Jennifer and Erich Weishaupt started Ruby Slipper Café as a neighborhood restaurant in post-Katrina New Orleans, and while their menu has a Creole flare no matter the location, other aspects vary. “There’s a buzz and energy that I always love,” Jennifer says. “They all have the spirit of the neighborhood they are in with the overriding spirit and culture of the restaurant group.” The new Edgewood location of Ruby Sunshine slated to open this summer hits extra close to home too, since Erich grew up in Selma and went to Auburn University—and has friends nearby who helped them scout of the old bartaco location as just the right spot for all-day, New Orleans-style brunch. Here’s what Jennifer had to say about it all.
Can you tell us the back story on your original restaurant, Ruby Slipper Café?
Our neighborhood in New Orleans got flooded in Hurricane Katrina, and after we moved back we were really focused on rebuilding the neighborhood. Our neighbors ended up buying a commercial building that was a corner store, and we had always told them they should try to put a coffee shop or put a breakfast restaurant in because we wanted to drink coffee and eat breakfast. They asked us if we wanted to open that restaurant. We are both engineers so running a restaurant was not in our wheelhouse, but we did.
And then what happened?
It took off far beyond our wildest dreams. Three to six months into business we had 30- to 60-minute waits on the weekends. About a year into it, customers were always saying to open another one, and we did in the Central Business District in New Orleans and then another one right outside the French Quarter and then a fourth in 2014. That was when we decided to see if the concept could be successful outside of the New Orleans market. Does brunch all day and cocktails work in other places or it is it New Orleans thing? We opened a location in Pensacola, and the people really embraced it. So we realized it’s a concept that can work in other places.
We opened 11 restaurants in 10 years, and this year we are going to open five restaurants as Ruby Sunshine. Conceptually it is identical to Ruby Slipper, our Gulf coast brand, but Ruby Sunshine is the brand we are taking across the country.
Where did the name come from?
When we were building the first restaurant, I had the vision of the red high heeled slipper with the egg as the buckle and the sunshine behind it. In the summer after Katrina I was listening to a local jazz radio station, and the DJ was talking about how her daughter spent her school year in Houston and told her friends when she came home, “I learned I grew up in Oz and everywhere else is Kansas.” To me it embodies this sense of homecoming so many of us felt but I couldn’t quite put the words on. I thought it was the perfect embodiment of the spirit of New Orleans.
What should we order for breakfast?
We are well known for our benedicts that come on our house-made buttermilk biscuits. Our Peacemaker is a mix and match of our Eggs Coshon, which is apple-braised pulled pork with hollandaise (pictured here), with a Chicken St Charles, which has fried chicken with tasso cream sauce. For people who like sweets, try our Bananas Foster Pain Perdu French toast and our White Chocolate Bread Pudding Pancakes, another twist on a traditional New Orleans restaurant favorite. We take things that exist in other mealtimes and say, “How do we turn this into a breakfast or brunch dish and give it our Creole influences?”
What else is on the menu?
Our all-day menu has traditional lunch offerings and basic breakfast items, along with our elevated brunch items. Our Fried Chicken Sandwich is really delicious, and our burger with pig candied bacon is savory and sweet. We use a local coffee roaster in New Orleans called French Truck, and we have coffee-based cocktails, iced coffee and espresso-based drinks. We have five different mimosa offerings and three different Bloody Marys that have won awards, and a morning margarita. For our Bacon Bloody Mary, we house infuse the vodka with bacon, and we make our own fresh spice mix we mix with tomato juice everyday.