Our story since 1933...
Ye Olde College Inn’s origins began as The Pig Stand, a chain outfit from Texas originally operated as a lease between Denis Rufin Sr. and The Pig Stand ownership. Behind on lease payments, political winds shifting and ushering the end of prohibition, the Rufin family decided to take back The Pig Stand and have their own go at the restaurant and bar business.
Emile Rufin, still alive today, soon got the call to leave the LSU Baseball team and return home to New Orleans for the day shift (Noon-Midnight). Emile along with his two brothers Denis Jr. and Albert would birth 70 years at Ye Olde College Inn. The Rufin brothers would set roots in Carrollton/Uptown New Orleans that would grow deep. The Rufin brothers would operate the restaurant through the many twists and turns of the 20th century.
At the advent of Central Air Conditioning the Rufins added a dining room to the drive-in service but for many decades memories were made in the oyster-shell parking lot. Car-hop service was popular and many romances were kindled under the trees and behind the cover of foggy windows. Menus would change through the years but the New Orleans Po-Boy and the Breaded Veal Cutlet would withstand the test of time, staples still to this day.
In the 70’s the Rufin’s nephew, Ray Reicke would arrive and eventually become a partner with the surviving brother Emile. As former owner of Chicken Delight, remembered by its marketing jingle “Don’t cook tonight, call Chicken Delight”, Ray brought restaurant experience to the table. Together Ray and Emile would lead Ye Olde College Inn into a full fledged lunch and dinner operation all the way to its sale in 2003.
On Tuesday February 5, 2003, the Blancher family would acquire College Inn. Appreciation for New Orleans icons sparked the interest of the Blanchers, who were already operating their own New Orleans landmark, Rock’n‘Bowl. The Rufin and Blancher families, would have some interesting parallels. Instead of three brothers, it would be three brothers-in-law, Jimmy Hankins, Chad Penedo, and Johnny Blancher. Emile Rufin and Johnny Blancher both left LSU Baseball to return home to their family businesses.
The Blanchers immediately went to work on a balanced dose of preparation and progress. Just two years into their tenure Hurricane Katrina hit and sent the Blanchers to Lafayette,LA to ride out the storm. The College Inn sustained 3 feet of water, and significant roof damage destroyed the old building. An older brick and steel building that predated the College Inn would be key to the comeback. The building had a history of its own to tell.
In 1929 Denis Rufin Sr. built a corner grocery for The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. The grocery only lasted a short time before the much bigger stores began to take hold. The building was occupied for many years by Dusay’s Pet Shop before becoming Graffiti Graphics which moved in early 2005 to Oak Street. With the building vacant and gutted the slate was clean to recreate Ye Olde College Inn on the same square just 30 feet from the original building.
On November 11, 2005 just a day after reopening the Rock’n‘Bowl®, work began on rebuilding Ye Olde College Inn. Less than 90 days later on Tuesday February 7, 2006, the College Inn was reborn. With a menu that highlights the old and inspires new creations, Ye Olde College Inn has solidified its post-Katrina mark as more than a neighborhood restaurant. With it's brand new farm across the street, College Inn has become a true farm-to-table restaurant in the middle of a city!
Award-winning dishes, appearances on local and national television, even private dinners in Napa Valley have been a nice compliment to the long history as a quintessential New Orleans restaurant & bar. College Inn has become so popular that other locations have been popping up. You can now catch the restaurant in Louis Armstrong International Airport.