Bill Spahr purchased 600 acres of land is Des Allemands long before U.S. 90 between New Orleans and Thibodaux had a lot of traffic.
Fifty years later, the Spahr family has turned the land from a fishing and hunting site to the thriving restaurant company it is today, selling 1.25 million Bloody Marys and countless pounds of fish over the years.
Spahr’s now has three locations — 3682 U.S. 90 East, Des Allemands; 601 W. Fourth St., Thibodaux; and 16816 La. 3235, Cut Off — and a sister restaurant, Alumni Grill, 1130 La. 1, Thibodaux.
The restaurant grew from a bar with a side fishing and hunting shop along U.S. 90. Old fuel pumps still sit outside the restaurant where boaters once refueled before heading out to the bayous.
Today, boaters and travelers refuel their bellies with Spahr’s famous fried catfish platters and Bloody Marys.
“It’s the middle of nowhere, but halfway to anywhere,” co-owner Brent Roger said.
Going from a bar to a restaurant involved the slow progression of taking leftover catfish strips, frying them into crispy chips as a bar snack and trying to keep up with the demand, Roger said.
The chips turned into fried catfish platters, po-boys, pastas and a full-service restaurant.
Spahr’s Restaurant in Des Allemands officially opened its doors Feb. 11, 1968, with two sawhorses and a sheet of plywood as the bar, Roger said.
Uniquely situated on U.S. 90, the Cajun restaurant is home to generations of loyal customers who have never ceased to support the homegrown establishment.
What’s the secret to its 50 years of success?
"Keeping the traditions of wild caught catfish and the loyal generations of families that eat there,” Roger said.
With a high standard of hospitality, culinary excellence and community support, the restaurant has lasted while 98 percent of restaurants fail within the first two years.
“It means a lot to us to be able to celebrate success for that many years,” Roger said.
In 2002, the original building burnt down, taking four years to rebuild. In the meantime, Roger and co-owner Donald Spahr opened the Thibodaux location in 2003, followed by one in Houma.
The group opened Alumni Grill a few years ago as a creative offshoot for Chef Minh Le, an alumnus of the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University.
The Houma location thrived for 14 years before becoming another casualty of the slow oilfield economy, Roger said.
A new location in Houma isn’t on the table right now, but he said the company is eager to get back into the community.
“We appreciate the support of the community and look forward to 50 plus more years,” Roger said.
The restaurants will be celebrating the anniversary throughout the year. Keep an eye on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/spahrs for information.
Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.