Bluelight Cafe in Ruston again

May 12, 2011

by Justin Fort, STAFF REPORTER

Six months after closing, the familiar smells of pork chops, black-eyed peas and fresh sweet tea that filled the Bluelight Café for 50 years have returned to Ruston.

The Bluelight, which was at 902 Arlington St. for the last 30 years, has been a favorite place for Tech students to grab lunch. Generous portions, low costs and a relaxed environment draw many students to the café every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lindsay Chandler, a senior speech pathology major, has been going to the Bluelight for years.

“The food is amazing,” she said. “It’s one of the only restaurants in Ruston that really serves home-cooked meals.”

Bluelight’s owner, 47-year-old Nina Venzant, said that is the reason for her success.

“You can’t get that just anywhere,” Venzant said of a traditional, home-cooked meal. “I think they like eating at a place like home.”

Her statement was verified when the restaurant reopened at 500 S. Monroe St. April 19 and all 20 tables were filled within 10 minutes.

“I didn’t anticipate it to be that big,” Venzant said. “I was so excited.”

She has worked at the Bluelight for almost 15 years. She said many of the customers refer to her as Mrs. Bluelight. After acquiring the restaurant and a new place to rent, the title has been given back to her.

“I missed my customers,” Venzant said. “I make so many new friends here.”

Bluelight has been one of the coolest hot spots in Ruston since it opened. In a 2003 article from the Ruston Daily Leader, eating at the Bluelight Café was No. 23 on a list of 50 things that every student should do before leaving Tech.

“It’s an experience,” Chandler said. “The whole restaurant is relaxed. You walk in, write out your own menu and then wait. That’s it.”

Every meal at the café costs $10. Customers choose a meat, three vegetables, bread and their choice of drink.

“You get way more than your money’s worth,” Chandler said. “I’ve never been able to finish a whole plate. Everything tastes great!”

Moving to a new, more desirable location allows more students to experience what the Bluelight offers. The restaurant is more convenient for students. A walk to the café is no longer than most students’ walk to their cars.

Casey Quarles, a sophomore physics education major, ate at the Bluelight Café for the first time May 3 and agreed with Chandler.

“At first it looks really expensive at $9.95,” Quarles said, “but when you get the plate and see how generous the portions are, it’s a great deal for a homey-type meal.”

Venzant said she loves seeing the students come in and eat and knows a few of them on a personal level. She said she has a long and special relationship with Tech, not just its students.

“When [F. Jay] Taylor and his wife found out that I was going to reopen, (Mrs. Taylor) came by to help me clean and organize the restaurant,” she said. “I was so touched.”

Venzant said the restaurant has been busy every day since it has reopened and she has every intention of keeping the restaurant open for good.

“I like what I’m doing,” she said. “I take pride in what I do. My cooking can make someone feel better. That’s a great feeling.”

The feeling has spread over the last 50 years. Venzant said she feeds a lot of students whose parents she fed earlier.

It’s like the Lays chip challenge: bet you can’t eat just one. Almost everyone is a returning customer.

“I definitely plan on going back,” Quarles said. “I loved it.”

Venzant said she would like to keep the café as a family business forever. She also said the community has blessed her in a number of ways.

“Customers are just the best,” she said. ” I’m happy here and they’re happy I’m here.”

Email comments to jwf014@latech.edu.