H Street Northeast might be developing a reputation as the liveliest stretch of nightlife in the city, but it’s no Bourbon Street.
Standing on the corner of Fourth and H streets, though, you could be forgiven for thinking, for a moment, that you had been transported to the famous Big Easy entertainment district. Tru Orleans, the new Cajun-flavored bar and restaurant anchoring the western end of the street, is ringed in two stories of ornate wrought iron railings.
Large lanterns evoking gaslight bathe the lower-level sidewalk patio in a warm glow, while the upstairs balcony invites bead-tossing revelries. A sign painted on the side of the building bears a huge retro-looking advertisement for ginger mint julep, an iconic Louisiana drink.
Inside the brick building, which once housed the radio station where legendary ex-convict-turned-disc jockey Petey Greene worked in the 1960s and ’70s, there’s more New Orleans to be found. Soft yellow walls, Mardi Gras masks and smoky jazz music announce the Big Easy vibe.
Tru Redding, the restaurant’s co-owner and namesake, fell in love with the Crescent City’s culture and cuisine on hunting trips with buddies who were native to the area.
“We’d camp out in this shack, and all day long, the guys are cooking,” says Redding, who owns the restaurant with investors Brad Howard and Hans Christensen. “That’s the food I love — not the fancy French Quarter stuff but the real Cajun and Creole stuff.”
Redding, whose background is in construction, found a spot for a large restaurant right next to the lot where a Giant supermarket is slated to be built, with 215 apartment units above the grocery. It’s also near the 432-unit Senate Square building.
Redding, who also owns the sports bar Public on 18th Street Northwest, saw an opportunity to set up shop in a fast-growing area that’s not served by many restaurants — most of H Street’s development has been clustered farther east.
Despite being passionate about the food and finding a promising spot, Redding said opening the venue hasn’t all been a big easy. He says financial pressures prompted him to open Tru Orleans a month before he planned. His managers and chef said they needed 10 days to prepare; Redding gave them three. The resulting hustle caused some bumps in the service and the food, he says.
“I wound up comping a lot of food and drinks, and you know what? The neighborhood has really responded,” he says. “They’ve been great. We’re already seeing regulars.”
Since the opening last month, he’s made adjustments to the menu while tweaking the service.
James Jones, communications director for DC Vote, tapes a "DC Constituents Service Day" sign on the wall as he stands with other DC residents outside of Rep. Andy Harris's office on Capitol Hill to protest Harris' actions against D.C.'s marijuana laws on Thursday, July 24, 2014. DC Vote encouraged DC residents to bring their complaints about city services to the Maryland congressman.