Variety on Piety
But in the same building
Jeffery Johnston Photographs
Part of Bywater’s appeal is its scattering of small, independent restaurants. More so than other neighborhoods, these are often expressions of the owners’ desire to bring to New Orleans something that reminds them of home. In the case of Bratz Y’all and Pizza Delicious, New Orleans adopts a cozy corner of Berlin and a slice of Manhattan, respectively. Both share the same building near the foot of Piety Street, and both found their start in non-traditional ways.
Bratz Y’all, the new kid on the block, is a full-bore German biergarten seemingly appended to the backside of Pizza Delicious. The restaurant is the brick-and-mortar realization of owner Sven Vorkauf’s German event catering service, which has collected accolades at numerous festivals, including the 2013 and 2016 Oak Street Poor Boy Fests.
A Berliner, Sven met his future wife at St Joe’s Bar on Magazine Street while visiting New Orleans. They initially settled in Germany, but he’d been bitten by the New Orleans bug and they moved back in 2010. While building an event production company, Sven was struck by something odd. “I’d go to these festivals and think, my God, there is a lot of German heritage here, but nobody is really doing German food.” In 2012 he launched Bratz Y’all at the Freret Market and it was a hit. Then in 2016, a bit of kismet: An out-of-business pretzel bakery behind Pizza Delicious became available. “I said, dammit I need pretzels and this place is big enough to put a little bistro inside and a biergarten outside. I bought the whole thing.” A biergarten was born.
Essentially a bakery with a front bar at the service counter and some limited inside seating, the bulk of the restaurant spills out into the adjacent patio filled with picnic tables, string lights and sociable vibe. “A biergarten is a place where people come together,” Sven explains. “You share tables. You talk. Play games, like backgammon and chess. Bring your family and your dog and have a good time.”
The good times are aided and abetted by the eight signature German beers on tap and many more in bottles. German red, white and sparkling wines represent Deutschland as well. The bar menu is rounded out with a selection of unique schnapps.
If you crave a full-blown biergarten feast, come on a Sunday and tackle the Schweinshaxe, a roasted pork shank with crispy skin and fall-off-the-bone tender meat garnished with sauerkraut, gravy and mustard. It is accompanied with potato dumplings, tender pillows with a texture between gnocchi and mashed potatoes. Most guests however will opt for a sandwich. The Drunk Pig, made from pork marinated in dark beer is one. Another is the NOLA Schnitzel, a breaded and fried pork cutlet served with crawfish remoulade slaw on a muffalatta bun. “I’m German, I’m a schnitzel. And I live in New Orleans now. So a schnitzel topped with crawfish remoulade slaw?” Sven points out, “That’s me!”
Sausages include a mild, finely-ground traditional pork and veal Bavarian bratwurst seasoned with marjoram and thyme. I prefer the more assertive Berliner, coarsely ground smoked pork sausage punched up with paprika and garlic. Whatever you get, try the homemade pretzels. There is a kids menu as well, and the open lot flanking the side functions as an ad-hoc playground, allowing grownups more time to socialize over a stein of Paulaner Hefeweizen.
Picnic in the Park
Not as much as a place to eat, but a place at which to eat, consider getting it to go and walking to Crescent Park, an urban masterpiece by local design firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. A steep steel bridge takes you over the train tracks and drops you into a long sliver of landscaping and paths which hug the river, offering a unique perspective on the downtown skyline. Picnic tables are available there. There is a confrontational aspect to the park as well, which echoes the vibe of the gritty neighborhood that surrounds it.
Pizza Delicious got its start as pop-up by a pair of Tulane students and immediately struck a chord – at the time, pizza in New Orleans was largely of the pre-Katrina vintage. And while Neapolitan-style places have upped the pizza game, Pizza D stuck to its New York thin-crust roots. “Pizza D is homage to the pizza we grew up eating,” says co-owner Michael Friedman.
Their brick-and-mortar on Piety Street opened almost five years ago. That you can find Uptowners dining side-by-side with Bywater folks is a testament to its city-wide draw. Mike credits his staff for the restaurant’s success. “Many have been with us for years. We are really in a good place now and it is all thanks to them. It’s a group effort.”
Pizza D is fresh off a mini-renovation, which expanded inside seating and allows for better flow. While the pizza has been steadfastly terrific, the menu’s pasta section has deepened of late thanks to a foray to Italy for inspiration. “Brad Holderness (our GM) came with us and he now heads up the pasta department,” Mike says. “While we call him the GM, he is so much more than that. He’s excited about food and is a master experimenter.” Brad’s efforts, plus a new pasta-extruding machine, have opened up a lot of new pasta possibilities. Dishes rotate through, but if available, try the Bucatini All’Amatriciana flavored with guanciale, tomatoes and sharp pecorino Romano cheese. Another dish inspired by Chicken Marsala is popular, with crispy chicken thighs spiked with Aleppo pepper, house-made potato gnocchi and green beans. A locavore sensibility informs the salads and pizza toppings, and vegan items are offered as well. Pizza D serves wine, beer and hard cider, and there is a limited cocktail menu as well. As with Bratz Y’all, appealing patio seating is part of the charm with a side lot providing spillover for kids.
617 Piety St.
L, D Wed-Sun
Closed Mon & Tues
617 Piety St.
L, D Tues-Sun