New Orleans Loses a Favorite Lunch Spot

A New Orleans institution is closing this week. Uglesich's Restaurant is a little hole in the wall opened by a Croatian immigrant in 1924. This week, people have come from as far as New York and Los Angeles to grab one last lunch. Susan Roesgen of member station WWNO reports.

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In New Orleans today, people lined up for one last meal at a favorite lunch spot. The place is called Uglesich, a hole in the wall opened by a Croatian immigrant in 1924. Uglesich closed its doors today. As Susan Roesgen of member station WWNO reports, there have been long lines out front all week long.

SUSAN ROESGEN reporting:

All week long they've been coming with folding chairs and newspapers, getting ready to start waiting in line for lunch at 9:30 in the morning. Mostly locals, but way in the back of the line was a guy from New York, Bradley Geist, who'd flown in just for lunch and planned to go back as soon as he got it.

Mr. BRADLEY GEIST: I read about it in The New York Times last week. Brought a tear to my eye--one of my favorite places. If it were the last place I'd have to have a meal, this would be it. I've never had anything like it anywhere else--never. It's amazing.

ROESGEN: Uglesich isn't famous, like Galatoire's or Antoine's in the French Quarter, but here in an iffy part of town with its practically unpronounceable name, it's become a foodie favorite, written up in travel magazines across the country. Su Ri Tui(ph), a cooking instructor from Los Angeles, had only eaten here once before, but had to come back one more time.

Ms. SU RI TUI: Have you had the blue cheese oysters? OK, well, then get in the line and then we'll talk. (Laughs)

ROESGEN: Oysters and shrimp, soft-shell crabs and crawfish--heaping plates of food served up on simple Formica-topped tables with paper napkins, and with the owner Anthony Uglesich taking customers' orders right at the door.

Unidentified Man: Barbecue oysters?

Mr. ANTHONY UGLESICH: All right. That's my favorite. OK. Go ahead.

Unidentified Man: I'll do iced tea as well.

Mr. UGLESICH: OK. Gail is going to do that for you right now. Thank you.

ROESGEN: Anthony and his wife, Gail, have been standing behind that counter for 41 years, and they decided last summer that this would be the day they'd call it quits.

Mr. UGLESICH: Oh, Lord. It's a killer, and I'm not as young as I used to be, and you feel it. I close the doors at four; you still got people here at five and six. I get home at 8:00. It's a tough job. But I'm going to try and retire and see what happens, and if I start climbing the walls, I know I'm coming back. (Laughs)

ROESGEN: Toward the end, he started hinting that maybe he won't walk away for good; maybe he'll open the place back up just a couple days a week, just often enough to give all those people in line another chance to come back. For NPR News, I'm Susan Roesgen in New Orleans.

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