As Donald Link enters his third year running French bakery stalwart, La Boulangerie, he’s expanding the bakery’s physical presence as well as its identity.
He added about 1,800 square feet and 45 seats a couple weeks ago when the bakery took over the space, formerly Jezebel’s, next door.
“I’m not trying to change the identity of Boulangerie. I didn’t buy the bakery to make money. I bought the bakery because it makes me happy. I really like doing this,” Link told Eater New Orleans.
To “ramp up” the lunch menu, He and Link Restaurant Group pastry chef, Maggie Scales, are running simple French bistro style dishes as specials before adding them to the menu. He says he’ll likely add a grilled steak salad.
“I’ve been to France a few times and I really like like roasted salmon served room temp. with dijon vinaigrette, lentils, and frisée.” He’s also kicking around the idea of adding to the menu other, less known favorites from France like brandade de morue (whipped salt cod gratin) and beef curry pie.
Once he gets a liquor license for the bakery, he’ll add wine.
Link, who lives near the bakery, frequented it when founder Dominique Rizzo still owned it. When Rizzo was ready to sell in 2015, he approached Link first.
Since then, change has come slowly — firstly because Link likes the bakery as it is and also because Uptowners just wouldn’t tolerate a change as drastic as changing the formula for the almond croissants. When Link originally took it over, he updated the decor, changed the quiche recipe, briefly changed the almond croissant recipe, added a few items, and began sourcing all the meats from Cochon Butcher.
During the expansion, he considered putting in an espresso and wine bar, but it would decrease the seating he was gaining (the expansion doubled seating) and he thought it changed the bakery’s identity too much. “It’s still a bakery.”
Once all the menu changes are in place, diners will still go up to the counter to order. If he gets to add wine to the mix, Link anticipates that Boulengerie might operate a little more like Cochon Butcher, where diners order at the counter, but waiters bring them food and take additional drink orders.
The only closed one day during the expansion. All the work was done on the other side of the wall at Jezebel’s. When it was done, Boulangerie closed, covered everything up, and tore down the wall. The next day, it opened just like a usual day.
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