When Nick Detrich opened his "Rustic Colonial Cuisine and Proto-Tiki" themed restaurant and bar, Cane & Table, at the start of last year's Tales of the Cocktail, he had to erect a wall made of shutters to keep his clientele safe from the construction debris of the space's transformation.
This year, Detrich, who is also a co-manager at Freret Street's Cure cocktail lounge, is ready to wow Tales attendees with the fully operational restaurant and share his passion for all things tiki and historical Caribbean. The theme of Cane & Table is fully evident in the food, drinks (not just cocktails!), and decor of the 220-plus year old building on Decatur
So, how has this past year gone?
It's been a lot of fun, especially being in the French Quarter as opposed to Uptown. Nothing against Uptown, I like it there too. But the two locations have very different energies and events happening. It's funny, they'll be opposite all the time - when it's busy here [at Cane & Table], it'll be slow at Cure, and vice versa.
It's just been great bringing the concept of the place on paper, seeing it form a life of its own. You learn some unexpected things can be symbiotic - for example, when we were looking at Basque wines, we learned about Basque ciders, and now we have four available here. It's to honor that Basque-Spanish influence on New Orleans and the Caribbean - and our style of food pairs really well with the wines and ciders of that region, especially something like our ropa vieja.
What's the biggest change that Tales of the Cocktail attendees can expect visiting Cane & Table this year, as opposed to last?
Well, the building is finished, that's a big step. This time last year the courtyard was full of construction debris. Also, we know what we're doing now - last year we were really all about the excitement of Tales, rather than being Cane & Table. We've got a couple events we're doing this year - I'll be bartending with Jeff "Beachbum" Berry on Friday night [as part of the Dynamic Duos series, open to the public.] And Kirk [Estopinal, owner of Cure] and I will be bartending at a Cane & Table pop-up bar at the Hotel Monteleone pool, that should be fun.
Do you consider Cane & Table more of a bar that serves food or a restaurant with a focus on cocktails?
That's definitely transformed over the last year. I think at first we were considered more known for the drink aspect, because of Cure and Belloq, but we're really trying to focus more on the food. We even remind our staff to tell their wives that they're heading off to the "restaurant" for their shift, not the "bar." People can come here and have a full blown meal. And also some fantastic cocktails.
What kind of clientele does Cane & Table attract?
Well, we get a good amount of people from the neighborhood, which we love. There are also a bunch of folks we see during their occasional pied de terre weekends in the Quarter. Of course, given our location we do get a lot of people from out of town. Jazz Fest, we had people from all over. It's pretty varied. Late night, we get a lot of service industry people. We're open pretty late for a restaurant so you'll see a bar full of bartenders here at 1am more often than not.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
We just launched a new menu a few weeks ago, really focusing on our proto-tiki selection. That's the portion of the menu that with recipes that predate 1934 and Don the Beachcomber [the Hollywood Polynesian bar widely credited for creating the modern tiki cocktail movement], but use the same kinds of ingredients and techniques. We are also planning on expanding our weekend brunches to be "all you can drink," that won't be till August at least thought. Physical expansion is difficult though, the building is more than 220 years old. We can only do a little at a time, we can't do anything that will jeopardize the building. But now we have some nice greenery in the courtyard and a tiki head fountain.
What are your thoughts about other current and future tiki themed places in the area, like Tiki Tolteca and Latitude 29?
I'm excited! Decatur Street is going to be world class tiki destination, which is especially fitting given that this is the oldest port in the Gulf. I really can't wait for Latitude 29 - I feel like I've been in Jeff ["Beachbum" Berry]'s head for the last half a decade, reading his books and listening to him lecture, and it's going to be so cool to walk in there and actually see it for real.
One more question: what exactly does "rustic colonial" mean?
We're trying to honor the various ways that people were eating and drinking, historically, in the Caribbean, and how that influenced the cuisine and culture of New Orleans. Not only are we looking at how Caribbean culture influenced New Orleans, but we're also exploring what cultures influenced the Caribbean in the colonial times, everything from Spain to Africa.