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Koz In The News

The Journey To Jefferson

Once there was a 12-year-old boy named Gary, who peddled his paperboy bike over to The Poboy Bakery on Franklin Avenue. Upon entering, he was greeted by Mr. Jerry (Seely) the owner. Gary asked for a job and Mr. Jerry handed him a broom. As Gary grew, Mr. Jerry dubbed him Koz (a Kamakazi pilot without a plane), because of his antics.

In 1978, Mr. Jerry and Koz moved The Bakery from the corner of Franklin and Filmore in Gentilly to 5321 Franklin, the once Teddy’s Meat Market. After fashioning the meat market into a restaurant in the style that only Koz and friends could accomplish, Mr. Jerry and Koz bought the building in 1983. Sadly in November of that year, Uncle Teddy Gabb passed away leaving the upstairs apartment open for Koz and his new wife, Shawn. Koz, Shawn, sons, Max, Gerald, Sam and dog Moose have lived there happily ever since.

Koz always the steadfast protector of The Bakery and his home refused to leave whenever a storm threatened. As he, Max, Roz Tierney, Billy Mayrone, and Otto Munch guarded the homestead; Katrina came knocking and boy did she knock hard. The roof blew off the apartment causing the bedroom ceilings to cave in and the water rose to 10 feet inside The Bakery. Roz, Otto, along with two other families they had rescued, were airlifted from The Bakery to UNO. Koz still did not want to leave his beloved Franklin Avenue. It took Max and Billy with the help of Rudy Major’s boat to get him out. Koz and Max via boat joined Roz and Otto at UNO. By the end of the week the family was safe and back together in Denham Springs.

With no restaurant and no place to call home the Gruenigs traveled to Jackson, MS, where they realized they had to get closer to home to help rebuild New Orleans. Koz’s sister, Jackie and Shawn’s mom and dad take turns housing the family. Through the grace of God and good friends, Darlene and Gerald Thomas leased Koz the restaurant you are enjoying now. Special thanks to John Gillette for his hard work to help us get open.

Koz and his Gentilly Crew: John Gillette and Dennis Matherne are so happy to be in Harahan. They look forward to the same warm relationship in this community that they enjoyed for so many years in Gentilly.

The Times-Picayune

On a recent Friday night, families and friends gathered around plates of hamburgers and baked potatoes at Lakeview Harbor. Some have lived in the area so long that their children, who once ordered off the children’s menu, are now in college. Others arrived more recently.

Creole Creamery owner David Bergeron at his Lakeview store.It’s a scene that you could see at scores of neighborhood restaurants across New Orleans. Lakeview, however, is one of the communities harder hit by the floods that followed the levee breaches in 2005.

Spacious new homes sit between midcentury bungalows and empty lots where neighbors once lived. The streets are small-town quiet, but rough and crumbled even by New Orleans standards. And Lakeview Harbor’s cheery dining room was once filled like an aquarium with 12 feet of water.

Ask any Lakeview resident, and he or she will give you a long list of reasons why, despite the stress of rebuilding, their neighborhood is a great place to live. During the past year, it has also become a great place to eat.

Harrison Avenue, the area’s commercial heart, bustles with both pre-storm favorites, such as Lakeview Harbor and The Steak Knife, and newcomers, such as the Spanish restaurant Madrid and the resurrected McKenzie’s bakery. When Susan Spicer, chef and owner of Bayona, opens Mondo in early summer, Lakeview will have a restaurant that the rest of the city will envy.

The people behind these restaurants have deep roots in a neighborhood that, after the levees failed, saw deep water.

“We really wanted to be in Lakeview,” said Max Gruenig, who in July opened Koz’s, which specializes in 3-foot po-boys that feed a whole family. “My wife, who works with me, grew up in Lakeview. I played baseball in Lakeview. My best friend lives right across the street from the restaurant.”

Gruenig’s father, nicknamed Koz, ran the Bakery, a restaurant and po-boy shop, in Gentilly before the storm. Gruenig was raised upstairs. The first Koz’s opened in Harahan in November 2005. When Gruenig got a chance to expand to Lakeview, it was an easy decision.

“My best friend saw them writing ‘For Rent’ on the building,” he said. “I happened to be at my wife’s grandmother’s around the corner, so I drove over there and told the lady we wanted it.”

Back in 2004, David Bergeron chose an Uptown location for Creole Creamery, an ice cream shop with flavors ranging from traditional chocolate to wasabi with black sesame seeds.

Lakeview, though, was always his top choice for a second location. The flood didn’t change that.

Ever since he was a child, he visited his grandmother in the neighborhood. Now he lives in her old house. Since Katrina, he’s seen Lakeview change.

“The average age probably dropped by 40 years,” he said.

Many older residents didn’t return. The work of rebuilding was too much for them. But younger families moved in, and the restaurants reflect that changing population.

“There is a little bit of everything,” he said, “You don’t have the sheer number of restaurants that you do in Uptown, and you never will, because we don’t have the real estate. But what we do have is very family-friendly.”

Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona, another Lakeview resident, isn’t completely satisfied with the current neighborhood dining options.

“When I go out,” Spicer said, “I like casual fine dining. I like to drink a good glass of wine with my hamburger.”

She hopes to give Lakeview that kind of restaurant with Mondo, which is slated to open by early summer in the space most recently occupied by Lago on Harrison Avenue.

“The timing is right,” she said. “The demographics have changed. We want to do something better quality, but still reasonably priced.”

Spicer knows the Mondo location well. Her partner at Bayona, Regina Keever, ran an Italian restaurant there in the early 1990s. Over the years, Spicer and her friend and fellow chef Donald Link of Herbsaint had both kicked around ideas for the space.

“It seemed like a cool little spot,” she said. “It’s in a strip mall, but it’s bigger than it looks. And I knew that wood-burning oven was in there.”

After sitting underwater, the wood-burning oven had to be repaired and remortared.

“We’re going to fire it up next week,” she said, “to make sure the whole dining room won’t light up with smoke.”

Spicer will use that oven to make gourmet pizzas. The menu at Mondo will also include dips, spreads and bar food, such as fish tacos.

“We’re going to have fun,” she said. “It’s like bringing a little urban touch to the suburbs.”

On Sundays at brunch you’ll be able to order a good plate of migas, a Tex-Mex dish of scrambled eggs and tortilla strips.

“With all those lakefront restaurants gone,” she said, “I want to do some great New Orleans seafood dishes, in addition to all the crazy stuff from around the world that I like to do. My main problem is going to be cutting down the menu.”

Three years ago, Cheryl Scripter opened her chocolate shop, Bittersweet Confections, in Lakeview because “we needed a good place where people could come and enjoy what they were eating.” At that time, there were few places to eat.

Now it’s easy to find food of all kinds in Lakeview. Chefs and restaurateurs who live there supported their neighborhood by opening new businesses and restaurants, and their neighbors supported them.

The mood among neighbors is good, Scripter says.

“The people who came back and built houses are so happy to be back in Lakeview,” she said.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

This Article appeared in the Times-Picayune’s Readers’ Recollections in the Lagniappe Dining Guide.

New Orleans: ‘My old Gentilly home’

Upon returning home to Kenner after the storm, I set out to explore my old neighborhood, Gentilly. Tears flowed as mile after mile of memories passed my car windows: my grammar school, my high school, the places I played, the places I ate so many good meals.

Water must have been to the roof of The Bakery on Franklin Avenue. I looked at the upstairs apartment of my good friend, Gary “Koz” Gruenig, and wondered where he was. Did he and his family get out? On subsequent trips to the old neighborhood, I still saw no signs of life. Then one glorious day, there was a car in the lot and the upstairs door was open. Sheetrock was flying out.

I called out for Koz, and his lovely wife, Shawn, answered. My name never sounded so good. She told me the Gruenigs were all OK and that Koz had opened a shop in Harahan.

He never looked so good as when I walked in that sandwich shop on Wilson Street. The place was filled with people telling storm tales and remembering old times. Gary might as well call the place “My Old Gentilly Home.”

Koz was holding court behind a counter. Smiling and moving with a speed that denies his size, my old friend saw me, called my name, and hugged the devil out of me. Then he looked at me and asked, “Roast beef, lettuce and mayo with a potato salad on the side?” I was home. We were home. We were back. Thank the Lord.

And, of course, the sandwich was the same as the one I have had all my, our, life.

Glenn Menish

Kenner, owner of the Port of Call

The Gambit Weekly

Flavors and personalities persist after a neighborhood joint switches neighborhoods.
By Ian Mcnulty

When it comes to po-boys, personal preference must be informed by some blend of convenient proximity, experiences had at an impressionable age or perhaps even the history and personality behind a particular po-boy shop. All of those dynamics are vividly at work at Koz’s, a casual lunch spot in Harahan that is proving the portability of an erstwhile Gentilly neighborhood joint.

Koz’s is the reincarnation of the Po-boy Bakery, which had been in business on Franklin Avenue near Filmore Avenue since the early 1960s. The place had been the roost for Gary ‘Koz” Gruenig ever since the day in 1965 when, at age 12, he was given a job there sweeping up after school. Not long after, a Po-boy Bakery regular conferred the nickname that would end up above the doors of his own business today.

‘I was kind of reckless on my paperboy bicycle, and I crashed it a lot,” says Gruenig. ‘I crashed it into a car one time and Xavier Viola was the cop who took the report. He said I was like a kamikaze pilot without the plane, and every time he came in to the shop he’d call me Koz.”

The name stuck, and so did Gruenig, who worked at the Po-boy Bakery alongside founder Jerry Seely for the next 40 years. In 1983, he and his family moved into the apartment above the shop. When Katrina struck, the levee failures put about 10 feet of floodwater in the building, destroying the business and the Gruenig’s home. Seely later moved to Eunice, La., but when a regular from the Po-boy Bakery offered the lease on an undamaged restaurant space in Harahan, the Gruenigs snapped it up. They opened their own restaurant, Koz’s, in December 2005.

