One of New Orleans’s longest-running food trucks and a favorite for arepas, tacos, and “burri-tacos” is opening its first restaurant in Uptown, reports the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. La Cocinita, the 12-year-old Venezuelan food truck and catering business from Benoit and Rachel Angulo will add a restaurant at 4920 Prytania Street in spring 2024.
The restaurant will greatly expand on its current food truck offerings, Rachel tells Eater. A weekend brunch will include breakfast empanadas, breakfast arepas, breakfast tacos, and breakfast bowls, in addition to tropical mimosas and agua frescas. Cachapas, sweet Venezuelan corn pancakes, will either be on the menu or will rotate in as an occasional special. There will be a greater variety of arepas on the menu, she says, which is mostly gluten-free, and it will have “plentiful” vegan options. The restaurant, which will be counter-service, will have a full bar, serving South American wines, beer, margaritas, mojitos, and a “handful of other tropical cocktails, as well as rum and tequila selections.”
It’s an exciting and long-awaited step for the Angulos, who met while working at Commander’s Palace. Benoit is a native of Caracas, Venezuela, and Rachel is from Chicago — the couple has also operated a La Cocinita food truck in Evanston, Illinois, for years and opened a restaurant there in 2016. They split their time between Wilmette, Illinois, and New Orleans, and will have a New Orleans-based partner for the Uptown restaurant. Joseph Sturtz, who has been with the company for ten years as an employee and then manager, Rachel says, is joining them as an owner in the new venture.
La Cocinita is happily following in the footsteps of several of its fellow former Pythian Market vendors, a now-closed downtown food hall where it resided for several years. That food hall, opened in 2018, was evicted in November 2022, closing for good in December 2022. Since the closure, a number of its former tenants have landed in their own spaces, including bubble tea shop Moon Garden and hit Indian restaurant LUFU NOLA. Luckily, La Cocinita continued to operate its food truck and event catering business while at Pythian, and has continued to pop up at locations like the Shops at Canal Place, the Fly, and at markets and festivals since the hall’s closure. It’s had a strong private events catering business for years, which will likely continue when the new restaurant opens next year.
The forthcoming restaurant is located next door to Creole Creamery, and Rachel says they hope to be able to collaborate with the beloved local sweet shop for Latin American desserts at La Cocinita. The address was most recently home to a third outpost of Parran’s Po-Boys, which closed in March 2023 after five years in the space; before that, it was Japanese restaurant Kyoto. The Angulos hope to open La Cocinita in May 2024.