Restaurant Insider: Candy, Carmo, Cafes

SARA ESSEX BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPH

On the 29th of this month (yes, that’s a thing that’s happening) Southern Candymakers will celebrate its 20th anniversary. The business, which is owned by locals Chuck Williams and Peter Tompkins, opened its first shop at 334 Decatur St. on Feb. 29, 1992, and its second shop at 1010 Decatur St. in August of 2001. In addition to their retail outlets, Southern Candymakers does some serious business through online sales at their website, SouthernCandymakers.com. Recently they entered into a contract to sell pralines; pecan, cashew and peanut brittles; praline sauce; solid chocolate crawfish, alligators and fleurs-de-lis; and caramel-covered Granny Smith apples at Rouses stores, expanding their market even further. It is always nice to see a local business succeed, particularly one that uses local products and employs New Orleans residents in the process. So congratulations to Southern Candymakers; we hope to celebrate another 20 years with you in 2032.

When you enter Le Viet Cafe (2135 St. Charles Ave.), you might mistake it for a typical neighborhood coffee shop, albeit one that has a more than usually robust display of baked goods. But if the name doesn’t tip you off that there’s more going on, the Vietnamese coffee on the menu board next to the standard cappuccinos, lattes, cafés au lait might give you a clue. In addition to standard coffee shop and bakery fare, Le Viet Cafe also serves lunch and dinner. While the menus don’t compete in breadth with some of the larger Vietnamese restaurants on the West Bank or in New Orleans East, Le Viet Cafe does competent versions of spring rolls, grilled meat, poultry and seafood over noodles or rice, banh mi sandwiches and pho. You can get tapioca-studded bubble or “boba” drinks in more than 12 flavors. My 10-year-old son was happy with his mango boba, and I wasn’t disappointed in my beer, though I do wish they’d stock local brews instead of just Anheuser-Busch products.

 Le Viet Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. They have a limited delivery area from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can call them at 304-1339 for more information.

Carmo (527 Julia St.), which opened some months ago, adds to a short list of restaurants that are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. The restaurant serves what it calls tropical cuisine, and while the most frequent national cuisine on the menu is Brazilian, the food isn’t limited to any specific region. It isn’t all meat-free, either; the menu recently offered dumplings filled with cabbage and mushrooms as a vegan choice or with the addition of blue crab for those of us who eat seafood. Similarly, the restaurant’s acarje – fritters of black-eyed peas stuffed with cashew/peanut paste – are available with shrimp or in a vegan version. The fritters are a Brazilian version of the African dish akara, and they’re an excellent example of the sort of pan-Creole cuisine Carmo puts out. The restaurant’s owners are committed to sustainability, so while some of the ingredients are imported out of necessity – palm oil, for example – they use local organic produce and seafood where possible, and the take-out containers are all recycled. Carmo is open Monday through Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. Call 837-4132 to find out more, including options for lunch delivery.

Le Viet Cafe may be part of a trend. As I write, two Vietnamese restaurants are scheduled to open on Magazine Street. By the time you read this article, Magasin (4201 Magazine St.) should be open, and Pho Noi Viet (2005 Magazine St.) may or may not have started serving. That is in addition to Tamarind (936 St. Charles Ave.), where chef Dominique Macquet and chef de cuisine Quan Tran are putting an upscale spin on the Southeast Asian cuisine. It is true that we already have a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans, but the four that have most recently opened are bringing the cooking of that country to heretofore underserved neighborhoods. A good thing any way you look at it.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?  E-mail: rdpeyton@gmail.com
 

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