Restaurateur Nidal Balbeisi is expanding his culinary footprint in downtown.
Photo by Robin May
Nidal Balbeisi is attempting to conquer the world the way all great tacticians do, through its belly. First he seduces you at Zeus, his Mid-Eastern flagship restaurant, with delectable baba ghanoush. Then he makes his shwarma sandwiches as quick and convenient as the ubiquitous burger at the multiple locations of his Zeus Express drive thru. Next, he brainwashes you with mind-bending margaritas at his Mexican cantina, Agave. Now, he’s planning the coup de gras with his newest culinary adventure — Italian fusion — at Trynd Café and Night Club. The location? Last week, Balbeisi bought Stanley Lerille’s laid back lunch and high octane disco, located in the former Masonic temple on Vermilion Street downtown.
That acquisition marks the fourth restaurant location for Balbeisi in Lafayette’s dynamic downtown. Zeus, on Jefferson, has been franchised. But Agave, across from Parc Sans Souci, and now Trynd both occupy important anchor locations in the heart of the entertainment district. Balbeisi also owns another building, currently boarded up, next door to Sadie’s on Jefferson. He plans to move the Stan’s concept — burgers, plate lunches and salads, along with the name — onto Jefferson. The Stan’s menu will continue at the Vermilion location through Dec. 31. Balbeisi says if his Stan’s customers eat at one of his other restaurants, hang on to the receipt. “Turn in your receipt and get a free lunch at Stan’s,” he offers. “I want to keep everyone happy.” The club will host a New Year’s Eve bash before shutting down for renovations.
“I’ve been in love with Stan’s building,” says Balbeisi. “There’s so much history there.” Built in 1916, the two-story brick building housed the Masonic Order of Lafayette before it was bought in 1999 by Randy Templet. Dubbed Club Pinnacle, it housed a gay disco and bar until Lerille bought it in 2002. He did extensive renovations including creating an inviting patio for al fresco dining. Stan’s has been a hot spot for the Harley crowd during Downtown Alive! every Friday night.
Balbeisi made Lerille an offer he couldn’t refuse, $750,000, according to the act of sale recorded in the Lafayette Parish Courthouse. “It was a great opportunity to spend more time with my family,” says Lerille. “I enjoyed downtown, and plan to be back to enjoy Nidal’s restaurant.” As for Lerille’s next move, he’s playing his cards close to his vest.
Trynd will offer many things to many people. Downstairs will continue as a restaurant with a business lunch and relaxed dining in the evening. Balbeisi is working on a menu that will encompass authentic cooking from the south of Italy — red sauce Italian, with a few au courant American dishes. “I’m going to bring a unique flavor to Lafayette,” he says. During the next month, if an Italian dish shows up on the menu at Stan’s, it’s getting a trial run for the new restaurant. Give it a try and vote with your fork if you like it. Once renovations have been completed, Balbeisi is planning to include several chef’s tables, spots where diners can watch the cooks in action and nibble their way through a tasting menu made of many courses paired with multiple tastes of wine. Wine is a large part of the new concept. “The menu will be small, limited to two pages of changing dishes,” says Balbeisi, “but the wine list is going to be extensive.”
Upstairs, Balbeisi is going for an old school concept: smoke. He’s building a cigar bar that will feature beautiful brown liquors like smoky single malt scotch, barrel-aged bourbon and vintage cognacs, along with high end cigars and all their accoutrements, such as cutters, lighters and humidors. Become a VIP member and rate a personal cigar cubby to hold your smoking toys. Deep couches will embrace the fuming volupine, a piano man tinkles the ivories, sports reign on every HD channel, and, undoubtedly, no women will violate the sanctum. In an unconscious move, Balbeisi is reincarnating the mood of the Masonic Temple, which favored secretive rituals of the all-male membership.
Of course, that all goes out the window at about 10 p.m., when the piano jazz crowd goes home to bed and the late night party begins. Believe in the disco ball. Lafayette may see its return some time after midnight once Trynd opens, in the new year.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.