Focusing on the Fundamentals
New in Bucktown and Lakeview
JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPH
If you’ve had trouble keeping up with restaurant openings in New Orleans, you’re not alone. Even for people whose job it is to keep track of these things, the challenge has been akin to a game of Whack-a-Mole. The eclectic plenitude of cuisine variants these days can make locals scratch their heads and wonder just what happened to good old neighborhood joints. So if you count yourselves in the class of diners looking for simple food, expertly prepared, you’re in luck. We have seen two new spots open recently that throttle back on the crazy factor and focus on the fundamentals. And with industry veterans behind these projects – Allison Vega and Susan Spicer, respectively – you can rest assured you’re in good hands.
Seafood doesn’t get any more local than in Bucktown. And ownership doesn’t get much more local than Allison Vega and Drew Knoll, who recently returned from an enviable restaurant-owning exile in Antiqua to reconnect with their family and roots here in New Orleans. Their new restaurant Station 6 happened by kismet – Allison was driving down Old Hammond Highway to look at a house when she noticed that the old Two Tonys was available for lease. “I pulled over right away and called Drew,” Allison recalls. “I said this one is small and feels manageable and I think we can do this.”
In putting together their seafood-forward menu, they relied on Drew’s purveying experience as a partner with the New Orleans Seafood Company. Allison describes the menu as approachable New Orleans food but with a chef-driven background. “I like simplified flavors – I’m not a fan of putting a lot of stuff all over the plate or using heavy sauces; I like the seafood to shine through,” she explains.
An example of this is Mamere’s Crabmeat Casserole, which allows the fresh crabmeat to take center stage without hiding it under cheese or béchamel. Another is the Sizzling Garlic Shrimp, which will make you wish you had twice as much bread to drag through the lemony, caper-studded butter sauce.
For more complex preparations, a good dish is the Seared Pompano – a fish we don’t see often around here anymore – paired with a curried brown butter sauce with some toasted cashews to add to the brown butter’s nutty kick. Also interesting are some dishes that made their way back with a British colonial imprint. These include Fish and Chips made with wild-caught catfish paired with a malt-vinegar infused tartar sauce.
In short what Station 6 brings to Bucktown is a thoughtful alternative to the surrounding fried-seafood joints. Station 6 also features an elegant wine list and a plethora of outdoor seating, which can be enclosed and heated in the cooler months. “We just want to be a welcoming place to come and hang out,” Vega says.
Whereas Station 6 is a thoughtful interpretation of what a Bucktown seafood joint can be, Rosedale, Susan Spicer’s new not-so-secret hideaway out by the Cemeteries, showcases accomplished comfort food distinguished by the occasional eclectic twist. Fitting, as the restaurant itself is a former police station with its jail cells repurposed as restrooms – if you visit, check out the bars on the windows and other vestigial details.
Tucked away on a wedge of greenspace fronting the tracks of the Lafitte Greenway, also like Station 6 the whole project came about when Susan saw the property and fell in love. “I just loved the building, the neighborhood and the idea of the outdoor space it offered. It feels almost like country here. I didn’t really need another restaurant, and neither did New Orleans, but here we are,” she says with a laugh.
Compared to Spicer’s other establishments, Rosedale is decidedly down-home. Whereas Bayona has fine-dining polish and Mondo revels in global inspirations, here it’s less urban and less international; just a comfortable neighborhood spot. Chef Brett “Shaggy” Duffee runs the kitchen, which puts out soul-warming dishes like Shrimp Puppies – skewers of shrimp coated with hush puppy batter then fried and served with a sweet pepper relish sauce. The Turtle Soup is bulked up with spinach dumplings, and the Rosedale Grit Bowl can be customized with an array of accoutrements including bacon, barbecue shrimp and short rib debris.
For entrées, the Pork Chop with field peas and hot peach mustard is one that came out of Bayona’s “Family Meals” – the dishes that a restaurant cooks for its staff. You will also find a Jazz Fest-inspired Cochon de Lait Poor Boy here. Spicer and Duffee both hail from the West Bank and make an effort to keep the focus local, though Susan’s fondness for Greek and Mediterranean cuisine pops up in a few of the dishes.
A short but well-considered drink menu features plenty of local beers and specialty cocktails. Almost all the wines are available by the glass in 3- and 6-ounce pours, making ad-hoc pairings part of the fun. And the décor, featuring custom furniture built by Susan’s husband and a collection of local art, helps complete the welcoming vibe. A large outdoor patio out the back is a draw as well.
Toast & Beyond
Cara Benson has expanded her popular breakfast and brunch spot Toast into the Gentilly neighborhood, with a new location at 1845 Gentilly Boulevard near the Fair Grounds. Here you’ll find Ebelskivers – delicious sphere-like Danish pancakes – as well as crêpes and, yes, you guessed it, toast. Keep this one in mind for all your breakfast needs.
Down-Home DigsStation 6
105 Old Hammond Highway
Lunch & dinner
801 Rosedale Drive
Lunch & dinner
1845 Gentilly Blvd.
Daily breakfast & lunch