By Jeanne D’Arcy, Mid-City Messenger
If you have lived in Mid-City since the mid-20th century and owned a car, chances are you took it to the Trepagnier family service station at 4327 Bienville St. Trep’s Service Station was simply known as “Trep’s,” and the place is still called that today. However, it is now a restaurant serving up quality food in a trendy outdoor patio environment.
The Trepagnier family closed the service station in mid-2019. Shortly thereafter, Sidney Torres bought the property with a restaurant in mind. He frequented Café Amelie in the French Quarter and knew the chef, Jerry Mixon, and general manager, Danny Akers. He approached them about coming on as partners with him and his childhood friend David Carimi to open a new restaurant in Mid-City.
They felt there was a lack of outdoor dining in the area, so the plan always was to have most of the tables al fresco. That was a lucky decision, as the opening occurred in the time of a pandemic. Opening a restaurant in these circumstances is daunting no matter what, but fortunately the original concept behind Trep’s lends itself to social distancing and eating outdoors safely.
As the design and construction work was progressing — mostly under the direction of David Carimi, with many restaurant projects to his credit — loyal customers of Trep’s’ Service Station kept coming by to ask whether the garage was reopening. With that, the foursome, who had yet to pick a name for their new restaurant, decided they had to keep the name “Trep’s.” And happily the [Trepagnier] family agreed.
What have been the challenges of opening in this difficult time? Danny Akers, one of the managing partners says: “There are challenges with starting any new business, especially a restaurant, but the partner team has tremendous energy and we approach each day with excitement. That said, we’ve had serious support from everyone involved with Trep’s.”
In these times of business slow-downs, especially in the restaurant industry, the vendors — beverages, food, equipment, etc. — were thrilled to have a new customer. Trep’s partners encountered difficulty getting the outdoor furniture they wanted because the demand is outpacing the supply, with so many places pivoting to outdoor dining.
“However, in the big picture of things,” Akers said, “during these awful pandemic times, this became a trivial problem, and we just substituted what we could find.”
Trep’s opened in mid-September following all the safety guidelines and protocols with guest seating, sanitizing stations, masks and employee temperature checks. And they offer financial assistance for employees to get rapid COVID testing. With 95% of the seating outdoors, the tables are spaced either 6 feet or 10 feet apart so the diners in seats can be safely distant.
Chef Jerry Mixon, a native of St. Bernard Parish, grew up learning to cook from his grandmother and his mother. During his culinary training, he was tapped by one of his instructors, the late chef Paul Prudhomme, to apprentice at K-Paul’s. This kick-started his career, which led him to work on Grand Cayman Island in a restaurant owned by a New Orleanian.
Mixon returned to New Orleans after the destructive Hurricane Ivan hit the Caribbean in 2004. His dishes, which he calls “global comfort food,” bear the stamp of his Caribbean experience, as well as Asian influences, and his origins in a Louisiana fishing family.
Trep’s features daily food specials, including a lunch and dinner entree. And there’s an oyster special at Friday lunch. To welcome in a new year, they started a $20.21 Happy Hour with a glass of wine or draft beer and two food items from a special menu.
Trep’s is now gearing up for Carnival. They will soon launch a special Mardi Gras drink menu and will offer Manny Randazzo king cake on the weekends.
In the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, Mixon will design a menu inspired by the street food available on the parade routes. And customers can look forward to the kind of food they eat when visiting friends and family for “parade parties.”
When asked what they consider the signature dishes, without hesitation the response was “easily our chicken sandwich, roti bread tacos and tuna nachos!”
Social media, especially Instagram, has been a big driver in this new restaurant’s business, Akers said. The Trep’s partners see the restaurant as a locals’ driven place with a loyal following — just like the service station was for 75 years.
4327 Bienville Street