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Best New Restaurants

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The Freret Phenomenon

No one saw it coming; it was wholly unpredictable. Of course there was precedent, but that was back in the 1940s and ’50s. Maybe you blinked over the past year and you missed the resurgence of the Freret Street commercial corridor between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues, fueled by eateries and drinking establishments.

Individual business owners and proprietors all came together simultaneously and separately to make Freret Street the hottest of our area’s new dining destinations, maybe even the nation’s. If progressive dining is your milieu, or even if you prefer to sit in one spot and casually enjoy a meal, then Freret Street awaits.

The High Hat Café. Mississippi Delta cuisine comes to New Orleans. Yes, everyone who visits New Orleans already thinks we’re part of the South, but that has really never been the case. At High Hat, we now have our own stamp on Delta hot tamales, all manners of catfish and cornbread alongside indigenous gumbo, poor boys and barbecued shrimp.

The unlikely persona of chef Adolfo Garcia, famous for Rio Mar, La Boca and A Mano, all in the Warehouse District, is the moving force at High Hat, and his repertoire has been culinarily and geographically expanded.

4500 Freret St., 754-1336, HighHatCafe.com

Ancora Pizzeria and Salumeria. Only a thin wall separates chef Garcia’s two side-by-side ventures. OK, a thin wall and a couple of cultures that don’t share a continent. Ancora, if you haven’t been deafened by the buzz around town, is making pizzas like no one ever has in our city. The colorful pizza oven was imported from Naples, Italy, and all pizzas are cooked on its 900-degree floor. They are authentically Neapolitan through and through.

Meats are cured on the premise by a resident salumist, Kris Doll, and every ingredient is absolutely fresh. Recent offerings included a spring squash blossom pizza that literally melts in your mouth.

4508 Freret St., 324-1636, AncoraPizza.com

The Company Burger. Of all the burger restaurants that have opened in the past few years, this one seems to have climbed to the top of the mountain. Owner Adam Biderman keeps it real, and real simple. Harris Ranch hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, ground fresh every day is paired with buns of his design baked on the Northshore, again, every day, then toasted when you order your burger.

Not many variations are available (you can have the classic or a single), but it’s all you can handle. From time to time there’s a lamb burger that will make you swear off beef from that moment on. Cochon Butcher makes the hot dogs, and there’s a good side dish, too.

4600 Freret St., 267-0320, TheCompanyBurger.com

Midway Pizza. Steve Watson, owner, opened Midway Pizza right in the middle of Tropical Storm Lee. This guy isn’t to be followed, except to enjoy his New Orleans version of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. The place is a neighborhood pizza parlor with a bar, some tables, lots of folks chatting it up and plenty of good food coming from the ovens. Its tomato sauce has a bit of weight and the toppings are along traditional lines.

At lunch there’s a real-deal, all-you-can-eat buffet, which is cost-effective (maybe even cheap) and the beer selection is plentiful and cold. Since Watson also owns the King Pin Bar, he knows how to keep a place lively and fun.

4725 Freret St., 322-2815, MidwayPizza.com

Dat Dog. As they say, “Put a smile on your face. The world is a better place with Dat Dog.” It’s true. An only-in-New Orleans alliance between a former federal prosecutor, Constantine Georges, and hot dog guy, Skip Weber, both locals, perfected the concept based on what Weber did while he lived in London. This explains the German Weiner, the Kielbasa, the Slovenian Sausage, Louisiana Hot Sausage, Crawfish Sausage and Alligator Sausage, among other offerings.

The sides are generous, and the buns are perfect to hold the whole shebang. Getting it all in your mouth is the challenge. You will figure it out. By the way, the new location across the street from the old location is quite comfortable and spacious.

5030 Freret St., 899-6883, DatDogNola.com

Pure Cake. The cupcake craze didn’t visit here. Instead, here are always-made-from-scratch cakes, cake pops, filled cake pops, and cookies. Even the toppings are made fresh and on-site. Pure Cake also does custom work such as wedding cakes, party cakes and the like.

Good friends Monique Landaiche and Danielle Ross were both home bakers, and they really enjoyed it. The hobby became the bakery. They note that the location on the rejuvenated Freret Street has been a blessing. “People are walking in just to see what’s going on, and they cannot resist … nor do they seem to want to.”

5035 Freret Street, 872-0065, PureCakeNola.com

– T.M.


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