Station 6 Raises the Bar
Meet the Chefs
Alison Vega and Drew Knoll
Restaurateurs Alison Vega and Drew Knoll are the husband-and-wife team behind Station 6. With deep roots in the local restaurant scene – Vega was the founder of Vega Tapas and Knoll was Chef de Cuisine at Emeril’s Delmonico for over a decade – the pair owned a restaurant in Antigua before returning to their native New Orleans. Their kitchen is steeped in talent, with team members like Veronica Botero recently of Perpignan, France. A close relationship with Emeril Lagasse’s organization as well as Craig Borges’ New Orleans Seafood also infuses the menu. The kitchen focuses their fine-dining skills on what is essentially a casual seafood joint, leading to a particular strength with execution.
While you can hardly swing a catfish in Bucktown without hitting a seafood joint, most are defined by heaping platters of monochromatic fried fare. But last September the husband-and-wife team of Alison Vega and Drew Knoll took over the former II Tony’s Restaurant site in the shadow of the goliath post-Katrina pump station, bringing with them a more nuanced take on our coastal bounty. Over the past year, Station 6 has upped the ante as to what diners can expect when they cross the 17th Street Canal.
“We both come from more of a fine dining background – Drew particularly,” Alison explains. “But when we were living in Antigua, we realized there that people want food that they can relate to rather than stuff that is super-fancy or unnecessarily elaborate. Sometimes just a little lemon and some olive oil can bring out the best.”
Their extensive renovation breathed new life into the formerly cluttered space. Seating is split almost evenly between indoors and out, with a wraparound porch offering plenty of shade. Warm wood finishes and a bar anchor the rear of the dining room. By and large the menu is light on complications with an emphasis on technique. Credit the depth of the kitchen staff, whose collective experience includes Emeril’s Delmonico and southern France.
Begin with the Yellowfin Tuna Crackers, a tuna tartare freshened with a chili-cilantro vinaigrette that Alison developed back in her Vegas Tapas days. Topped with a dollop of her ghost pepper-infused Cajun Caviar, the roe adds pops of briny saltiness and a bracingly clean heat. Swinging in the other direction is Mamere’s Crabmeat Casserole, a heritage dish drawn from Alison’s childhood. Built around whipped butter, cream cheese, parmesan and Worcestershire with lemon juice for zip, it comes served bubbling hot in crockery with toast rounds to scoop up the nuggets of sweet jumbo lump. “My grandmother used to serve this at Christmas,” Vega recalls. “When she put out the chafing dish, we’d come running.”
Recommended entrees include Seared Pompano, bronzed with curried brown butter and plated with roasted asparagus spears. Toasted cashews help to amplify the nuttiness of the flavor profile. The Bucktown Cracked Crab Stew is gumbo writ large, swimming with shrimp and oysters that are added a la minute to plump up fresh in the simmering broth for each order. And if Softshell Crab happens to be on the specials menu, jump on it.
Station 6 also offers a Sunday brunch from 11 to 3 p.m. This service, not widely advertised, is distinguished primarily by a list of chef-driven specials tacked onto the regular lunch menu. Recently they included a crab cake with poached egg, Hollandaise, and jumbo lump crabmeat topped with Ghost Pepper Cajun Caviar. “That one I named ‘6 in the Morning’,” Vega says. “We also have the Drew, which is roast beef debris and a fried egg over white cheddar grits with crispy onions.” For more breakfast-type fare, they also recently ran Pistachio Pancakes with blackberry syrup.
Station 6 is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday with the aforementioned Sunday brunch. There is plenty of parking in the surrounding lot. Station 6 is popular and reservations are not accepted, so if you don’t want to wait it is best to come early. It is family-friendly and there are off-the-menu options like chicken strips available for the little ones – just ask your server.
DTB on Oak Street pays homage to similar fare but jukes in another direction. Starting with many of the same coastal ingredients, DTB instead sends them through a quasi-modernist lens, resulting in dishes like their meatless Mushroom Boudin Balls. It is a testament to co-owners Jacob Naquin and Carl Schaubhut skills that they can simultaneously balance a respect for tradition with such remarkably modern twists.