For much of last year, French Quarter residents battled over whether restaurant developer Sean Meenan should be allowed to renovate an abandoned building and open a high-profile restaurant and bar. The building anchors one full corner of the French Quarter, and has been vacant for more than 30 years. Meenan operates Cafe Habana restaurants in Brooklyn, Malibu and and New York City, and wanted to make New Orleans his fourth location. Neighbors balked at potential traffic and noise problems since the building is located in a residential area. Meenan finally withdrew his proposal to develop the building. Now, Meenan has come back with a scaled-down version of his original build-out plan, in hopes that the City Council and local residents will approve the compromise, which calls for fewer seats and a smaller venue. Cafe Habana is known for authentic Cuban cuisine. Cafe Habana, 1310 N. Rampart St., New Orleans, LA 70116, no phone.
For many years Landry's Seafood in the Lakeview area was one of the few restaurants on Harrison Avenue. It never re-opened after the 2005 hurricanes, but now a popular figure on the New Orleans restaurant scene has breathed new life into the building. Danny Millan, a former host and maitre'd at Brennan's and Le Foret restaurants, oversaw a complete redesign of the interior and opened Cava. With such dishes as lobster and wild mushroom risotto and soft-shell shrimp rémoulade, Cava is already taking off with the local crowd. That may be because the Cajun/Creole cuisine prepared by chefs Adam Asher and Donovan Tullier Sr. feels familiar to the locals. The difference may be in the chic interior, not always seen in Cajun or Creole eateries. The elegant dining room seats only 65 guests, so reservations are highly recommended. Dinner Mon.-Sat. Cava, 789 Harrison Ave., New Orleans, LA 70124, 504-304-9034.
Chef John Besh, rapidly becoming the dining baron of New Orleans, has announced plans to open another restaurant. This time, Besh will partner with celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez, to open Johnny Sanchez. The restaurant will occupy the space that once housed Ste. Marie in the Central Business District. Sanchez is known to many as the co-host of the Food Network's show, "Chopped." As for the concept, Besh describes it as a "spirited taqueria," complete with what may become the longest list of tequila offerings in the city. Johnny Sanchez will reportedly open late this year.
Although a projected opening date has not been announced, the owners of The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk revealed that Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill is on track to open inside the shopping center. The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk occupies a massive riverfront space in downtown New Orleans. The 19,000-square-foot restaurant location is currently under construction. The Outlet Collection opened in late May. The restaurant serves steaks, burgers, fries and a variety of appetizers. Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, Port of New Orleans Pl., New Orleans, LA 70116, 504-522-1555.
La Peniche Restaurant was a neighborhood anchor in the Faubourg Marigny for three decades. When it closed earlier this year, local residents were shocked, but the building has now been refashioned into Horn's restaurant. Owned by the same people who run an uptown diner called Slim Goodie's, Horn's serves comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features local favorites such as chicken and waffles, gumbo, omelets, Cajun scrambled eggs, barbecued shrimp and excellent, strong New Orleans coffee. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Thurs.-Mon. Horn's, 1940 Dauphine St., New Orleans, LA 70116, 504-459-4676.
Because sometimes you just need the perfect glass of Champagne, Après Lounge, New Orleans' first ever Champagne bar has opened. Located on Fulton Street, amidst a burgeoning tourist corridor that includes a number of restaurants and bars, Après serves only Champagne and sparkling wines. The ambiance is chic and sophisticated, and seating is by reservation. The owners have taken a risk by not offering any other beverages or food, but still promise "the upscale ambiance with the sexiness and excitement you deserve." Après Lounge, 608 Fulton St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-610-2480.
As the borderline neighborhood between Marigny and the Bywater becomes more popular and highly populated, more restaurant choices are emerging. This time it is Sneaky Pickle, a semi-vegan restaurant whose owners proclaim they serve "good food prepared by naughty people. Play with your vegetables, eat with your hands, make a big ol' mess." Sounds like fun, right? Look for a variety of flatbread selections, including a standout beet flatbread with pumpkin seed purée. Meat lovers will still find a serviceable patty melt and a "Meatatarian flatbread." Sneaky Pickle, 4017 St. Claude Ave., New Orleans, LA 70117, 504-218-5651.
For 10 years ONE Restaurant and Lounge did big business in the Carrollton neighborhood. When the owners decided to close the place and pursue other endeavors, chef Jason Goodenough jumped at the chance to take over the space and open his new venture, Carrollton Market. Now serving dinner only, Carrollton Market looks much the same as it did when it was ONE Restaurant and Lounge, although it is significantly brighter inside. If it is light fare you seek, this may not be your best bet. Comfort food is the order of the day, as evidenced by such temptations as chicken and dumplings or crispy pork belly with sweet potato purée. Goodenough's food has a distinctive Southern flair, especially when he sends out his New Orleans style cassoulet, with red beans, pork belly, smoked sausage and duck confit. If that's not Southern enough, consider his fried pig tail tots. There is no word yet about future lunch service. Dinner Tues.-Sat. Carrollton Market, 8132 Hampson St., New Orleans, LA 70125, 504-252-9928.
