This weekend, a new seafood market and restaurant opens in Mid-City with a potentially unique approach for New Orleans. At Porgy’s, taking over the former Bevi Seafood Co. space at 236 N. Carrollton Avenue, “bycatch” takes on new meaning.
Here, it does not refer only to the unwanted, discarded species caught by fishers. Instead, an emphasis on bycatch represents an attempt to increase market demand for lesser-known, lesser-coveted Gulf-caught fish. This is the collective goal of the venture’s partners, a team of powerhouse New Orleans chefs long known for their skill with seafood: Christina and Dana Honn, the couple behind Carmo in the Warehouse District, and Caitlin Carney and Marcus Jacobs, the couple behind two recently closed, popular restaurants, Seafood Sally’s and Marjie’s Grill. The group looks at Porgy’s as a platform, a “dedicated space in the supply chain” for bycatch.
Jacobs tells Eater that on opening day, Saturday, December 23, the market will have whole and fileted sheepshead, red grouper, Des Allemands catfish filets, amberjack, porgy, and swordfish, as well as oysters, crabs, and shrimp in stock. They also expect to, at times, have Gulf-caught finfish like blue runner and mackerel. He names a handful of Porgy’s suppliers, including Dino Pertuit, a shrimper out of Plaquemines Parish who Jacobs has been purchasing from since his days at Donald Link restaurant Herbsaint.
Pertuit’s shrimp are 16-20 count per pound, caught in the Lake Judge Perez area, and Jacobs raves about them. “They have this incredible natural sweetness, zero iodine content,” he says. They get some fish from American Seafood, a wholesaler and processor in Gentilly that introduced a retail market early this year. Jacobs describes a good relationship with distributors at Inland Seafood, a larger supplier, who sort out bycatch for Porgy’s. He sings the praises of Kendra Armisen, a fisher out of Belle Chasse, Louisiana, who catches a lot of the “higher-dollar, targeted species” like snapper and amberjack, but who also supplies them with bycatch.
The selection of fish Jacobs lists for opening weekend is substantial. Yes, New Orleans has seafood markets, particularly in the Bucktown neighborhood of Metairie. But in Orleans Parish, there aren’t as many as you might think, and many in the area specialize in shrimp, crab, oysters, and crawfish rather than finfish. There have also been a few closures in recent years, most notably Big Fisherman. That’s why Porgy’s feels like such a big deal — it’s a neighborhood market right in the middle of the city, where customers can rely on some specific products, like shrimp, but also find something unexpected. It operates on a smaller scale than some other local seafood markets, aiming to provide an outlet for fishers that may have just five to 10 of a species, for example.
The restaurant at Porgy’s is similarly high-minded while also knowing its audience. It will serve boiled crabs, shrimp, and crawfish when in season, raw oysters on the half shell, seafood gumbo, and a hot sausage sandwich made with Home Place Pastures pork smoked in-house. Customers can get shrimp, oysters, or catfish on a bun, but also, to aid in the objective of introducing new species to customers, any of the fish in the case prepared for them in any format.
“You’ll be able to select anything from the case to be made into a sandwich or a salad — charcoal-grilled, fried, or seared,” Jacobs says, though the kitchen will help steer customers towards what they think is the best way to prepare certain products. There is a muffulettu always on the menu, which replaces Italian cold cuts with Gulf tuna conserva, and rotating specials of crudo, semi-raw preparations, and brandades that will use bycatch. Soon, when customers purchase lesser-known fish, it will come with cards that talk about its flavor and consistency and recommend preparations. As things get going, there will be seafood salads, rillettes, and fish jerky as grab-and-go options.
Jacobs and Honn became friends while both going after uncommon fish from Anna Marie Shrimp, a Louisiana fishery founded by Lance Nacio. “Sometimes Marcus or I would trade off going down to pick up at the docks when Lance couldn’t make it up,” Honn told Eater in July. When Justin LeBlanc, the former owner of Bevi Seafood, approached Jacobs about taking over the space, Honn was the first person he and Carney thought of to work with. “He’s always been at the forefront of access to sustainable Gulf fish,” Jacobs says.
Chef Wataru Saeki, who developed the raw bar at Carmo, is the lead fish butcher at Porgy’s, Jacobs says. He names a few other key players, like Sabre Nester, the shop manager; Anglo Jones, the kitchen lead; and Latosha Dennis, the operations manager. Both Jones and Dennis came over from Willie Mae’s Scotch House, joining the team after a fire at the legendary restaurant in April 2023 that has kept it closed since. Nester was a longtime Sally’s Seafood employee.
In addition to the boiled seafood offerings, Porgy’s is nodding to its predecessor Bevi Seafood in one big way: daiquiris. While the restaurant is still waiting on its liquor license, shortly after Christmas the shop expects to roll out several frozen drinks: a Bushwacker that will always be on the menu, two seasonal fresh fruit daiquiris, and a fourth frozen drink that will be nonalcoholic. Jacobs says he thinks the first seasonal option will be a Louisiana citrus margarita, alongside a “wildcard” that’s still in the works. Porgy’s will sell beer, wine, and other cocktails with an emphasis on low-ABV drinks, and there will be happy hour specials.
Porgy’s opens Saturday, December 23, and Sunday, December 24, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closes for December 25 and 26, and then opens for normal business hours (every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) starting December 27. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.