since a buddy paid for it, it tasted twice as good.)

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