In the New Orleans real estate market, the principle of best use typically dictates that any available space be marketed as a potential restaurant site. So it comes as no surprise that in recent years, a vacant bank, a gas station, and even a mortuary have all been renovated into restaurants. Now with the opening of Pagoda Café, a former dry cleaning business can be added to the list of repurposed spaces transformed into thriving eateries.
Located in the 7th Ward at the intersection of Kerlerec and Bayou Road, just a stone’s throw from Esplanade, Pagoda Café is part of a new wave of early morning specialists expanding beyond the breakfast canon of grits and eggs. The menu combines regional specialties from across the Sabine and around the globe with creative twists on familiar classics.
The sausage roll, a full link of Terranova’s green onion sausage encased in a delicate puff pastry, is a specialty imported from co-owner Dan Etheridge’s native Australia. His partner Shana Sassoon, who spent time living in Texas, lays credit for the breakfast tacos—a combination of eggs, potato, beans and cheese that, in the opinion of this former Austinite, are the most authentic version of this Tex-Mex staple found in the city. Sassoon’s mother even learned the recipe for the earthy, spicy verde salsa served at Villa Arcos, the venerable Houston breakfast taco destination.
As residents of the neighborhood, Sassoon and Etheridge aimed to fill what they perceived as a void of both inexpensive and healthy options for breakfast and lunch. Now residents can start their day with a cup of French Truck coffee and a slice of banana nutella bread or a freshly baked scone served with lemon curd. At lunch, Pagoda Café serves salads composed of greens from Grow Dat Youth Farm simply dressed in a light vinaigrette, a few roasted red peppers and thin curls of ricotta salata. Sandwiches include gruyere, manchego and arugula pesto on grilled sourdough or a Cuban filled with Chisesi ham, roasted pork, swiss and cornichon.
On Sundays, the slightly expanded brunch menu draws in a heavier crowd gathered at the picnic tables on the patio. With only outdoor seating, the weather sometime determines if takeout is the only option, although a pitched roof covering the patio does offer protection from a light spring rain. Regardless, a visit to Pagoda Café is one trip to the dry cleaner worth looking forward to.