Sunday Fires Hit 2 Popular Gulf Coast Restaurants

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY | February 14, 2012

The owners of two popular Gulf Coast restaurants heavily damaged by fire Sunday morning said they will reopen.

The restaurants, The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Miss., and Rocky and Carlo’s in suburban Chalmette, La., had both rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

Both were empty when the fires broke out Sunday. The Shed burned to the ground; much of Rocky and Carlo’s, in a city across the Mississippi River from New Orleans’ west bank, was still standing but the kitchen and roof were severely damaged.

The fire at The Shed was reported at 2:30 a.m., the one at Rocky and Carlo’s at 9 a.m.

“There were no injuries but a lot of broken hearts” in Chalmette, said St. Bernard Parish Fire Chief Thomas Stone. The parish president, district attorney, council members and judges came to the restaurant to survey damage from the 9 a.m. fire, Stone said.

He said a joint investigation by parish agencies, the state fire marshal’s office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found it started accidentally in a back kitchen. It did serious damage to the kitchen and caused smoke damage throughout the restaurant, he said.

Two friends opened Rocky and Carlo’s in 1965. It is hard to overstate its prominence in “the parish,” Brett Anderson, restaurant writer for The Times-Picayune, wrote when it reopened in 2007 after the hurricane-forced rebuilding.

“In the parish, Rocky & Carlo’s is all of New Orleans’ neighborhood Creole-Italian and po-boy joints rolled into one, with a clientele that includes prominent citizens who, if they held similar positions in the big city, would likely favor Galatoire’s or Commander’s Palace,” he wrote.

Owner Tommy Tommaseo didn’t want to talk to reporters but has pledged to rebuild, Stone said.

The Shed, which has franchises in Gulfport, Miss., Scott, La., Mobile, Ala., and Destin, Fla., bills itself as a joint rather than a restaurant. But it could seat 900 – 200 inside and the rest in a large courtyard – and went through two tons of meat a day, said Brooke Orrison Lewis, who owns it with her brother Brad Orrison.

Its website lists scores of prizes in contests ranging from local to the National BBQ Association Convention.

The Shed’s funky d├ęcor, including license plates, signed souvenir T-shirts and “tacky chandeliers,” was largely donated by patrons, and the Mobile restaurant’s Facebook page requested fresh donations Sunday.

“Hey ShedHeds, alot of you have been asking what you can do to help The Original Shed,” the message started. “What they are in need of are things you can’t buy in the store…old random windows, ugly flooring, license plates, etc.”

Lewis said the restaurant burned to the ground. “We’ve been mourning since it first happened at 2 this morning, so it’s time to dry our tears and start rebuilding. We will absolutely, absolutely rebuild The Shed,” she said.

She said it opened in a 330-square-foot shed that her brother built. “We did 16 expansions in the first 14 months of The Shed. Just supply and demand,” she said.

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