Crescent City Steaks has remained an icon on Broad Street, from the restaurant's founding in 1934 by John Vojkovich, who immigrated to New Orleans at age 15 from Hvar in the Croatian Islands, through the corridor's era as the main route in and out of New Orleans prior to the interstate system, to current revitalization efforts in the city.
In 1934, in the midst of the Depression era, John Vojkovich and his partner opened the restaurant and were the only two employees, said Anthony Vojkovich, John's son. "They worked together until it became a business in which they could hire another employee, and then it grew over time," Vojkovich said. "They worked hard; they built their business until it was a successful business. He maintained that work ethic throughout his life, my father."
Vojkovich said his father was thinking about purchasing a restaurant off Broad Street on Canal, but in 1934 Broad Street, as Highway 90, was the only way in and out of New Orleans going east or west. People from Alabama, Georgia, the Mississippi gulf coast, and Texas would pass through on their way in and out of the city. "So, it was probably the best decision he made having the business on Broad Street," Vojkovich said.
In 1934, the city was much smaller, and areas like Lakeview and Gentilly were mostly undeveloped and used for hunting, Vojkovich said. His father mostly lived and worked in the French Quarter until developing the steakhouse in what was then a suburb of New Orleans. The building was constructed in 1914, and the restaurant was expanded and the interior redone after a hurricane in 1947.
Vojkovich was brought up around the steakhouse. "Two days after I was born I was brought here, and I've been working ever since," he said. Above the steakhouse, the family lived in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment with an office and large closet. They moved out to Paris Avenue in 1965, when the apartment became too small for their needs.
As the restaurant became more well-known, the family met all kinds of people including senators, actors, actresses, and "the famous and near famous of New Orleans," Vojkovich said. Elvis Presley, Muhammed Ali, Fats Domino and Brad Pitt have all eaten at the restaurant.
Around the time that cell phones first came out, Vojkovich remembers, Fats Domino came to the steakhouse with an oversized cell phone, and called the restaurant's phone from his booth to order another bottle of Beaujolais wine.
Since its opening, the restaurant has had several offers to move to other locations or become a franchise, but John Vojkovich declined them all. "He stayed at this corner no matter what. He had offers to move to Metairie in the sixties, had offers to turn it into a franchise. I think two things—one, he was up in age; in the sixties he was in his sixties…his health wasn't the best," Vojkovich said, adding, "I just think he had done everything he wanted to do. He didn't feel the need to expand."
Crescent City Steaks is now run by Anthony's brother, Frank Vojkovich, and his mother, Krasna Vojkovich. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., Saturdays from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m., and Sundays from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m.