Del Fuego Taqueria Adds Lunch Service
Following a successful opening just a few months ago, Del Fuego Taqueria is now open for lunch. Previously a dinner-only Mexican restaurant, Del Fuego Taqueria will offer the same menu at lunch and dinner. Already known for its high energy, fun atmosphere, Del Fuego features indoor and outdoor patio seating, and Mexican fare such as duck enchiladas, carne asada, tacos and a variety of margaritas. Del Fuego Taqueria, 4518 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70115, 504-309-5797.
Le Foret Debuts Lunch Service
Le Foret, the elegant fine dining spot in the heart of the Central Business District, is now open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Until now, the restaurant has offered only dinner service. Look for appetizers including fried truffle mac and cheese squares and pulled pork sliders. Entrées will include such dishes as seared beef tenderloin and Parmesan-crusted oyster salad. Chef Brandon Felder will also offer a three-course prix-fixe menu for $27. Le Foret, 129 Camp St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-553-6738.
Bombay Club On the Move
After decades of doing business in the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter, Bombay Club is moving to a new location in the Chateau LeMoyne Hotel, just blocks away. The new space is bigger and will have a private entrance so guests will not have to go through the hotel to access the dining room. The Bombay Club is known for its extensive martini menu (including the signature "Skinny Chocolate Mocha-tini") as well as for great local jazz. The new space has the same softly lit, clubby atmosphere as the original. Dinner nightly. Bombay Club, Prince Conti Hotel, 830 Conti St., New Orleans, LA 70112, 504-586-0972.
We Live to Eat Restaurant Week Returns September 8-14
The fourth annual We Live to Eat Restaurant Week in New Orleans will feature two-course, prix-fixe lunches (under $20) and three-course, prix-fixe dinners (under $39) at participating restaurants. For more information, visit www.welivetoeatnola.com/restaurant-week-2014/
La Petite Grocery Team to Open Second Restaurant
One of New Orleans' highly respected chef/restaurateurs, Justin Devillier and his wife, Mia Devillier, have announced plans to open a second restaurant. The as yet unnamed eatery will open in a downtown restaurant space that was occupied for many years by the now-shuttered Ditcharo's Restaurant. The Devilliers are planning to open in the Fall, after a top-to-bottom renovation of the building, complete with a major kitchen expansion. The fare will be similar to, but not a repeat of, what is offered at La Petite Grocery. La Petite Grocery, 4238 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70115, 504-891-3377.
Brennan's Will Still Be Named Brennan's
Amid the ongoing sage and contentious legal battles surrounding the closing and impending re-opening of Brennan's in the French Quarter, some good news has emerged. Restaurateur Ralph Brennan, now the co-owner, announced that he has successfully acquired the name "Brennan's" for the new version of the iconic fine dining restaurant. Ralph Brennan reportedly paid $3 million at auction for rights to the name. The restaurant is slated for an early Fall opening. Meanwhile, Ted Brennan, one of the former owners, has unveiled his own plan to open another restaurant similar to the old Brennan's. Ted Brennan's restaurant is tentatively planned for Decatur Street, just blocks away from the venerable Brennan's Restaurant. In a published statement, Brennan said he hopes to bring back many of the original staff members, as well as chef Lazone Randolph, who called the Brennan's kitchen home for more than 40 years. This restaurant is tentatively schedule to open in 2015.
Le Foret Debuts Summer Menu
Le Foret, the fine dining restaurant in the heart of the Central Business District, has unveiled its new summer menu. Chef Brandon Felder has added a number of new items, including seared snapper with ratatouille, jumbo lump crab meat in corn cream sauce, oven roasted grouper with zucchini squash, and a Kurobuta pork chop with andouille truffle hash. Diners will still find the popular foie gras with seasonal fruit purées and pecan butter on the menu, as well as Louisiana barbecued shrimp, and cornmeal-crusted soft-shell crab. The frequently rotating tasting menu is still available at $65 per person. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the tasting menu is discounted 25 percent. Le Foret, 129 Camp St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-553-6738.
