South Market District | TABLE TALK
New neighborhood cuisine
Company Burger dressed at The Company Burger
JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPH
It isn’t often that entirely new neighborhoods appear virtually overnight, but this is exactly what happened with the South Market District. The cornerstone of the project is the Paramount, a luxury apartment complex. Yet apartments alone doth not a neighborhood make. For that you need a support system of grocery stores (Rouses – check), various-and-sundry (CVS – check) and most importantly for New Orleans: restaurants. This last category gets an “A.” Housed in the ground floor is a collection of eateries spanning a range of cuisine. The Company Burger, Magasin Kitchen, Blaze Pizza and Willa Jean are already there, with Phillip Lopez’s deli-based concept Part & Parcel coming soon just across the street.
Right out of the box South Market became a lunch destination for area workers, tourists and residents alike. Here is a closer look.
The second location of The Company Burger anchors the corner of Girod and S. Rampart streets. You can look for it there, or else close your eyes and follow the scent.
“During build out we needed about twice the ventilation they thought, so the workaround was a high-volume air system that blows out the side. It looks like a jet engine bolted onto a four-layer air filter,” owner Adam Biderman explains as to why much of South Rampart now smells like his burgers and fries. “It is the best advertising we could have hoped for.”
The interior of the restaurant echoes the contemporary feel of his Freret Street location but with a bit more of a downtown vibe. Long and narrow, the space takes advantage of its corner location and allows for a lot of natural light. And it has one major distinction from the Uptown outpost: its full-service bar with an emphasis on craft beer.
“Downtown, we knew what we were getting into,” Biderman explains. “We are by all the events and theaters, not to mention the Superdome – we knew it would be a more mature crowd.” Biderman brought on Evan Wolf, formerly of Bouligny Tavern, as his bar manager. Together they pulled together about 20 draft beers that are housed in a Brazilian wood clad walk-in cooler central to the bar area. A mini-glycol unit as well as a nitrogen and CO2 mixing station with individual regulators for the taps helps them dial in perfect pours.
Bar aside, the heart of the operation remains the burgers. The patties are ground and shaped at Biderman’s offsite commissary using a mix of Creekstone beef chuck and brisket. The buns are also baked fresh there each day and sent out to the stores, where they’re brushed with butter and griddled to order along with the patties. An added plus is the wide-ranging condiment bar that will keep you coming back to try new variants with the assortment of housemade mayos with flavors like chipotle and basil.
“I’ve been super happy with location,” Biderman says of the Paramount. “It’s just a whole new way to get our food out there to a whole new group of people.” Going into May, look for a new bar menu featuring fried chicken sliders and pimento cheese crudités to accompany the draft beers and specialty cocktails.
Another Uptown transplant to the Paramount is Magasin Kitchen, an offshoot of owner Kim Nguyen’s popular Vietnamese restaurant Magasin Café. And much like The Company Burger’s expansion, Nguyen’s offers more of a lounge-like, contemporary vibe as well as a full bar to complement the business and after-work crowd which makes up the bulk of the downtown clientele.
Compared to The Company Burger’s aesthetic, Magasin Kitchen uses a darker palette which results in a broodier, atmospheric space. Also distinguishing the space is the open kitchen. “At our ‘Springroll Bar’ Uptown, people like to watch the spring rolls put together,” Nguyen explains. “Therefore here I wanted people to be able to see what was going on as well – to get some insight into the hustle and bustle of the restaurant.”
The menu is very similar to the Uptown location, with the main exception being the full bar and a deeper selection of entrée specials. “With Magasin Kitchen I wanted to emphasize a little more of the home-cooked meal aspect,” says Nguyen. To accomplish this, she created dishes like her bibimbap – a Vietnamese take on the Korean dish which gathers together pickles, vegetables, meat and sauces all elegantly portioned all in one rice dish. “That has been one of our biggest sellers,” Nguyen says.
Specials aside, the menu relies on a well-executed list of Vietnamese dishes along with a dedicated section to pho, the traditional noodle soup. Nguyen’s versions are built on a daily foundation of broth whose cooking process begins the night before when the stock is set to simmer overnight. Versions include one with oxtail as well as premium add-ins like filet mignon. A vegan option is offered as well. For this, Nguyen builds upon a short list of vegetables that includes leeks, onion, carrot and bok choy. “We keep that broth very simple – to put a lot of stuff in it would really turn it into more of a soup base, and this is more like a light broth with a nice aroma.”
Blaze Pizza, the first New Orleans location of the fast-growing pizza chain, is designed around a build-your-own pie concept. Think of it a bit like Subway, but with pizza instead of sandwiches. Once assembled, the pizzas are fired to order with an impressive turn-around time, making it an attractive option for the lunch crowd. Flanked by burgers and Vietnamese, Blaze Pizza helps to round out the broad selection of offerings in the Paramount.
One of the most heralded of the South Market bunch is chef Kelly Field’s popular new bakery Willa Jean, which anchors the corner of O’Keefe and Girod streets. Part of the Besh Restaurant group, Willa Jean offers a range of pastries, breads and desserts as well as hot foods, including a “Build Your Own Biscuit” section. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the focus is mainly Southern but rounded out with a broader American vibe with allows for options like smoked salmon and grilled swordfish.
The Company Burger
611 O’Keefe Ave, Unit C7
Lunch and dinner daily
611 O’Keefe Ave.
Lunch and dinner Mondays-Saturdays, lunch Sundays
611 O’Keefe Ave.
Lunch and dinner daily