Coming Down the River
5757 Magazine St. | 891-1177 | KentonsRestaurant.com | lunch Mondays-Fridays, dinner daily, brunch weekends
The historic ties between Maysville, Kentucky, a small port on the Ohio River, and New Orleans are strong. Maysville is a major port for the shipment of Bourbon down river. Our town has historically been the main destination. Maysville was founded by Simon Kenton, a frontiersman in 1775. And now we can begin the story of New Orleans Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of the Year.
Kenton’s was created by Sean Josephs and his wife, Mani Dawes. Josephs’ restaurant in New York City is called Maysville, and Bourbon is a centerpiece of what’s served at the bar.
Dawes also has Tia Pol in New York, a tapas destination. She is from New Orleans and grew up just a few blocks from Kenton’s location. Like many New Orleans ladies, she was ready to return home after making a name for herself in the town where if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
The chef at Maysville is Kyle Knall, who’s also executive chef at Kenton’s. The native of Birmingham, Alabama, was also a contributor to the success of Danny Meyer’s empire in New York City, notably at Gramercy Tavern
The cuisine is unmistakably Southern with heavy New Orleans influences. The restaurant’s smoker is kept active since just about everything on the menu is smoked, grilled or charred.
Some favorites include Slow-Smoked Trout, Grilled Pompano, Braised and Grilled Pork, Brown Butter Glazed Drum and the Grilled Butcher’s Steak. The sides are exciting and the appetizers, including mousse, pâté, tartare and raw styles, present fresh ingredients prepared creatively.
Kenton’s boasts one of the most stunning interiors of any new restaurant in years. The drinks bar is a great place to “hang.” The oyster bar has become a local favorite.
In the evening, the restaurant’s lighting is elegant. During the day, the large windows allow the light to stream through. Outdoor seating is available, but this is one place where being comfortably inside makes some sense.
– Tim McNally
Making A Statement
3607 Magazine St. | 509-7655 | CavanNola.com | dinner daily
The decision was made to operate a brand-new restaurant using an old and proven New Orleans model. Cavan opened in a building constructed in 1881, and that’s a fine way to make a statement about tradition.
LeBlanc + Smith, operators of Sylvain, Meauxbar and Barrel Proof, purchased the Cockerton home on Magazine Street, refurbished the property and named the new restaurant after the county in Ireland where owner Robert LeBlanc’s maternal family called home before coming to New Orleans generations ago.
LeBlanc notes, “These people taught me to enjoy life at the dinner table, and the message extended to the importance of family and community. Those lessons set the tone for the entire project.
“The scars of the old home added to the feeling we wanted to bring to this effort,” LeBlanc continues. “It didn’t hurt that we simply fell in love with the place and fully respected its bones.”
With the rash of new restaurants arriving on the New Orleans dining scene, it’s interesting that a group of young entrepreneurs would want to establish their version of an old New Orleans neighborhood tavern and dining emporium. Featured items on the menu are peel-and-eat shrimp, oyster toast and a succulent roasted pork chop surrounded by roasted sweet potato fingerlings, grilled green onions and a side of pepper jelly.
Ben Thibodeaux, involved in the project since before the restaurant’s opening, is the Executive Chef. There is a daily gumbo not to be missed, fried oyster Caesar, seared Gulf fish as well as a whole fish. The 24-ounce bone-in ribeye is enough for two diners, and Cavan even offers one of the best burgers in town.
“We wanted to be a pure New Orleans neighborhood place,” LeBlanc says. “Prices have been kept low not just on the menu but on the wine and drinks list as well. Cavan was always meant to be a place for locals to find the familiar done as well as anyone ever has.”
LeBlanc has an image of locals coming by to sit at the bar, reading the paper, enjoying a cocktail or a glass of wine and just visiting with friends. It is meant to be very old New Orleans.
– Tim McNally
Southern Influence With an italian Touch
600 Carondelet St. | 930-3070 | JosephineEstelle.com | breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner daily
When the Ace Hotel on Carondelet Street in the CBD opened in March, it gave New Orleans a trifecta of new hospitality offerings: A stunning boutique hotel, an outpost of Portland’s Stumptown Coffee and the ambitious new restaurant Josephine Estelle. Chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman hail from Memphis, where they built a James Beard-nominated reputation with their popular Hog & Hominy and Porcellino’s Craft Butcher restaurants. Named after the chefs’ young daughters, Josephine Estelle deftly collects southern influences and layers them upon a canvas of rustic Italian cuisine. The resulting osteria is both novel and comforting at the same time.