Emeril's Foundation Doles Out Grant to Non-profits
Cafe Hope, Cafe Reconcile, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and Second Harvest Food Bank will share in a $125,000 grant from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. Cafe Hope and Cafe Reconcile provide job training for at-risk young people, as well as career counseling. NOCCA is the site of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Culinary Arts Studio. The Second Harvest Food Bank plans to use its portion of the grant to provide free breakfast to 4,000 low-income children enrolled in summer camps, as well as to help expand its Kids Cafe program. Since 2002, the Foundation has distributed more than $5.5 million in grants for children’s charities. Emeril's, 800 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-528-9393.
Peche Seafood Grill Takes High Honors at James Beard Awards
In a move that can only be characterized as well deserved, Peche Seafood Grill was named America's "Best New Restaurant" by the James Beard Foundation. Further, in an unprecedented double honor, Peche co-owner Ryan Prewitt was named "Best Chef: South." As if that were not heady enough stuff for New Orleans, Prewitt tied for the honor with Gautreau's chef Sue Zemanick. Peche is co-owned by chefs Donald Link and Stephen Styjewski. This is an especially proud moment for all three Peche owners, since no New Orleans restaurant has ever won the Beard award as "Best New Restaurant," making this recognition a major first for the city’s restaurant community. Peche Seafood Grill, 800 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-522-1744.
Any time Adolfo Garcia opens a new restaurant in New Orleans, it is big news to local citizens. Garcia, who counts the long-running, but recently shuttered, Rio Mar and La Boca among his collection of restaurants will reportedly open a new place in central city at 1800 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. The neighborhood, long underdeveloped and not terribly safe, is in the middle of a commercial renaissance, including the pending Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which is due to re-open September 29, 2014, in its new building. Garcia has not released details of his new restaurant concept or a projected opening date. La Boca, 870 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-525-8205.
The fabled Brennan's in the French Quarter is on schedule to reopen in September. Owner Ralph Brennan announced the hiring of Slade Rushing as executive chef. Rushing and his wife Allison Vines-Rushing operate MiLa in the Central Business District. Allison Vines-Rushing will take over the operation at MiLa. So far the legal battle to retain the name "Brennan's" has not been settled. If the case does not go in Ralph Brennan's favor, he will rename the restaurant prior to opening. Rushing actually interned at Brennan's in the late 1990s. Massive interior renovations are in progress on the building. Brennan's, 417 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-525-9711.
Crescent Pie & Sausage, a favorite mid-city casual dining spot, has closed. Although the restaurant did a respectable volume of business, the owners have decided to concentrate their efforts in another part of town. The Tulane Avenue corridor, home to the massive new LSU Medical Complex, is ripe for casual eateries, and owner Jeff Baron intends to take full advantage of the impending groundswell of business. Baron and his chef Bart Bell will open Crescent Plate, serving lunch only. With construction on the new hospital complex moving rapidly, the long stretch of Tulane Avenue is expected to become a high-traffic area in the coming months. The pair will operate a catering company out of the same location. Crescent Pie & Sausage, 4400 Banks St., New Orleans, LA 70119, no phone.
Crazy Johnnie's Steak House, the popular Metairie restaurant that has served the area for two decades, has closed. Late last year the owners announced the restaurant would close, but then reversed their decision due to public demand. But this time the owners say their decision is final. A last-minute deal to sell the building to a new owner who would revive the steak house reportedly fell through. Crazy Johnnie's Steak House, 3520 18th St., Metairie, LA 70002, no phone.
Chef/Owner Scott Boswell revealed that Stella!, his flagship fine dining restaurant in the French Quarter is closed permanently. Additionally, Boswell filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for his popular Jackson Square restaurant, Stanley. Boswell issued a public written statement: "The economics of Stella! were simply no longer sustainable. The price we must charge limits our clientele. We can no longer be in the luxury food business." Stella! was regarded among the most upscale and innovative fine dining restaurants in the city. Days after the closing, Boswell announced a planned fundraiser with tickets as high as $250 to help defray expenses. The fundraiser was abruptly canceled after public and media outcries that it was in poor taste. Stella!, 1032 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70116, no phone.
Big changes are afoot in chef John Besh’s burgeoning restaurant empire. The National D-Day Museum announced it will not renew its contract with Besh to operate The American Sector and the Soda Shop. These are the two restaurants Besh established in conjunction with the museum. At the same time, Besh and the Food Network's host of "Chopped," chef Aaron Sanchez, will open Johnny Sanchez, a Mexican restaurant using lots of ingredients indigenous to Louisiana. Besh and Sanchez plan their new enterprise in the Central Business District in the space that was until recently occupied by Ste. Marie, which moved to the former Meauxbar space in the French Quarter. That new eatery will retain the name Meauxbar. Besh and Sanchez are aiming for an early Fall opening of Johnny Sanchez. The American Sector, The National World War II Museum, 945 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-528-1940.
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