Nathanial Zimet and James Denio have been bringing creative, delicious food at reasonable prices and without pretension since before 2008, when they opened Boucherie in the Riverbend. Before that, they drove in arguably the city's first food truck, the Purple Truck, bringing their food to wherever hungry people needed it.
Six years later, the pair are planning on expanding their flagship restaurant by moving it into a larger space around the corner and going back to their Purple Truck roots by serving their version of street food that's easy to eat, along with fruit-forward craft frozen daiquiris, which will be fun to drink. They've put a lot of thought into the concept, as well as their culinary journey that has gotten them to this point, and were gracious enough to share those thoughts with Eater.
What was the inspiration to open Bourré?
Nathanial: Well, we've been interested in fresh fruit daiquiris for quite a long time, It's kind of like that hipster kind of thing - the connotation isn't good, but the word and definition is sound.
James: And like anything we do when we get an ingredient in here, we utilize a technique, we often use that as a basis for our exploration. And then we make it our own. So taking that idea and moving it to fresh fruit, craft cocktail daiquiris, it's a very different thing than a traditional simple ingredient.
Will the design aesthetic be different than the current Boucherie look?
Nathanial: Our major concept is to figure out a way looking inside of this space is to make fresh fruit daiquiris work. And that was the first and foremost thing.
James: In terms of our concept and our flavors, and this Creole cottage, and what it hearkens back to, is the best version of what this strange vice of colonialism brought. The best takeaway from that has always been the cuisine. This city is right in the center of that. We were looking at these walls, and thinking, what would honor this room most. And that brings us into relocating Boucherie, because one of the ideas was when we were approached to take over that lease, we thought maybe we could do daiquiris and wings over there, but we thought, the space doesn't really ask for that. So looking at the architecture, looking at the history and location, and trying to honor what the space really wants, we thought it would be better for what we offer here, which is fine dining for the people, a little more casual, but still with an elegance underneath. But doing daiquiris - no matter how craft cocktail you did them over there- wouldn't really serve that space. But looking at these walls, the wood, the warmth of the space, the location just off to the side, if we're gonna do that, this is the spot to do it in.
The interior of the Jeannette Street location, which will be Bourré, is going to remain simple, but with counter service. We're thinking of having some of the actual cooking element out here, right in front, as well as the daiquiri making, which will be done a la minute. We're definitely looking for consistency and as we've learned, these machines that are more blender-like, give you a certain consistency, it is pretty inherent inside the machinations of the machine. That's going to be an aesthetic as well, something that's done right in front of you. We're also trying to figure out noise levels and how we're going to combat that.
Nathanial: We want to do a mixture of the two, and part of that is, we're new to it. We've tasted and we've tested, and the beautiful thing about a blender is that it's fully variable. Some of these house daiquiris will probably be in those machines to begin with. It'll evolve with us. The idea is that we maintain this part of the bar as the bar with the daiquiris in the back against that mirror. Then this [the bar] carries over. There'll be some seating. There will be no seating in front of the bar [original] bar, though - more to where the food comes out. We'll get rid of all our low tables and put highboys in, and this sort of bar-counter service. There's the seating, but service is going up to the counter. We're trying to make this a much more streamlined, more simple concept. Hopefully it will benefit the overall concept. It's not going to be stuffy in any way.
How did the menu develop?
Nathanial: It's kind of hard to go to the other side of that spectrum and say, Well, everyone has a high end cocktail, small plates place. So to a degree, what we began with, in addition to our love of the daiquiri, is that we all love to eat like that - small plates, big flavors, wonderful beverages. But the reality is, that's not what we're trying to do either. We're skirting the definition of a daiquiri shop and skirting the definition of a small plate/cocktail shop. The other kind of cue that we take from this space is a cue that we had before we walked into this space even - when we first opened Boucherie, we were describing the space, "the Purple Truck has a home." So to expand on the food that comes out of the Purple Truck, you wouldn't necessarily say it's street food. Because the Purple Truck, although it served food on the street, it wasn't exactly traditional "street food." You couldn't say it was like Vietnamese street food, or Thai street food.
James: It was still our collard greens and our boudin on the truck, and our ribs.
Nathanial: So what we want to try to do is honor that in terms of the food. It's something that you'd imagine being able to get off of the truck. And what does that mean? It doesn't necessarily mean lowbrow, smoked BBQ, it doesn't necessarily mean any of that. On the contrary, it means it's going to be something that's easier to eat. Though, chicken wings are arguably easy and arguably difficult to eat (laughs.) So we expand on that with yakatori - skewered meats I think are going to play a pretty big role. I'm really excited to have lots of fish sticks. We have sold mussels off the truck before, and that's gone very well. I think the underlying theme on that is big, big flavors. So a successful bowl of mussels is not necessarily the one with the best wine, it's not necessarily truffle on your french fries, what it is more is intense flavors. So I think what we will try to do is hone in on that and expand on it, of course inside of the acceptance of the fruit-forward cocktail.
