Every dish at Meril is under $20. That's what you should know off the bat. It's a big departure for Emeril Lagasse, whose restaurant empire includes nine upscale restaurants between Vegas, Bethlehem, PA and Orlando, and three fine dining operations here in New Orleans—Delmonico, NOLA and Emeril's flagship. This is Lagasse's first New Orleans concept to open since 1998 and with it, he's embracing casual dining and small plates.
Meril officially opened its doors at 424 Girod on Saturday, September 24, with a pretty big menu that draws on global influences, inspired by the Lagasse team's travels. Here you'll find Southern-inspired fried chicken livers served right alongside Korean short ribs. There's crisp turkey necks and gnoccheti. Cheese is sourced from St. James Cheese Co., breads from Bellegarde, and tortillas from a Kenner-based company called Mawi.
What else you should know? Well, the Who Dat Nation has already discovered that the restaurant's bar area is perfect for taking in drinks before the game, but with numerous televisions (a couple in the dining room can be concealed by the miracle of modern cabinetry), it's likely to become a great spot to take in entire Saints games for those not heading to the Dome.
The bar is polished concrete with seating for about 20 (plus more at tables), and a menu of cocktails, some 30+ wines and a tap system that rotates with 10 local brews.
The restaurant's interior (designed and built out by Bockman Forbes Design / Suite 222 Architecture, LLC) features murals by Landon Lott, son of Lagasse's longtime operations director Tony Lott— flocks of ducks, a crab, and fish are meant to represent good luck, prosperity and good fortune. Artist Alex Beard's pig painting is meant to represent virility.
Custom-built cage chandeliers are inspired by crab traps. Fabric room dividers help to reduce noise. Lagasse's employees hand built purse trees for the ladies and even the restaurant's salt and pepper shakers.
The kitchen, headed up by chef de cuisine Will Avelar (former sous of Emeril's Delmonico) is home to a Pacojet, which turns out fresh housemade ice cream, a cotton candy machine, a wood-fired oven and a Japanese-style robata grill.
One personal touch at Lagasse's new concept: The bathroom signs were designed by his daughter—the restaurant's namesake—Meril.
Meril: Open at 424 Girod St., from Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday., 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (504) 526-3745. Website here.