The menu’s strengths lie in its small plates and pastas. A dish of Snapper Crudo is a case in point. Whereas crudo preparations typically feature a lot of acidity to pair with the principal raw ingredient, Ticer’s version jukes the other way. Here the flavor profile puts forward brown butter and toasted hazelnuts – an earthy, nutty combination that’s unctuous and pleasantly unexpected. The slight but necessary top notes come from Meyer lemon – another nice touch. From the pasta side, consider the Gemelli, whose spiraled edges collect basil and butter to complement spring vegetables. Wines lean heavily Italian but are augmented with a collection of French options. Be sure to save room for dessert, including a complex Chocolate Semifreddo garnished with herbaceous licorice-infused Strega, strawberries and fennel.
Ace Hotel, based out of Portland Oregon, did a terrific job in restoring the historic Art Deco building. Center columns featuring crowns of elegant plaster rise to support the soaring ceilings limned with low-wattage accent lights. The dining room – which could get loud considering the high ceilings, windows and tile floor – is softened with rows of padded banquettes and glass dividers, which mitigate this effect. The rear of the room offers views into the spacious kitchen. A brunch service is offered, and Josephine Estelle handles all food service operations at the hotel, including the menu for their rooftop bar Alto. Reservations are recommended.
– Jay Forman
Spanning the Cultural Range
4206 Magazine St. | 509-7306 | lunch and dinner Tuesdays-Sundays
It seems that the old saw, “You can never go back home,” just isn’t true. At least that’s not the way Alison “Alie” Wild sees it.
“I grew up in the Uptown neighborhood and it’s always been home, even when I wandered to other places to build a business. But in the back of my mind, this was the place I wanted to be.”
Wild and her partner, Lana Banks, have operated Across the Street, a casual Mexican restaurant in Atlanta, for years. They also opened, almost geographically true but actually next door to the restaurant, The Market Across the Street, a neighborhood grocery.
Yet for Wild, the tug of home was constantly present. When she saw a great location for her New Orleans restaurant on Magazine Street, which had previously been home to a series of short-lived restaurants, she knew this was the spot. The result: The Standard.
The Standard is a restaurant that brings Wild fully back to her parents and grandparents. They created in their home first-rate versions of classic Cajun, Creole and American dishes.
“Everyone in my family was a terrific cook. They all took great care in making certain what they created was authentic and the best it could be. Really, they inspired me,” Wild readily admits.
That would explain the cultural range of dishes on the menu. Goat Cheese Enchiladas reside alongside Crab Cakes and happily coexist with Eggs Benedict.
Wild likes to note that the goal is “real food for real people.” The Standard fills a “Three Bears” niche in the neighborhood: not too high, not too low, but just right for frequent casual dining.
One of the guiding lights at The Standard is Pam, the standard poodle who is no longer with us, but her spirit, which was strong and energetic, is still very much here. And there are three standard poodles in the family now to fill her void. A fitting expansion of love for the “children” and for New Orleans.
– Tim McNally
Tana at Treo
Pub Dining Refined
3835 Tulane Ave. | 304-4878 | TreoNola.com/plates | dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays
Chef Michael Gulotta came to my attention as the chef de cuisine at August, chef John Besh’s flagship and one of the best fine-dining restaurants in the city. When Gulotta decided to leave August and open a semi-casual Vietnamese restaurant, I was excited because I wanted to see what he could do with a cuisine I love. MoPho was and remains a remarkable success, for which Gulotta has received deserved recognition both locally and nationally.
Treo is a small gastro-pub on Tulane avenue, owned by Paula and Stephen Patterson, natives of Ireland, whose bar, Finn McCool’s, is a wonderful, welcoming spot on Banks Street.
Devastated after Hurricane Katrina, the Pattersons were able to rebuild Finn’s with help from their patrons. It is the sort of success story that serves as an example of resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
I was doubly excited when I heard chef Gulotta would open Tana at Treo, focusing on Italian food. The small menu fits the relatively small dining space; highlights on my visits have been charred broccoli with kumquats, Marcona almonds, chiles and anchovies and corn Flour Garganelli with grilled octopus, boudin noir ragu and mint. Gulotta combines ingredients in thoughtful ways at both of his restaurants, and the food at Tana isn’t an afterthought to the drinks.
Treo has a more sophisticated feel than Finn’s; there’s a patio and an art gallery, and original works are on display in the bar. Seating is mainly at the bar or a number of high tables running the length of the narrow space. There is an excellent craft cocktail program and a good selection of beers and wines by the glass.
– Robert Peyton
Catching the Third Wave
4536 Dryades St. | 702-1900 FrenchTruckCoffee.com
French Truck Café
French Truck Coffee has rolled Uptown with the opening of its new café. The cheery cottage on the corner of Cadiz Street is hard to miss – bright yellow and trimmed in blue – and its tastefully contemporary interior is softened with custom wood cabinetry and grey tile.
