One of our favorite historical “notes” about Palace Cafe’s building, is that it was once home to the flagship store of Werlein’s for Music. The music superstore’s humble beginnings can be traced back to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where German-born American music publisher Philip Peter Werlein opened up shop for the first time in 1842. Just over ten years later he moved the company to New Orleans, and in 1905 established Werlein’s flagship store at 605 Canal Street, where the Palace Café is located today.
The store specialized in manufacturing pianos but offered everything from sheet music to lessons and repairs. Over the course of its history, Werlein’s made great efforts to keep music available to the city and to the generations of musicians who made some of their first purchases there. Among the other musical greats who got their start there such as Sweet Emma and Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong purportedly bought his very first horn from Werlein’s; Jimmy Buffett got his first guitar there, and Fats Domino was a fan of its Steinway pianos.
An infamous but lesser-known part the store’s earlier history, founder Peter Werlein was actually a rather large proponent of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Originally written by Daniel Emmett for a Northern minstrel show, the song “I Wish I Was in Dixie” quickly gained popularity, and Werlein took advantage of its growing success by publishing the same song under the name “Dixie,” attributing the lyrics to someone else. New versions of “Dixie” with different lyrics were also developed, and the song eventually became the anthem of the Confederacy. As a result, Werlein’s went out of commission while Union troops held the city, but reopened after they left.
By the 1980s, Werlein’s had expanded to fourteen locations throughout the South. The family closed the Canal Street location in the 1990s, and the last of their stores shut down in 2003 following the online movement of business and retailing. A decades-long Canal Street landmark, the huge “Werlein’s for Music” sign atop the building still remains there today but reads “Palace Café” instead. The restaurant officially opened its doors at 605 Canal in 1991.
Honoring Our Heritage
Palace Café, a classic New Orleans restaurant located at the foot of the French Quarter, serves contemporary Creole food in an upbeat and lively grand café. As bearers of the torch keeping Creole cuisine alive and vital, Dickie Brennan and Palace Café’s culinary team are constantly evolving traditional Creole dishes and creating a few new favorites.
Housed in the historic Werlein’s music building, the restaurant has won a number of local and national awards since it opened in 1991. In honor of this heritage, we pay tribute to New Orleans’ musical sons and daughters in three huge murals in our second-floor dining area. Additionally, one of our most popular starters- the Werlein Salad- also marks a nod to the family business that was here before us.
The Werlein’s line was also the very popular “Time and Temperature” number that New Orleanians would call to find out the exact time and temperature at the moment. Today, that tradition looks a little bit different. For 23 years we have continued our summer Temperature Lunch dining tradition. On weekdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, a two-course meal is priced at the previous day’s high temperature (85° on Monday=Tuesday’s $8.50 lunch). For the first course, guests have their choice of soup du jour or salad for an appetizer. Using local, seasonal ingredients, our culinary team create daily entrée specials.
For a little more history: http://www.nola.com/300/2017/10/werleins_music_store_new_orlea.html