New Orleans restaurant openings typically ramp up with the approach of Carnival, in the hopes of capitalizing on the influx of potential customers. This year’s season should bring some noteworthy debuts, from a beloved ramen pop-up’s long-awaited first restaurant to a 12-seat omakase spot and of course, a few held over from the fall (between City Hall cyber attacks and near-constant water main breaks, it’s no easy feat). Here’s a roster of the most anticipated openings coming to NOLA this winter.
Who: Austin Lane. Lane is working with New Orleans-based architecture firm Cicada on the design and NFT Group on the construction. The bar program will be run by Jennifer O’Blenis, who has previously bartended at DBA and Mimi’s in the Marigny, among others.
What: Announced to great reader fanfare in October, El Cucuy will be a heavy metal and South American folklore-themed taco restaurant and bar specializing in trompo (spinning rotisserie) al pastor tacos, homemade tortillas, and agave spirits. The space will have a restored Airstream, a large, shaded dining deck, and an “entertainment area” outside as key design elements, in addition to a a smaller interior dining room with a bar.
Where: 3507 Tchoupitoulas St.
When: January 2020
Hotel Chloe Restaurant
Who: Local hospitality group LeBlanc + Smith, which counts popular spots Sylvain, Longway Tavern, Meauxbar, and Cavan among its restaurants, announced plans to develop a 14-room hotel in a former St. Charles Avenue mansion this past fall. More recently, they announced plans for the hotel’s restaurant and the hiring of its chef, Todd Pulsinelli, an alum of August and most recently, the now-closed Warbucks.
What: While menu details are scarce, the 120-seat hotel restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pulsinelli’s background ranges from the upscale, contemporary Creole cuisine he cooked at August to the reinvented, quirky comfort food that helped shape Warbucks’ identity. Based on Robert LeBlanc’s description of the culinary program as “21st century New Orleans,” it’s safe to expect the food to more closely resemble Cavan and Meauxbar’s over Longway and Sylvain’s.
Where: 4125 St. Charles Ave.
When: Early 2020
Who: Mobile kitchen Ajun Cajun was started by chef Momo Young, a longtime New Orleans sushi chef. She got her start on the West Bank at Tokyo Sushi, and went on to own Ninja restaurant, where Ajun Cajun will be located. The Ajun Cajun restaurant will be run by her daughter and family.
What: Ajun Cajun’s bringing its popular food booth fare found annually at the likes of Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest (among others) to the restaurant. It’s especially known for its tempura-battered soft shell crab po-boy, garlic beef rib-eye po-boy, shrimp yakisoba, and seaweed and cucumber salad.
Where: 8433 Oak Street in Leonidas, in the former Ninja Sushi.
When: Initially expected in October, likely to open soon.
Who: Chef Kazuyuki “Kaz” Ishikawa, sushi partner Eli Ramos, and local restaurateur Billy Blatty
What: Chef Kaz, a Tokyo native, gained a following while manning Shogun’s sushi bar, and later through his wildly popular omakase pop-ups around town. Now, along with his Shogun and pop-up partner-in-sushi Eli Ramos, chef Kaz will open his own sushi restaurant, Nagomi. While it will technically be omakase, the pair wants the 12-seat sushi bar to be approachable in both price and style, with meals starting at $45. Nagomi will have two seatings per night, and chef Kaz says he hopes to get direction from diners on what they’re seeking that night, whether it be straight sushi or fusion.
Where: 3214 Burgundy Street in the Bywater, in the former home of Sea Cave arcade
When: Early 2020
What: The idea to open a “straightforward” Chinese-American restaurant in the Lower Garden District was born over drinks at neighborhood watering hole Barrel Proof, and the LGD has eagerly awaited the addition ever since. 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.
Location: 1300 Magazine Street, Lower Garden District
Who: Nhat “Nate” Nguyen, the opening chef at Gert Town ramen gem Kin, and Jeff Gapultos, one of the founders of Eiffel Society on St. Charles Avenue.
What: The Vietnamese-born and NOLA-raised chef Nguyen left Kin in 2016 and started operating his own ramen pop-up, Union Ramen. Last May, he announced plans for a casual, counter service restaurant of the same name that will serve a menu of chicken broth-based ramen, poke, and Vietnamese small plates.
Where: 1837 Magazine Street in the LGD, in the former Jim Russell’s Rare Records
When: Still delayed, but anticipated this season.
- Heavy Metal-Themed Taco Joint Heading to Tchoupitoulas Street [ENOLA]
- Beloved Jazz Fest Food Booth Is Set to Open Restaurant on Oak Street [ENOLA]
- Former Kin Ramen Chef Will Open a Ramen Shop of His Own in the Lower Garden District [ENOLA]
- Chinese-American Restaurant To Land on Magazine Street This Spring [ENOLA]