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New Orleans’ Best New Restaurants 2013

Smokey baby back ribs, SoBou


When some of the savviest restaurant operators on Earth tell you they never saw a trend coming, you have every reason to be a little wary of the veracity of the statement.

But they swear it’s true. Ti Martin, of Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide, among others, says they never saw the current trend in restaurants featuring “street” food. Yeah, maybe. But that does nothing to explain the incredible success of a “Louisiana Street Food Restaurant with a Latin Twist,” SoBou, located in the heart of the French Quarter.

“What we were trying to create was a cocktail-based, casual dining, New Orleans-centric restaurant. Sort of a modern Creole saloon, if you will,” Martin explains. “It’s meant to be a coffee shop with adult beverages.”

And “casual” is a very big watchword for the concept. There is no way any of the other restaurants in this particular Brennan group would ever conceive of featuring dining tables into which beer taps are installed. There are no tablecloths. No water is offered. No bread.

You can barely get through the front door of the other places without having those items thrust onto your table.

The menu at SoBou, which stands for South of Bourbon, is evolving. Consistency is imperative and items that may be more challenging to prepare are relegated to another time and maybe even another place. Small plates are the way to go here, but go ahead and order a bunch of them. A great blend of Creole flavors, like yellowfin tuna cones, cracklin’s and butternut squash beignets reside alongside Latin American-tinged offerings such as Cajun queso, a crispy oyster taco and shrimp and tasso pinchos.  

A real character study of this place can be centered on chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez and bar chef Abigail Gullo. Gonzalez is the product of a big Puerto Rican family, of both Spanish and Italian descent, and did a stint at famed Le Bernardin in New York City.

Gullo, one of our newest New Orleanians, arrived here last year from New York City, where she was a just-off-Broadway singer and actress. She adds drama to the bar area – fun drama, of course. Along with a great big, can’t-miss-it fleur-de-lis tattoo. And who knew the New York Mets baseball team had a fight song with multiple verses? Ask Gullo to belt it out for you.

SoBou quickly has become an important drinking and eating destination for visitors and Quarterites alike. This is a Commander’s Palace/Le Bernardin right in the midst of the Vieux Carré. Does it work? You betcha’. 

SoBou, 310 Chartres St., 552-4095, SoBouNola.com

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