This is yet another Restaurant Insider in which I cover a few places to the exclusion of the half-dozen that have opened recently. This is madness, people. A few restaurants have closed in the last several months, sure, but overall the impression I have is that the market reached saturation sometime in 2012, and whatever you’d call the current situation it’s defying the laws of economics. It is job security for me, and to be clear a lot of the new joints are fantastic additions to the city’s dining scene. It just makes me feel more foolish than normal when people ask me “How is the city supporting so many restaurants with a smaller population?” and I have no answer. Oh well, at least this is April, which has the one day when fools like me feel normal.
Old Arabi Eats is off the beaten track. It isn’t a place you’ll stumble on if you’re from out of town. The restaurant is located in a small strip mall in a spot most recently occupied by Touché Cafe, and before that the home of a McKenzie’s bakery. It is a pleasant place with a casual setting that masks some very good food.
The folks who own and operate Old Arabi Eats are neither old nor from Arabi. They are from New York, though there’s not a lot about the place that screams “Brooklyn.” Early reviews mentioned a Manhattan-style clam chowder, but when I dined it wasn’t on the menu. That isn’t unusual; the menu changes regularly. It is also not particularly large. When I was there, there was a salad and a half-dozen main dishes, including two sandwiches. The dinner menu the night before was similar, though with another couple of mains. There weren’t any desserts offered when I had lunch, but the restaurant typically has something along the lines of cheesecake, fruit crumbles, brownies and other home-style dishes on offer.
It may seem like a mundane thing, but it speaks to the care taken with each aspect of the plate that’s the hallmark of a great cook.
Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food, more in line with the atmosphere.
Old Arabi Eats is located at 7005 St. Claude Ave., and open Tuesdays through Thursdays for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. On Fridays the dinner service goes until 10 p.m., and on Saturdays the restaurant is open for dinner only from 5 to 10 p.m. Call 563-0131 to learn more.
The Tasting Room opened in February of this year, replacing Diva Dawg. The shop is both a wine bar and casual restaurant, with the wine end of the spectrum predominant. That is the side operated by Toby and Lisa DeVore; Toby hails from Lodi, Calif., and his family is in the business of growing grapes for vineyards in San Joaquin, Sonoma and Napa. DeVore talks about each wine he pours, complete with laminated maps of the regions from which they hail. There are wines available by the glass or bottle from a moderate list with vintages from all over the world. DeVore told me that though he knows California wines best, he wanted the offerings to have a broad scope.
The Tasting Room occupies a fairly small space. Exposed brick is the major design feature; there are couches and comfortable seating in the front and a few tables across from the bar as you move through the dining room. All told there’s seating for 35 inside and another 20 in the back patio.
That patio is where Arabella Casa Di Pasta has its small kitchen. The feel is “pop-up,” but DeVore told me that as far as he’s concerned it’s a permanent relationship. The name probably tells you all you need to know about the operation generally; chef Phillip Marks and general manager Mowgli Pierlas let customers create their own combinations from the changing selection of pastas and sauces. As I write, you can pick fusilli, rigatoni, spaghetti or fettuccini as the pastas; sauces include pomadora, puttanesca, a bolognese made with pork neck bones, pesto cream and a portobello red-wine cream sauce. Once you decide on that combination, you can add chicken, Italian sausage, meatballs, shrimp, broccoli, roasted red peppers and asparagus for an additional charge. The meatballs are made of pork, beef and andouille, and they’re delicious; you can also get them as an appetizer with bread and tomato sauce.
The Tasting Room is open every day but Tuesday from noon to 10 p.m. at 1906 Magazine St. Arabella Pasta Di Casa is open during the same hours, Wednesdays through Sundays. Call 581-3880 for the Tasting Room, and 684-2877 for Arabella Pasta Di Casa.
I first met Alicia and chef Matt Murphy when my best friend and frequent dining companion rented one-half of their Uptown home after Katrina. The landlord-tenant relationship ended when Alicia gave birth to the couple’s first children, a set of quadruplets, and needed the whole house. Matt later opened the Irish House, but he’ll tell you that the brains of the operation has always been Alicia, and Fare is clearly her deal. As I write, the place has only just opened its doors and not everything Alicia has planned has come to fruition, but Fare already offers gluten- and dairy-free baked goods that are generally Paleo-diet-friendly, as well as teas and juices. There are prepared meals in the future, and a significant space that they may use for meetings, seminars and other events.
Fare is located at 4838 Magazine St., and can be reached at 302-9171. Stay tuned to this space to find out more, as I certainly intend to follow Fare down the road.