When Melissa Martin’s much-loved Mosquito Supper Club reopens this weekend for its eighth season, service at the Uptown cottage won’t revolve around the communal, family-style meals it was founded on. Starting tomorrow, September 17, Supper Club patrons can sit at the restaurant’s new wine bar and order a la carte, reserve a spot in the garden for freshly shucked oysters, or dine from a coursed, wine-paired menu with a small group in one of its three rooms.
The new options for the Cajun restaurant, where picnic table seating and family-style service have been the norm for the past seven years, were in the making the fall prior to the arrival of COVID-19. “We wanted to offer something else, mostly for locals. To make it more accessible, have it be a neighborhood space. But we didn’t finish our bar in time,” Martin told Eater. The bar was finished in the middle of the stay-at-home-order, Martin said, and while she was eager to debut the new options this summer, she made herself give it an extra few weeks and take the usual summer break before jumping in.
The Mosquito Bar will offer Martin’s food a la carte, along with $5 glasses of wine. While the offerings will change, Martin, who grew up on Bayou Petit Caillou in Chauvin, Louisiana, revolves most dishes around Gulf seafood. In addition to acquiring some of the best Gulf oysters available, the Supper Club is known for its shrimp okra gumbo, fried soft shell crabs, and sweet potato biscuits, dishes also found in Martin’s widely-acclaimed cookbook Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou (an Eater pick for one of the best new cookbooks of Spring 2020).
100 percent chance of oysters at our new Mosquito Bar. Expect happy hour, $5 wines and a bar menu with the best in Louisiana seafood. ⠀ pic.twitter.com/dCf7ttj2xc— Mosquito Supper Club (@MosquitoSupper) September 4, 2020
In the garden, $25 per person gets a half dozen oysters and house sparkling wine. The garden was not previously open to Supper Club diners, instead used only for private events. Martin had always hoped to find the right use for it, and focusing on oysters allows her to relive her Curious Oyster Company days as well as bring on some additional shuckers from her time running that kitchen. When live music is allowed, Martin plans to have family-friendly performers on Sunday afternoons.
There will never be more than 12 people in the courtyard, including on the front and back porches. Parties can reserve space for up to six in the garden, up to eight at the Mosquito Bar, and up to 12 in one of the dining rooms. Before, Martin said, they were trying to seat 36 people a night. Now, they’re only trying to seat 24 total, all in separate, distanced areas in and outside of the restaurant. That ability to distance, in addition to now-standard safety measures of sanitation, temperature checks, single-use menus, and contactless pay (as well as eliminating family-style service), made Martin feel confident in resuming service.
When it reopens tomorrow, the restaurant will also have an all-new team — general manager, bar manager, and chef de cuisine (David Harrower, formerly chef de cuisine of Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski’s catering and events company Calcasieu). “We lost some staff over the months,” Martin told Eater. “I don’t blame anyone for having to move on.” She hopes to be able to hire even more staff with the additional dining options and having two seatings, at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., instead of one. She added a second seating when Mosquito opened during New Orleans’s Phase 2, and it went well. The kitchen also tried to-go food — that option won’t return, Martin says with a laugh. “It just wasn’t sustainable.”
While it often previously felt like one big, joyous dinner party at Mosquito Supper Club, Martin doesn’t think the atmosphere will suffer. “Before, we kept adding seating, but it didn’t add to the experience. It made the restaurant too loud. I think intimate is better. We welcome the change.”
Mosquito Supper Club, at 3824 Dryades Street, opens tomorrow, September 17. Reservations for oysters in the garden, the Mosquito Bar, and for supper club seatings are available Thursday through Sunday evenings.
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