Here is a feel-good story, at least it is to us. For our November issue our cover story was about our search for the best barbecue in town. Sara Roahen, an accomplished food writer, received the assignment to, over a several month period, eat barbecue and tell us her choices. We gave her no list of favorites. The choices were up to her.
I have to admit to being surprised when I read her story and saw that her top choice wasn’t an established barbecue restaurant but something called NOLA Smokehouse, one of those pop-up places seen around town – this one operating from the patio at the PJ’s Coffee on Magazine Street.
Roahen wrote of the chef/owner’s science: “Bechtold uses an offset smoker filled with hickory mixed with peach, cherry or apple wood. The fruitwoods, he says, cause a chemical reaction that gives the meat a deeper smoke ring, and better smoke flavor.”
That was an interesting though quirky pick, I thought, but that’s the magazine biz. Well, lo and behold, the pop-up is popping into its own place. Owner Rob Bechtold contacted Roahen and told her that because of the endorsement from the article, he was able to obtain financing to open his own restaurant. So here it comes, a barbecue restaurant already carrying the credentials of being ranked No. 1, even before it opens.
According to Bechtold, the place, still to be called NOLA Smokehouse, will be located at 719 Jackson Ave. It opens Feb. 1 and at first will only operate Fridays through Sundays from noon until “sold out.” He hopes to expand the days eventually.
“I’m sticking with small batch artisan barbecue,” he says. “I won’t compromise my meat for more dollars. If it isn’t perfect it isn’t right. … I’m not changing now that I have a roof. It will just solidify my passion for barbecue perfection.”
This column is usually about a theme within its current issue, so here I’m writing about a topic two issues old, but the story fits in with our Tops of the Town cover story. New people doing new and creative things in the city are part of the story of contemporary New Orleans. That sort of spirit could be tops in any town.