We’re approaching spring in New Orleans, which brings with it much-needed cures for the post-Mardi Gras blues: crawfish boils, food festivals, Jazz Fest, and more parades (ready for St. Patrick’s Day?).
New to our most anticipated list this season is Nole, a sprawling Latin American spot opening soon on St. Charles Avenue, Otra Vez from nationally-acclaimed chef Akhtar Nawab, the much-awaited follow-up to Garden District favorite Coquette, Thalia, and a “straightforward” Chinese American restaurant opening on Magazine Street. These are New Orleans most exciting restaurants to look out for this spring.
(While opening deadlines always tend to shift, here’s what to expect to see opening on the restaurant front over the next few months.)
Location: 2001 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, Lower Garden District
Major Players: Al Copeland Jr. and Chris Lusk
The Situation: Cheesecake Bistro by Copelands, a longtime but ill-suited restaurant on St. Charles Avenue from Al Copeland Jr. (son of Popeye’s founder) finally closed last May, and will be replaced with a new Copeland Jr. project.
Said to be a blend of Latin America and New Orleans, the menu is from Chris Lusk, who has led the kitchens at Cafe Adelaide, the Caribbean Room, Restaurant R’Evolution, and The Steakhouse inside Harrah’s Casino (which he will continue working with). Menu snippets include a trio of salsas, the ever-popular Latin-style street corn, and a paella with chorizo and cochon du lait. Nole will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and for brunch on Sundays, with a happy hour seven days a week (!) from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Projected Opening: Late March 2019
Location: 1001 Julia St., New Orleans, Warehouse District
Major Players: Akhtar Nawab
The Situation: While perhaps an unfamiliar name for New Orleans, Nawab is well-represented nationally — he has a restaurant in New York City with another on the way and a modern American restaurant in Washington, D.C. He can also boast famed Momofuku chef David Chang as a mentee.
Nawab has said that Otra Vez, located in the Standard building in the South Market District, will be similar to his Michelin-awarded Brooklyn spot Alta Calidad (with items like crispy shrimp tacos, lamb ribs marinaded in Mexican Coke, and queso fresco dumplings with horchata purée), but that he’ll incorporate Louisiana ingredients, of course.
Projected Opening: April 2019
Location: 1300 Magazine Street, Lower Garden District
Major Players: Bill Jones and Richard Horner
The Situation: Bill Jones, a former Cochon and Cochon Butcher chef is opening a “straightforward” Chinese-American restaurant in the Lower Garden District in partnership with Richard Horner, who previously cooked at Garden District favorite Coquette.
Horner will run the bar and dining room while Jones will run the kitchen, with plans for a menu that includes peking duck, fried rice, egg foo young, shrimp wontons, blue crab rangoon, and dan dan noodles. You can get a sneak peek of the food at Blue Oak BBQ later this month on March 18, when Jones and Horner will take over the kitchen.
Projected Opening: April 2019
Location: 1245 Constance Street, Lower Garden District (in the old Shamrock Tavern)
Major Players: Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus
The Situation: Thalia is the much-anticipated follow up to Essig and Stolzfus’ ever-popular Coquette, which Stolzfus founded 10 years ago. Their new neighborhood-oriented, 37-seat restaurant on the corner of Thalia and Constance Streets will be a more casual counterpart to Coquette, with the pair telling a neighborhood association in 2017 that they were aiming for per person checks ranging from $25 to $30.
Essig told NOLA.com that she will take the lead at Thalia, with co-sous chefs Ana Castro and Sean Poole, both from Coquette. Her plans include making the restaurant kid-friendly and for it to eventually be used for neighborhood events and gatherings. Thalia will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Projected Opening: Late Spring 2019
Location: Behind the Old Absinthe House at 240 Bourbon Street in the French Quarter
Major Players: Laura Belluci and Hayley Vanvleet
The Situation: The former head bartender of cocktail haven SoBou at the W Hotel and the opening chef of French Quarter bistro Curio are teaming up to open an absinthe lounge early next year. Laura Belluci will serve as bar director and Hayley Vanvleet as executive chef of Belle Epoque, located behind the Old Absinthe House at 240 Bourbon Street.
Menu items from Vanvleet will include a French onion pot pie, stuffed chicken wings with whipped foie gras and a trio of oysters with absinthe mignonette. Expect this to be among 2019’s most gorgeous eateries, as it’s being designed by the mind behind the interiors of cozy beauties Cavan and Longway Tavern.
Projected Opening: Spring 2019
Location: 700 Magazine Street, Warehouse District
Major Players: Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski, and Rebecca Wilcomb
The Situation: Donald Link and James Beard Award-winning Herbsaint chef, Rebecca Wilcomb, started construction this past fall on a 6,000-square foot Italian restaurant Magazine Street in the Warehouse District, the Link restaurant group’s first new opening since Peche in 2013.
Inspiration for the menu comes from the rustic cooking of Southern Italy, which has a similar climate to New Orleans. Overall though, the food is going to be the group’s interpretation of Italian cuisine, which the they’ve been researching during visits to Italy. Wilcomb will cook her grandmother’s “tortellini in brodo” (broth), meat-filled pasta dumplings in clear chicken broth served with parmesan cheese among other fresh pastas, and the bar will pour Italian wines alongside a variety of imported and house-made Italian liqueurs. The price point will be about the same as Link’s other nearby restaurants, Pêche and Cochon.
Projected Opening: April 2019
Once again, Eater New Orleans is watching out for the expected opening of the third U.S. location of Italy’s Bonci Pizzeria and True Food Kitchen, the health-conscious food chain backed by Oprah, both coming to the The Julia, a $50 million mixed-use development in the Warehouse District expected to open in June. The two restaurants are expected to open around then as well, but check back for updates.
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