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.
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.
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.
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.
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