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Restaurant Insider - New Orleans Dining

The new year always makes me optimistic for the future. The possibilities stretch out like a rainbow of hope and dreams. Anything is within my reach if I just want it badly enough. That feeling generally lasts until Jan. 2, but this year I’m hoping to carry it forward at least until National Pharmacist Day on Jan. 12.

The Camellia Grill has opened a second location in the French Quarter (540 Chartres St.). The restaurant was one of the most anticipated re-openings after Hurricane Katrina and, despite a change in ownership, the original location, above, (626 S. Carrollton Ave.) has continued to pack in customers looking for classic diner fare such as omelets, burgers and shakes. Hicham Khodr, who also owns Byblos restaurant, had plans to expand the Camellia Grill brand outside of the city, opening a branch in Destin, Fla., in 2008, but that venture suffered from the economic downturn and has since closed. The French Quarter location at the corner of Chartres and Toulouse streets is, one would think, a perfect fit for the restaurant. For more information, call 522-1800.

Chef Ryan Hughes, who spent the last six years at the helm of the galley kitchen at Café Degas, is in the process of opening Johnny V’s (6106 Magazine St.). Hughes and partner Johnny Vodanovic plan a restaurant larger than the storefront exterior would suggest, with 160 to 180 seats on two floors. Renovations are still under way as I write this, but Hughes told me that the kitchen should be open soon, and he’ll begin serving tapas at the adjacent Monkey Hill Bar when that’s accomplished. He plans a contemporary French Creole menu for Johnny V’s, something akin to the specials he ran at Café Degas, where he regularly branched out from the French Bistro fare served at the Esplanade Street eatery. Vodanovic, a former owner of Clancy’s, is an experienced restaurateur, and I expect good things from their partnership.

The restaurant can be reached at 430-1840.

Lakeview Grocery, which has opened in the former location of Lakeview Fine Foods (801 Harrison Ave.), adds to the activity in that corner of the city hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina. The grocery is operated by the Robért family and includes a “community dining hub” called Harrison Cove, left,  featuring prepared foods such as rotisserie chicken, burgers, poor boys and, on Saturdays, barbecue ribs and brisket. A breakfast bar is open in the mornings and, from 4 to 9 p.m., wines by the glass and beers are available. There is both indoor and outdoor seating and access to free Wi-Fi. The neighborhood has been in need of a quality grocery and the Robért family has experience in that department with their Robért Fresh Markets, the first of which opened in 1994. Call 293-1201 for more information.

Gourmet chocolate bars made by the folks at Sucré are now available at local Whole Foods. There are five varieties available, including pistachio and rose, nibs and brittle, maracaibo 65, candied violet and coconut and toasted almond. If you’re at one of the Whole Foods locations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans or Metairie and you get a craving for chocolate, you now have the option to buy local.

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

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