Upcoming food hall St. Roch Market officially debuts this Friday, April 10, in what is certain to be the biggest spring opening in New Orleans. Not only does the return of the market mark an important milestone for the community, but the business also solidifies St. Claude Avenue as the city's newest street of dreams when it comes to dining.
When the doors open, thirteen vendors will serve up everything from African food to oysters. This week, in anticipation of the opening, Eater NOLA talks to each of the lucky thirteen on what to expect at their counter, and what they're most excited about at the new St. Roch Market.
Local farmer and forager Keenan McDonald already provides local produce to many of New Orleans finest restaurants, working as liaison between farmers and chefs. Today she brings her passion for local sustainability and affordable produce to St. Roch Market.
What all will you be offering at St. Roch Market?
We are offering a wide variety of seasonal and local produce that we're highlighting specifically from New Orleans growers and growers from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. We're supplementing some of that seasonal, local stuff with things that are available in the region, but not necessarily from small farmers—celery, onions, things like that...staples. We're also offering sustainably grown flowers from NOLA Tilth. Edible flowers, bouquets, flowers by the stem. Eggs are from a small Latino farmers cooperative in Mississippi and Louisiana. They're pasture raised eggs. We're also working with a small dairy farmer outside of Baton Rouge. Kevin [Pedeux] at Coast Roast is selling that because he's using it in all the coffee beverages. I've been trying to bring this dairy into New Orleans. It's Feliciana's Best Creamery. I think it's some of the best dairy I've ever had.
What's one item you're most excited to offer and why?
I'm really excited about the dairy. I'm also really excited about a family hydroponic farm that we're getting premium lettuces and greens from: Craine Creek Farm in Loxley, Alabama. Their stuff is gorgeous. A lot of the restaurants have been using it. Coquette is a big fan. Meauxbar too. Just really nice stuff.
Can you talk about pricing. How are you keeping cost down?
Affordability has been a very big driver for us throughout the process. By buying in bulk and doing wholesale, we're able to leverage that buying power to offer things more affordably on a retail scale. Will and Barre have been very committed to this. We have an arrangement with the market that collaboratively helps us keep the prices affordable. We're trying to keep things within a Rouses and Circle Foods price range as much as we can. The other thing we're doing is working really intensively with the other internal vendors, trying to streamline the process for them. One of the things we're offering to the local farmers—because I am a local farmer, and that's part of what I want to have the market helping to cultivate— we are offering a few farms to come to us after the farmer's market and we'll buy in bulk what they have left. That gives us the ability to offer it to the internal vendors, who don't necessarily have the time to go out to the market and get this farm fresh stuff, and it helps out the farmers because they're not going home with a bunch of stuff. I'm very excited about that.
What does St. Roch Market mean to you? Why did you apply for a vendor spot?
It's been kind of a long time coming for me. I was talking to Seth [Hamstead] back when they had the original proposal. I am very deeply interested in the historical aspects of the market. I feel very fortunate in a way that maybe the other vendors haven't, because I've been moving produce around the neighborhood and interacting with the neighborhood for the past four or five months, as the market's been developing. I've had a lot of contact with all of our neighbors and it's been very catalyzing for us to hear what people need, see their faces. It's been a great feeling, and a great part of the process for me. The difference for me with this versus farming is that we're able to have a more broad scale impact on people's lives. One of the most gratifying things about being a farmer, is taking this thing you've just produced or grown or raised and putting it in the hands of the people who are eating it, and that's why I farmed. I think this market will give us the ability to do that with so many more people, and impact so many more people's lives.
What other vendor are you most excited about?
I'd be really hard pressed to pick. Honestly, I feel really honored to have the opportunity to work so intimately with all these people. It's the most exciting thing to me. We've grown really close. We're like a family.