Independent neighborhood restaurants have served as a lifeline to many during the novel coronavirus pandemic — a way to reconnect to the world, specifically one’s immediate, (formerly) familiar world. The urge to try the hottest, most interesting new restaurant has been replaced with the urge to support go-to’s, the places diners turn to over and over again for guaranteed satisfaction.
As New Orleanians stay closer to home and carefully consider how to spend their dollars, certain places have stood out for their reliability, adaptability, and overall goodness. Here is a selection of neighborhood spots that have helped New Orleans get through the last six months — and hopefully for years to come.
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Barrow’s Catfish: Now two years old, this Earhart Boulevard shop is the revival of pre- Katrina fried catfish destination Barrow’s Shady Inn, and has quickly become just as important to the city. The Johnson family instituted a carhop model in Barrow’s parking lot following the closure of restaurant dining rooms, offering “full curbside service” for its perfectly fried fish and more, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Coffee Science: The Broad Street coffee shop shifted focus early on, adding groceries and meals to its drinks and grab-and-go food offerings. In addition to being a pickup point for Covey Rise produce boxes, customers can order items like Creole cream cheese, eggs, bread, and flour, as well as quarts of soup and dinners like chicken curry and fennel sweet potato. Talented staff keeps churning out fun food and drink specials, and the shop hosts occasional pop-ups like the Lucy Boone’s popular ice cream operation.
Faubourg Wines: It might not be a restaurant, but Faubourg Wines’ neighbors (and beyond) have definitely been relying on the St. Claude Avenue shop during the pandemic. It implemented an efficient curbside service model back in March, where orders for wine are placed by phone or through an online order form and are available to pick up later that day. For those that really miss browsing, solo shopping appointments are now available.
Lola’s: Esplanade Avenue Spanish restaurant Lola’s has long been a neighborhood go-to for sangria, paella, and tapas, but it’s small size presented limitations — not so with takeout. Lola’s immediately reopened for curbside pickup and free local delivery when the stay-at-home order when into effect, and before the ban on takeout alcohol, its to-go sangria was in popular demand. It’s still offering curbside pickup, and has added spaced-out sidewalk seating.
Singleton’s Mini Mart: A gem of a corner store in New Orleans’s Black Pearl neighborhood, Singleton’s reopened at the beginning of May with a careful takeout/curbside pickup operation. Customers can call ahead or stop by to order from a condensed (but still extensive) menu of affordable, overstuffed po-boys and Vietnamese specialties like beef pho and banh mi, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Small Mart: The popular vegan/vegetarian deli hadn’t been in its new Marigny home for long when the pandemic hit, but it seamlessly transitioned to window service when dining rooms closed. The refreshing menu of chaat bowls, tikka masala, samosas, vegan sandwiches, and fresh bagels(!) can be ordered by phone ahead of time or in person at the ordering window, Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food is delivered to a separate pickup window to allow for distance.
Sweet Soulfood: Treme’s revelatory vegan Cajun restaurant closed briefly when the stay-at-home order went into place, but reopened at the end of March with an online ordering system for takeout. With satisfying all-vegan comfort food like gumbo, red beans, stuffed bell peppers, fried cauliflower, chickpea cakes, mac and cheese, and bread pudding, Sweet Soulfood has been a gift. (And with plans for a food truck, it may soon have an even wider reach.)
The Joint: Part of the pleasure of The Joint is experiencing it in person, from waiting in line on the street to sitting down at an old wood booth inside — but it’s certainly not all of it. After switching to curbside service, The Joint’s loyal fans took advantage of the shorter wait time to get their barbecue fix and the offer of free neighborhood delivery. It helped that during crawfish season, they were almost always in stock with pounds of beauties available to pick up.
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