Curio, the new, eclectic French Quarter bistro from ever-expanding Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, just opened on the corner Royal and Bienville among the area’s well-known antique shops and art galleries. Chef Hayley Vanvleet (formerly sous chef at Kingfish) dishes out lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, while GM Landon Labor oversees operations.
In the late 1800s, the building housed a curio shop and later became a meat market and deli. With that in mind, the interior has been renovated and designed to combine food, art, and history. In addition to the large dining area and bar on the first floor, the restaurant boasts second-floor dining as well as a glorious wrap-around gallery offering covered outdoor dining overlooking one of New Orleans’ most famous streets. Bright and energetic paintings by New Orleans artist Tony Mose, owner of Esom Gallery on Magazine Street, cover the walls of the 150-seat restaurant.
For Vanvleet, leading the kitchen at a restaurant in New Orleans has been something she’s dreamt about since she was a teenager. When she was 16, her grandmother got sick and Vanvleet moved in with her. They watched cooking shows together, and Vanvleet cooked many of her grandmother’s meals. When her grandmother died, she headed to Minnesota for culinary school. Vanvleet still wears a locket with some of her grandmother’s ashes around her neck.
She describes the Curio menu as primarily seafood with some elements of West Coast cuisine, but with New Orleans ingredients and traditions. Her food is bright, with lemon and acid accenting many of her dishes.
She also cooks food that reminds her of her family, but adds New Orleans culinary traditions as a twist. The panéed pork loin poboy has its roots in a dish her father made while Vanvleet was growing up. He’d pound pork before coating it in smashed Premium saltines. Vanvleet pounds her pork loin so that it extends beyond the edges of the poboy bread and coats it in the crackers. She tops it with creamy poblano hot sauce. The honey creamed mustard greens that come with the coriander blackened red fish are her from her grandmother’s recipe arsenal.
Other opening menu items include scallops topped with kalamata olive butter on a bed of Swiss chard and artichokes; mussels in a orange laced coconut broth; and a tres leches bread pudding with certain lightness that makes it a perfect ending to a meal, whether there’s room or not.
Other menu items to look out for are starters such as shrimp boulettes and chilled blue crab claws; lunch entrees such as sweet and spicy pickled shrimp salad and grilled rib-eye; and brunch items like steak and eggs, shakshuka, and biscuits and gravy. Dinner features some additional dishes including Springer Mountain Farms chicken Clemenceau and cane syrup glazed beef short rib. And, for fun, check out the adult-style Sno-Wizard snoballs.
Opening hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to midnight, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.