Charly Pierre opened his hotly-anticipated restaurant over the weekend, bringing Haitian spaghetti, akra, and a clairin-centric cocktail menu to New Orleans’s Treme neighborhood. Fritai is Pierre’s St. Roch Market food stall-turned-restaurant serving Haitian cuisine at the corner of Basin Street and Claiborne Avenue.
Fritai opened in the former Chef D’z, which was briefly a Kermit Ruffins speakeasy before that, on Saturday, May 22, a few months after ceasing operations at St. Roch Market. Pierre is a Haitian-American chef originally from the Boston area who moved to New Orleans in 2015. He worked at notable local spots Angeline and Bayona before opening Fritai at St. Roch with business partner Minerva Chereches in 2016, who is involved on the admin side of the new restaurant. The stall became known for its fritai sandwich, a playful invention of pulled pork or chicken stuffed between two fried plantains with avocado, mango sauce, and pikliz, a spicy relish-like condiment made of cabbage, carrot, and pickle. When Pierre and Chereches were named Eater Young Guns in 2017, Pierre told Eater of the sandwich: “It isn’t a dish you would find in Haiti, but all the flavors of Haiti are there together and you can relate to it. Anyone can taste it and know that it is Haiti.”
The fritai sandwich is on the menu at the new restaurant, along with a griot plate of braised and fried pork, avocado, pikliz, colè rice (jasmine cooked with red beans), and Creole sauce (a tomato-based sauce with peppers, onions, and garlic); epis-marinated chicken wings and whole roasted fish; and espageti, or traditional Haitian spaghetti sauteed with smoked herring, epis paste, andouille sausage, and a soft-boiled egg. Pierre tells Eater, enticingly, that espageti is like a “cross between yak-a-mein and cacio e pepe.”
“It’s a very popular Haitian dish, traditionally served for breakfast. It’s kind of a post-industrial style of dish that came about with Americans coming in to Haiti in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” Pierre says.
The bar program is from Ian Julian and highlights clairin, a Haitian spirit distilled from cane juice that tastes similar to rum but with an earthy edge. There are more than a dozen tropical, herby, and classic cocktails on the drink menu, as well as wine, beer, smoothies, and set ups — a New Orleans-specific bar tradition that’s akin to bottle service, but with half-pints of well liquor. The ones at Fritai offer a Haitian twist, with set ups for daiquiris, ti punch, and rum and champagne cola, a sweet carbonated drink with no connection to champagne or cola. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with discounted prices on glasses of wine, daiquiris, mojitos, caipirinhas, and the fritai sandwich.
The walls are covered in art by Haitian artists, all for sale. Some is from the Jacmel Arts Center in Haiti, and some of it is by Haitian artists living in New Orleans. All of its vibrant. “We wanted it look like we were in Haiti,” Pierre says. “The whole place is super colorful, very reminiscent of Haiti.”
Fritai is open for dinner 4 to 10 p.m. daily at 1535 Basin Street for reservations, walk-ins, or takeout.
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