James: And that again lends itself to big, bold flavors. Daiquiris really are playful. And I think that everything we're going to be doing here is going to have a little bit of a playful element to it. Because we take ourselves very seriously when it comes down to the ingredients we use, but in terms of how that winds up in front of you, there's a real playful exchange going on there. Because as bold as a daiquiri can be, I think there's also an area to to play inside of that. To bring down a little bit the general idea of what a daiquiri is. We're talking a lot about textures, we're really going to be focusing a lot on ingredients, not just a playful name with a lot of alcohol and some juice. Which is not to say that's what daiquiris are in this town - we've been learning quite a bit about the nuance and the intensity and the intention that does go into a lot of daiquiri places in the city right now. I feel pretty impressed about how much attention to detail has actually gone into creating the industry that's currently exists in the city. Places like Fat Tuesday and New Orleans Original. It's humbling.
Nathanial: They've been really nice to us, and helpful in a lot of ways. They took us to one of their big factories and we tried a bunch of different machines, and he said, well the reason this one has that texture is because of the way that it scrapes the bowl, and honestly, I think that speaks directly to an intention, to doing what they're wanting to do. And partially the reason why I think they're willing to be so helpful - aside from being pretty solid folk - is that they understand that this is a different market. So people that are afraid that we're opening a dirty daiquiri shop, it's just not the case. We would love for those people to come and taste.
James: We'll have a few beers on tap, we'll have a liquor selection. That will be available, but the focus will be on really what the space does best. The chicken wings, the craft daiquiris, the small plates. We want to offer a small amount of other options, but really the focus will be on those areas. And if it winds up that that's what it's really going to be all about, I'd be happy with that.
Nathanial: Yeah, we'll always have preconceived notions before we try something. But even as we opened this place, the reason why the Krispy Kreme bread pudding was put on the menu is because it's a simple, simple dessert. My intention was to change the menu regularly. So we had it on for about a month or two, And then we took it off. And for about two or three months afterward, all we heard was flak from it. So now, we make more of that than any other damn thing on this menu. But that's part of what we do here. The first couple of weeks, we changed the menu every single day. Then you realize, whoa, what are we doing here? It's about pleasing our customers. You do what they want, you give them what they want.
James: That said, these spaces will still be extensions of our personalities.
Nathanial: Yeah, we really like the long hours, and sweating a lot.
James: And we hate sleeping.
What about Boucherie? Will there be any changes to the concept or style after the move?
James: I'd say that Boucherie is really just getting a little bit bigger. And that's really it. We romanticized from time to time, we could do this different, we could do that different, just because it's exciting to do that. But in the end, we recognize that we're not going to fix something that's not broken. So the one area of this space that can be improved upon is actual space. So we're going to have a little larger areas for people to hang out near the bar, the bar's going to be a little bit larger, we're going to have approximately 50% more seats. The outside section's going to be larger, it's under a huge awning, so the weather won't be as affecting.
Nathanial: It's gonna be awesome. And honesty, it's not broken, why would we try to fix this? It'll be a lot more comfortable too. We say it's more seats, but that's not the only thing. It's more space between the tables, which is a positive thing. There's also the benefit of the high street exposure, for lunch, more than anything else. We're not slow for lunch, but we certainly could be busier. But we're not like we are for dinner. And I think a big part of that is, you don't really get that traffic. For dinner, we're a destination. For lunch, people don't tend to go out for a destination lunch all the time.
James: Being on that street is really going to boost our lunch game. And also, the more lunch business we have, the better we can be at lunch.
What will the new Boucherie space be like?
James: We looked at the space, we saw what they had to offer. It very well could have been a turnkey thing. Most of the equipment was operational. But we looked at the space and realized what we wanted to do was to open it up a little bit more - it was a dropped ceiling, so we opened that up.
Nathanial: It went from 8 foot ceilings to 11 and a half foot ceilings.
James: The difference will probably be seen most by our staff. What they're going to see, not what you the customer are going to see. The customer will hopefully see less wait times. Right now the majority of the year, weekends are two weeks out solid, and weekdays are a week and a half to a week out solid. I mean, we always seat walk ins, and we probably seat 20-30% people than we have reserved. We never reserve the porch or the bar, and we're always able to play a little bit of tetris as things move around. But with this space, we're going to have so much more ability to seat so much more, walk-ins especially.
What do you anticipate the timing will be for the move and the new opening?
James: What we're looking at now, based on permits and licensing, for the relocation, would be the end of November. And I can't imagine more than a month later [to open Bourré]
Nathanial: We have a good friend who's going to design our bar, and build it for us. Realistically, that is our biggest change, is just that structure itself. And really, once we have that, assuming that our licensing is correct - and of course, we're going through the correct avenues - we should be pretty quick, should be a quick turnaround. We're hopeful. I know that I'm worse than he is about this, but we've been talking about fresh fruit daiquiris for over a year. I think it's about to be a big thing. A lot of people have started talking about opening something like this, and we feel like we have to be the first ones to do it. We've just been planning it for so long.