If you live in New Orleans you can go for weeks, months, even years, without having any connection to what goes on across the causeway, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Mandeville, Covington, Madisonville, Hammond – they’re just names of places that get hammered when the weather forecast gets it wrong and storms go north of New Orleans.
Ponchatoula sounds interesting. You’ve thought about checking out the strawberry festival. But when it comes right down to it, why not just get a strawberry daiquiri at the drive-thru and go to one of the many festivals on this side of the lake?
That’s a pretty prevalent view from the south shore. When you live on the north shore, the perspective is, understandably, different.
Without generalizing any more than I have been already, the North Shore sees itself as a superior part of New Orleans that’s a mere 40-minute drive away from downtown. The towns on the north shore, they say, have all the benefits of New Orleans, without crime, potholes, poor education, exorbitant rents and inflated real estate prices.
Even die-hard New Orleanians have to agree that those downsides are real. But they might be skeptical of the North Shore’s claims to share the attributes New Orleans is best known for.
South Shore skeptics, this show’s for you. We haven’t got time to go into every facet of North Shore/South Shore comparisons, so we’re just going to look at one: hospitality.
If you live on the south shore, you’re familiar with celebrity chefs and restaurateurs like Alon Shaya, Donald Link, and Emeril Lagasse. If you live on the north shore you’re also familiar with Pat Gallagher. Pat is the founder and lynchpin of The Gallagher Restaurant Group, a collection of four restaurants in Covington, Mandeville and Slidell. Pat’s restaurants employ over 200 people, from the classic upscale Gallagher’s Grill in Covington to the casual seafood restaurant, Pat’s Rest Awhile, on the lakefront in Mandeville
If you live on the south shore, you’re familiar with elegant, traditional hotels like the Monteleone, the Roosevelt, and Le Pavilion. If you live on the North Shore, you’re also familiar with the Southern Hotel, in Covington. The Southern Hotel existed from 1907 till 1960. After the hotel closed in 1960, the building suffered all kinds of indignities, including a stint as a drugstore, and a City of Covington government building. From 1983 on, it was totally abandoned.
It wasn’t till 2011 that lawyer and preservationist, Lisa Condrey Ward came along and convinced her husband, her brother, and her sister-in-law to go into business with her and buy the building. Some three years, and $8m in renovations later, the Southern Hotel re-opened in 2014. Today the hotel has 40 guest rooms, event spaces, a set of private guest suites in the garden, and a restaurant.
North vs South
It’s human nature to compare yourself to others. It might not be conducive to good mental health, but we can’t help judging ourselves. Apparently, as humans, we like to know where we stand on various axes – like rich/poor, young/old, and smart/stupid.
If we really were smart, we wouldn’t do this at all. Because it’s pointless. Knowing that you’re richer, older, or taller than someone else doesn’t make you a better person. Similarly, believing that the city you live in is better than the city someone else lives in doesn’t actually make your city better.
New Orleanians on the South Shore prefer living here for their own reasons. And the exact same logic applies to folks on the North Shore. For diehard South Shore loyalists, maybe today’s glimpse into Pat Gallagher’s restaurants and Lisa’s hotel will open some minds to the merits of the North Shore.
And to our friends on the North Shore, Pat drove all the way to the Irish Channel without getting carjacked or shaken down by someone claiming to know where he got his shoes.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos at NOLA Brewing by Jill Lafleur.