Lots Of Memories: Percy's Restaurant Being Demolished

THIBODAUX, LA (AP) — Twenty five years after Percy's Restaurant closed its doors, people still want to talk with Louis Gros about the restaurant's fresh biscuits, roast beef sandwiches, daily plate lunches and famous hamburgers.

         "Old time people when they see me, they say, 'Man, when are you going to make us some hamburgers?'" he said.

         The restaurant at 407 Green St. was torn down recently, taking with it the final signs of the business that spanned three generations of the Gros family.

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         "It brings up a lot of memories," said Thibodaux City Marshal Harley Gros, whose father, Percy Gros, opened the business. "A lot of good memories."

         Many Thibodaux residents remember the food. During the restaurant's 57 years in business, the family stuck to a small menu and served what they knew.

         "We specialized in Cajun food," said Louis, who ran the business after Percy. "I don't think we could've been beat with gumbos of any kind."

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         One of their most popular items was the Percy Burger, a fried combination of beef, eggs, seasoning and McCormick Cracker Meal.

         "You either liked them or you didn't, but the people that like them can't get enough," he said.

         While the food made the restaurant's reputation, the eatery was also known for a being a family-run business in the truest sense.

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         After leaving his family in Choupic with little money and a third-grade education, Percy moved to Thibodaux and washed dishes at the Dixie Hotel, Louis said. Eventually, Percy saved enough money to open his own restaurant in 1933 at the Green Street location.

         Percy and his wife, Eula Mae Chiasson, made their living at the restaurant and their siblings also found work there after returning home in 1940s after World War II.

         The couple's eight children, Arliene, Percy Jr., Louis, Noela, Tommy, Linda, Harley and Leo, also worked in the restaurant at some point.

         Louis remembers learning to make a roux at the restaurant when he was too small to see into the pot.

         "My daddy put a beer case down on the bottom and I stood on that," Louis said. "I stirred over that beer case until that roux was brown enough. He'd come in there and look and say, 'Keep stirring, keep stirring.'"

         From cooking to waiting tables, they kept the business running smoothly, which was no easy task for a busy restaurant that also served as the de facto concession stand for the nearby Grand Theatre.

         The restaurant attracted plenty of regulars who came for the food and relaxed atmosphere.

         "It was just a down home restaurant," said Huey Chiasson, a cousin and frequent customer.

         As Percy got older, Louis took a leave of absence from being a teacher at Thibodaux High School to take over the restaurant.

         Giving his own five children a chance to grow up working in the restaurant factored into his decision.

         "I see a big advantage in that," he said. "It's a terrific experience when you're dealing with all kinds of people and you've got to treat them right."

         Louis cut the hours to breakfast and lunch, and Percy continued to help with the business.

         The restaurant closed on Oct. 6, 1990, the day Percy died and Harley made it into the runoff for the first of five terms as Thibodaux city marshal.

         "I shut it down right after that. It wasn't the same without him, so I closed it," Louis said. "It was never opened again and then it deteriorated."

         While the building will soon be gone, the restaurant's legacy lives on through large family gatherings and the restaurant's recipes still made for family and friends.

         "We're lucky enough we're still carrying on the tradition as much as can with family," Louis said. "It's all about family."

         – by AP/ Reporter Meredith Burns with The Courier

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