A prolific New Orleans restaurant group plans to turn a massive downtown building into a location of its growing chain following two previous attempts to operate food halls in the space, reports the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.
According to the newspaper, Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts has entered into a lease-to-own agreement with the owners of 801 Magazine Street, the downtown building formerly home to Auction House Market and then the Hall on Mag. The group will open a fifth location of Boulevard American Bistro, an upscale-casual, steakhouse-esque restaurant serving dishes like crab cakes, cedar plank salmon, and prime rib. The others are located in Metairie, Elmwood, and Covington, and one is currently taking shape in the French Quarter, replacing Emeril Lagasse’s now-closed NOLA restaurant. Creole Cuisine operates a large number of New Orleans-area restaurants in addition to Boulevard American Bistro, most notably Broussard’s, Tommy’s, and the Bombay Club, but also spots like Kingfish, Flamingo A Go-Go, Ernst Cafe, Curio, and Cafe Maspero.
It’s no secret that food halls were not embraced in New Orleans with the same fervor as in other cities. The life of this Warehouse District building is a prime illustration of such: Following its time as the New Orleans Auction Galleries, the purveyors of St. Roch Market opened a food hall there in 2018, Auction House Market, after an extensive renovation of the 9,000-square-foot building (it was New Orleans’s second food hall at the time). That group continued to operate the food hall until 2020 when the building’s owner, Felicity Property Co., laid off the company as the market’s operator and took over. The company closed Auction House Market two years later in March 2022, saying it “saw a shift in the multi-vendor food hall model.”
Next came the promising Hall on Mag, which opened in August 2022. Felicity partnered with Jamal Wilson for that project, an entrepreneur in the food hall space who envisioned a hybrid service model and had several food halls in the works in Florida and Georgia. The Hall on Mag closed abruptly in December 2022, with diners with reservations arriving to a locked building, messages to the Hall on Mag going unanswered, and Felicity telling Eater they had “no comment” about the food hall’s status. Around the same time, Pythian Market, the city’s third food hall, was evicted from its downtown building. Much like at Auction House Market, the building’s landlords vowed to operate a food hall there themselves in the New Year, but it instead has stayed closed. The latest word from the building’s owner is that it’s “unclear” if reopening Pythian Market is a “viable option.”
The space at 801 Magazine Street will undergo some changes in advance of its projected Fall 2023 opening: Creole Cuisine says it will remove the food hall stands and keep the central, marble-topped bar, mixing booths and tables in the dining room around it and creating an open kitchen. It’s considering turning the former food hall’s adjacent private event space into a retail market for grab-and-go food, bottles of wine, and spirits.
Creole Cuisine CEO Marv Ammari told the Advocate that the company never considered reopening the building as a food hall.