The Mother in Law Lounge is back thanks to NOLA favorite Kermit Ruffins. In 1961, New Orleans native Ernie K-Doe had a hit with his song, “Mother In Law.” He and wife, Antoinette, opened the Ernie K-Doe Mother in Law Lounge in 1994. Ernie K-Doe, the “Emperor of the Universe,” was known and loved throughout the community, but especially by his wife, who, upon his death in 2001, had a mannequin of him made and took it with her everywhere she went. She reportedly even took “him” to the lavish and historic Commander’s Palace for supper. Since her passing, the likeness sat in Carnival regalia inside the photo-bedecked lounge, surrounded by jukebox music and memorabilia.
The always colorfully-muraled building is once again being redone. Painter Daniel Fuselier was working on the back while we ate barbecue and listened to the jukebox. I’ve so enjoyed seeing his ever-evolving work-in-progress. Apparently, he’s been painting and reworking that mural since 2006. The back patio area seemed so bare without the archway, the colorfully-painted-bathtub flower-planters that used to line the walkway and the picnic tables where we’d eat crawfish and listen to bands playing in the tiki hut. The hut is still there but Ernie K-Doe’s mannequin no longer holds court in the lounge. I have to admit, it felt like the end of an era.
But I’m thrilled that Kermit Ruffins has taken on the newly renamed “Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge.” As seen on HBO’s Treme, Ruffins cooked and played Thursday nights at Vaughan’s since the early 1990′s. Last year, he retired his night and opened his own place, Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy with New Orleans comfort food and live music. Ruffins plays Sundays and Mondays around 6pm (no cover). Now he’s taking on Mother in Law’s and I’m so happy another musician has stepped in to carry on the tradition of this unique gathering place.
Glen David Andrews and several other local musicians put on a show but I left with a belly full of grilled meats and yaka mein before the spontaneous show got started. I headed to the end of the block to see another reopening – the Circle Food Store. Growing up, we would usually pass the store on our way to or from the interstate so, for my brother, that store meant we were in New Orleans.
Like so many treasures here, the Storm and its aftermath ravaged it and left it for dead. It was so exciting to see it open and buzzing with customers and struggling to restock fast enough for the demand. We walked past “Antoinette’s Deli” and the dining area with “We Believe” painted on the wall. But the section to beat is the produce. With grapefruits for 33 cents and green peppers 4/$1, you can’t beat their prices and everything looked great – fresh and ripe. Welcome back Circle Foods, we missed you.
Now, I look forward to the reopening of the Carver Theatre in the spring.