It has been said that New Orleans is the only city in the world where new restaurants open, but no restaurants ever close. That aphorism holds true today, where seemingly every empty warehouse and downtrodden property in the city is undergoing a renovation for the next starry-eyed foodie entrepreneur. And while restaurants specializing in New Orleans-style food continue to thrive, a new restaurant in New Orleans is now more likely to serve Eastern European bar food or authentic New York pizza than beignets and red beans.
The Bywater has quickly risen from somewhat of a culinary wasteland to one of the city’s most popular dining areas. Pizza Delicious, the city’s first pop-up restaurant, went bonafide in the fall. Fresh digs inside a converted warehouse on Piety Street near the river ensconce an open kitchen churning out pizzas as large as manhole covers, excellent pastas made in house and their iconic garlic knots. Hint: the Hawaiian pizza may be the most compelling evidence to support the admission of the 50th state into the Union.
When local BBQ favorite The Joint moved its smoker to a new location on Mazant Street, its former building on Poland Avenue was transformed into Jughead’s, a neighborhood bar that specializes in cheesesteaks. The renovation includes a newly constructed patio made from two-by-fours and an aluminum roof whose construction will remind many of the Flora-Bama. Sliced rib eye is seared on a hot griddle, dressed with the standard fixings, and then sandwiched inside a loaf of Dong Phuong bread.
Over on Freret Street, Philadelphia transplant Mike Casey and his business partner Joe Seremet bring a level of authenticity at Liberty Cheesesteaks, which opened last month inside the literal hole-in-the-wall that Dat Dog vacated after moving across the street. Soft Italian hoagie loaves and a choice between melted provolone or a smear of Cheez Whiz are trademarks of this trademark sandwich from the City of Brotherly Love. The result will almost erase the memory of the 1993 Saints home playoff loss to the Eagles. Almost.
Ambulate a few blocks down Freret, and your culinary travels will take you from Philadelphia to Rome. Wayfare, while not intrinsically Italian, has the feel and vibe of the small bar/tabac/café that the Italians have perfected. One can saunter in any time of the day and have a cappuccino or a glass of wine. If hungry, perhaps a plate of cured meats, a porchetta sandwich or a salmon and caper pesto salad. Read the paper. Chat. Pause. Breathe. Move on. Wayfare is the perfect place to fit your mood when your mood knows not what it wants.
Magazine’s restaurant row has seen further development with several new eateries popping up along the popular stretch. Saucy’s BBQ emigrated from Metairie to the former location of Ignatius, where proprietors Gary Kurz and Rich Labutut continue the BYOB service while serving St. Louis style dry ribs, pulled pork and brisket. Across the street, Dominque Macquet has opened the most recent incarnation of his eponymous restaurant Dominique’s inside a renovated fire station that features two floors of dining and a candlelit courtyard. Those seeking out a more casual meal need look no further than the second wag of Dat Dog, which replicates its Freret Street location with expansive patio seating.
If five years from now, South Jefferson Davis in between the I-10 overpass and Earhart is the next hot restaurant block in town, Gracious Bakery gets all the credit. Megan Forman crafts baguettes, pastries and hearty sandwiches inside the sleek Woodward Building. This is as good a place as any to bring a good book, grab a delicious cup of coffee and escape. Go now, before it becomes the next Big Thing.
Chris DeBarr and his merry band of cooks moved into Mid City’s American Can building in September and opened Serendipity. The industrial chic interior of the premises is a stark contrast from DeBarr’s former home at the Green Goddess but fits with the cool cocktails (supervised by Ed Diaz of Bar Tonique) and the menu of worldly fare. Johnnycakes topped with crab and ghost pepper caviar and braised turkey necks share top billing with a deliciously rich cabbage roll and pulled pork sandwich with cornbread and collards. What kind of cuisine is this? Who knows? Who cares when it’s this good.
Back in the French Quarter, the Commander’s branch of the family took over the former space of cousin Ralph’s Bacco in the W Hotel and opened SoBou. The name is derivative of what locals allegedly referred to as the area of South of Bourbon, even though the location is actually east of Bourbon. But we digress. SoBou encapsulates all of the latest dining trends. Designer cocktails, charcuterie, small plates, inspired bar food, craft beer is all here; just a few blocks away from Big Ass Beers and Lucky Dogs.