Particularly striking are a pair of towering glass Ojis. “These Japanese contraptions slow drip the water over a 12 hour period,” owner Geoff Meeker explains. “This yields a much lighter, fruitier version of iced coffee than the more traditional immersion extractions. We use them for our single origin beans so we can highlight their distinct characteristics.”
While the coffee menu mirrors that of his original location on Magazine Street, the new location offers a full breakfast and lunch menu as well as a liquor license. Look for light dinner and beer and wine pairings to further round out the menu this summer.
600 Carondelet St. | 900-1180 StumptownCoffee.com
Arguably the granddaddy of the Third Wave Coffee movement, it was big news for local bean lovers when the Oregon-based roaster announced plans to open inside the new Ace Hotel. In considering their Big Easy location, Stumptown VP Matt Lounsbury entered this market with a particular focus. “New Orleans pretty much put iced coffee on the map, and for this store we wanted to do something special,” Lounsbury says. The result was a seven-head tap system that dispenses a nitrogenized version of their signature espresso blend Hairbender. Pulled into the custom Belgium glassware, the aesthetic is reminiscent of Guinness on tap. The cold brew serves as the foundation for a terrific bar menu, including the Endless Summer – a caffeinated take on a mint julep. For pour-over fans, their Mod Bar allows for individual cups of every single roast they offer, a first for any Stumptown location.
4877 Laurel St. | 875-3699
Cherry Espresso Bar
In 2006 Lauren Fink worked at a coffee shop in Portland that used Stumptown beans. “It was my first introduction to specialty coffee and it rocked my world,” Fink says. “It’s all I’ve wanted to do ever since.”
After moving to New Orleans, she launched Cherry, a micro-café inside of Stein’s Deli. It proved popular, and with the help of a small business loan she opened Cherry Espresso Bar in March. Nestled on the corner of Laurel and Upperline streets, Cherry is adjacent to Wisner Playground, making it the quintessential neighborhood coffee shop.
Fink uses a multi-roaster program, sourcing beans from all over the country. RoseLine from Portland features prominently in the mix, with Duchess Rose Blend being a particular favorite of hers. “It is 50 percent washed Ethiopian and 50 percent washed Kenyan,” Fink says. “It has a lot of flavor, is really fruit-forward, and is relatively light as well but with a creamy mouthfeel.”
– Jay Forman
Growing the Business
Outposts & Expansions
Bayou Wine Garden
In the restaurant industry, expansion is often the key to success. Many restaurants fail in the first year, but for those who get it right, expanding means the opportunity to serve more diners, and of course that’s how restaurants stay in business. For some, expanding is a way to keep talented people on the team; more than one chef has told me that the impetus for opening a new restaurant was, in part, to give a talented young cook a place to develop and grow.
St. James Cheese Company has opened a shop in the Warehouse District, at 641 Tchoupitoulas St., featuring a smaller but still excellent selection of cheeses and charcuterie, but a larger number of salads and sandwiches. As always, expert advice from the cheesemongers behind the counter, and check the website for special offerings and happy hour specials. They’re open Monday through Thursday from 11 to 7, and until 9 on Friday and Saturday. Phone: 304-1485. StJamesCheese.com.
Magasin Kitchen is the second Vietnamese restaurant from Kim Nguyen and has a similar menu to her first, with the addition of home-style dishes such as congee, a savory rice porridge. Magasin Kitchen is located in the Paramount building at 611 O’Keefe Ave. and is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. during the week, until 10 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Call 561-5677 or visit MagasinCafe.com for more.
When the folks who run Bayou Beer Garden decided to expand, they didn’t go far. Bayou Wine Garden is physically connected to the bar and grill that faces S. Jefferson Davis Parkway by a gateway in each location’s rear patio. Wine replaces beer in the “taps,” and the menu features house-made charcuterie and small plates. Bayou Wine Garden is located at 315 N. Rendon St.; check BayouWineGarden.com or call 826-2925 for details. They open for lunch seven days a week at 11 a.m., and the kitchen keeps going until midnight during the week and until around 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Very few restaurants can boast the success that Cochon Butcher has had since chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski opened it a few years ago. Featuring sandwiches, small plates and the charcuterie that Link, Stryjewski and their team had been making for Cochon and other Link Group restaurants, Butcher has expanded into the space next door to serve ever-expanding crowds looking for great food, drinks, and maybe a few pounds of sausage for dinner. The concept has proved so popular that a second location has recently opened in Nashville, Tennessee. Here in New Orleans, Butcher is located at 930 Tchoupitoulas St. and the phone number is 588-7675; see more at CochonButcher.com.
– Robert Peyton