Two by Two
Oak Street companies work in tandem
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPH
Once upon a time, Oak Street was a main street of the Town of Carrollton, a municipality defined by Lowerline Street, the Mississippi River, the present parish line and Fig Street. Although Carrollton Avenue was the main thoroughfare, the two mercantile corridors were Maple Street below Carrollton Avenue and Oak Street above. The town, as it originally sat, was isolated from New Orleans proper, separated by Jefferson City and Greenville. Originally a part of Jefferson Parish (and for decades its parish seat), Carrollton became the westernmost annexation by the City of New Orleans in 1874, 41 years after its incorporation.
Two things remained: the honorific title “Mayor of Carrollton,” a civic appellation that lasted more than a century after the town’s annexation; and the two main streets, Maple and Oak. As the main streets remained two-by-two, so too did the businesses on them.
Maple Street is another story for another time (stay tuned), but this month, we’re taking a look at how Oak Street shops and restaurants exist – usually amicably – as fraternal twins.
Chiba (8312 Oak St., 826-9119, Chiba-Nola.com) opened this year, joining almost-20-year Carrollton sushi veteran Ninja (8433 Oak St., 866-1119, NinjaSushiNewOrleans.com) on the Oak Street scene. While Ninja is more popular for lunch specials, Chiba boasts a “Funk & Roll” happy hour special as well as a “Reverse Funk & Roll Hour.” The “reverse” special gives patrons happy-hour prices for the last hour that the restaurant is open each night (10 to 11 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays and Thursdays and midnight to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays).
In the dog days of summer, overlapping with the growing pains of a new restaurant, Keith Dusko – who owns the restaurant with his partner, Tiffani King – is on hand every night. “I’m the owner, and tonight I’ll be your host, and your waiter, and your bartender,” he greeted guests one recent evening.
The spacious, open dining room boasts a bar featuring signature cocktails and an extensive sake list in the front and a sushi bar that cranks out toro and live abalone in the back.
A New Jersey native whose first career was racing Formula-One cars, Dusko is expanding in New Orleans a sushi concept that he honed in New York City at the Haru restaurant group, from which he also brought his sushi chef, James Cooke. The restaurant rolls out sushi, sashimi and hot items in a characteristic marriage between Japanese cuisine and New Orleans flair.
Regarding Chiba’s counterpart up and across the street, Dusko says, “There’s room for two sushi concepts. The trend in this business is to worry about what’s happening in these four walls.” And as for why he chose Oak Street to begin with, Dusko says he hopes to draw clientele not only from the local neighborhood, but also from across the city – connected to Oak Street by Carrollton Avenue and the east-west thoroughfares – and adjacent Jefferson Parish. And, more generally, “This place just suits me.”
In the same yin-and-yang spirit as Chiba and Ninja, Juicy D’s Steamed Burgers (1200 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-8172, facebook.com/JuicyDs) began opening last month just a few doors down from Tru Burger (8115 Oak St., 218-7285, TruBurgers.com). As of this writing, Juicy D’s had not yet opened, but proprietor Nidal “Dee” Jaber (he’s the D in Juicy D) offered a bit of a preview of the restaurant’s concept, although he warned that “It’s better for you to try – tasting is believing.”
Juicy D’s concept is picking up steam (I couldn’t resist) around the country; steamed burger joints tend to generate local cult followings and “Man vs. Food”-style attention. The burgers are heated with steam instead of being fried or grilled, obviating the need for additional fat. “It steams the fat out but keeps the juices in,” claims Jaber.
The new burger joint’s aesthetic hints at retro diner, but with a sophisticated, modern edge instead of chintzy plays at nostalgia.
Jaber, who was born and raised Uptown (which was a compelling factor in choosing Oak Street to open up shop), says that the eight different burgers to be offered will be a minimum of a half-pound each. (There are also eight buns, eight cheeses and a variety of breakfast items on offer.) The eight-ounce lean beef patties – and 100-percent white-meat chicken breasts, veggie burgers, and salmon and tuna steaks – are all steamed in a custom-made steam machine. D’s also serves baked potatoes instead of french fries as a side, and prides itself on the salads it has on offer, claiming an entirely different niche market from its neighbor.
On the shopping end of the duality spectrum, David Simpson recently opened D. S. Simpson Antiques (8138 Oak St., 304-4456, facebook.com/DSSimpsonAntiques). Simpson has been selling antiques his whole life; he inherited the family profession as a child in Liverpool, England, where he opened his first shop at the age of 16. Before opening up his new shop, he had sold antiques out of the Carrollton Flower Market, which he also owns. In order to sell antiques more regularly, he jumped on the Oak Street property when it came on the market, opening the shop in mid-May. “I’m excited to be on Oak Street,” says Simpson; “It’s up-and-coming.” He adds that the rent – lower than on Royal Street or Magazine Street – didn’t make the decision any harder.
While down the street, Driscoll Antiques (8500 Oak St., 866-7795, DriscollAntiques.com) specializes in restoration, Simpson is more strictly retail, with particularly impressive selections of long-case clocks, prints and carpets, as well as furniture – predominantly English – from the 18th and 19th centuries. It also has smaller touches on offer, down to handmade soaps and curios from local mongers.
Diverging slightly from the two-by-two pattern that checkers Oak Street, Patchworks Market (8237 Oak St., 324-9933, facebook.com/PatchworksMarket), the brainchild of Jeanea and Stephen Bando, is communal home to exhibiting artists, Big Easy Woodworks, JCB Creations (Jeanea’s pastry company) and D’Juice Whole Fruit Smoothies and Fresh Juices.
D’Juice represents a sort of evolution out of the Bandos’ original vision for the space, which is wide-open, terraced and filled with all types of two- and three-dimensional art. “We started that off as more of a smoothie stop, but the neighborhood here came to want more fresh juices,” says Jeanea.
Broken into “Vegi-licious,” “Juicy Fruits” and “Sweet Life” sections, the juice-and-smoothie menu is squeezed and blended entirely from fresh veggies, fruits and herbs and includes such items as an all-natural “energy” blend.
The juices have served as an entrée for Carrollton area residents dipping a toe into the juicing world. “We’re getting a lot of people who are experimenting with juicing – a lot of ‘my wife told me we need to get into juicing,’” says Jeanea. She says that juicing extrudes more vitamins and nutrients from fruits and vegetables than chewing and digestion.
As of this writing, they’ve been sourcing their produce from LA Fresh, and recycling their waste as compost for Hollygrove Market & Farms.
JCB Creations, which operates out of the same location, creates custom cakes, cookies and pastries for birthdays, weddings and everything in between.