The list of po-boys has the normal meat and seafood options, plus a Po-boy Bakery original, the barbecue ham po-boy. Another entry in the long tradition of New Orleans kitchen misnomers, the ham is not actually barbecued or covered in barbecue sauce. Rather, the sandwich is filled with rough but tender mixed bits that are cut off a baked ham, stewed in a salty, tangy jus and ladled in juicy scoops onto the bread. As Parasol’s is known for its roast beef and Liuzza’s by the Track for its barbecue shrimp po-boy, the barbecue ham po-boy is the stand-out item that made the Po-boy Bakery’s name among knowing palates. Now it says Koz’s. Officially available only on Saturdays, barbecued ham po-boys sometimes show up on the specials board on Mondays, too.

Another long-standing Po-boy Bakery specialty served here is the whole loaf po-boy, which proves a very good bargain if three or four people can agree on the filling and how it should be dressed. Only the seafood versions break the $20 mark. More often, though, these enormous, 32-inch-long po-boys are cut into small slices as party sandwiches.

Decadence reaches its peak with a po-boy called the Chamber of Horror. The name is a reference to the basketball gymnasium at the University of New Orleans, a cramped space back in the day when fans often made a fearsome racket to intimidate the Privateers’ opponent. In sandwich terms, this is a Frankenstein monstrosity done kitchen sink-style with roast beef, ham, turkey, Swiss and American cheeses, the normal vegetable dressings, raw white onion, gobs of mayo and Creole mustard and Italian salad dressing. It doesn’t taste like anything in particular, more like a deli case of leftovers crammed into the bread, but students of excess will find plenty to chew over.

Surprisingly, roast beef is not the strong point here. The tame gravy adds little to the thin sheets of beef and slices of garlic seem only to make an impact in those areas where you actually bite them. Seafood is much better, especially Koz’s way with oysters. Eating these incredibly crisp, audibly crunchy oysters means breaking through a crust on each fried nugget to release the tender oyster meat encased inside.

The gumbo has a thick, light-colored roux loaded with chicken, good-sized shrimp and deep red, smoky andouille. The plate lunches like red beans, meatloaf or country-fried steak arrive on trays with a supporting cast of sides and salads. Stuffed artichokes under domes of cellophane wait at the counter near the Hubig’s Pies.

The Po-boy Bakery wasn’t actually a bakery, although it did a bang-up business selling donuts made nearby at the Verbena Street Bakery, a long-gone Gentilly legend where the baking took place in the ground floor of a modest house. Today, Koz’s uses bread from John Gendusa Bakery in Gentilly, a softer, chewier loaf than the more common crackle-crusted, airy-crumbed variety of po-boy bread. Gruenig has it delivered to the door of his Uptown home each morning and brings it the rest of the way to Harahan himself, a relay-style accommodation that allows his suburban shop to use familiar Gentilly-made bread and saves the baker time and costly gas miles.

There can be no doubt that people in Gentilly miss the Po-boy Bakery, but today its flavors and personality live on in a new Harahan locale.

City Business

This article apperared in the New Orleans City Business Magazine.

Why Stay?

New Orleanians tell CityBusiness why they’re not giving up on the city

by April Capochino


After Hurricane Katrina, Gary “Koz” Gruenig was airlifted from his flooded Gentilly business, dropped off at the University of New Orleans and then shipped out to Interstate 10 at Causeway Boulevard to spend the night before being reunited with his family the next day in Denham Springs.

Gruenig, 53, lost his home and The Bakery on Franklin Ave., the restaurant he co-owned since 1983.

His family shuffled from Denham Springs to Jackson, Miss., to Covington and then Destrehan before finally buying a house in Uptown New Orleans in January. He opened his own restaurant, Koz’s, in Harahan in November.

He and his wife, Shawn, live in their new home with their sons Sam, 9 months, and Max, 18. Their 16-year-old son, Gerald, still lives in Covington with Gruenig’s sister and attends Fontainebleau High School.

A framed photo of Gruenig’s flooded Franklin Avenue business sits on the counter of Koz’s as a reminder of where he’s been. But these days, the businessman, father and husband is only concerned about where he’s going.

“This whole Katrina thing has been different for me,” said Gruenig, who was born in Pennsylvania and moved to New Orleans when he was 7 years old.

“I was lucky. I landed on my feet. I’ve got mixed emotions about what happened but I never thought for one second that I would leave here. New Orleans is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. It’s a great town and we’re lucky it’s still here.”

French Quarter Fest

This was from Koz’s First Year at the French Quarter Fest in 2008, and we had a blast. Look for us next year at the fest!

Sam and Will man the Koz’s booth.

No booth is run better than with a mother son combo. Ms. Koz and Sam work the line serving jambalaya, crawfish etouffe, and turtle cheesecake.

The booth was in the Old U.S. Mint where the cajun and zydeco music was rocking.