Most cities have their neighborhood joints, casual places where you can get a sandwich or splurge a bit more for an entrée. But only one has Chef Susan Spicer working the line, helping to come up with “Thank You Baby Jesus” ideas like “Duck Pastrami” or a BBQ shrimp that can be super-sized, giving you more sauce for attacking with flakey shreds of Leidenheimer’s French bread. This is what you will find at Rosedale, an eclectic gem tucked against the train tracks in a part of town where a tourist would need a map and a compass to track down. In fact, even locals may have a hard time finding it.
It is absolutely worth the visit. While Rosedale has been open for several years, 2020 saw an expansion of its outdoor seating capacity, the better to comply with distancing requirements. That, plus the 2019 closure of her restaurant Mondo in nearby Lakeview, gave Spicer more time to spend with her casual outpost in Navarre.
The building, a rambling historic former police station complete with its own jail cell, connected with Susan on her first visit. “It reminded me of a funky fish camp. I could just see a casual, down home restaurant here,” she recalled. “It spoke to more about being a local place, drawing from local influences.”
Unlike her globally-inspired flagship Bayona, Rosedale’s focus is largely southern and regional. Start with her aforementioned BBQ Shrimp, a favorite dish of famed Mississippi Chef Robert St John. Black pepper and fresh rosemary are first toasted in a dry pan. Then comes lots of shallots and garlic, beer, Worcestershire and hot sauce. Brought to a boil and then reduced, this savory brew is then finished with lemon juice and zest and serves as the base of the sauce.
Diners will be tugged in two directions with the menu. On one hand you have compelling sandwiches like the “Duck Pastrami,” whose main ingredient requires a four-day process to cure, cold smoke and then caramelize. “We serve that with my mom’s Danish pickled cabbage with Russian dressing on our WildFlower multigrain bread,” Spicer said. Competing with that will be entrees like her popular bourbon and buttermilk-brined fried chicken plate. Spicer sneaks a little pure, uncut Coca Cola syrup into the brine to amplify the Southern kick. This comes with a slab of baked Mac and Cheese and a peppery side of smothered greens. An entrée of “Sauteed Gulf Fish with Caribbean Crab and Coconut Rice” has its roots in Spice Inc., an ahead-of-its time retail initiative from Spicer which closed years ago but is still missed by hard-core foodies. The rice component is lavished with attention. “We cook it with onions, peppers, curry paste and powder,” Spicer said. “It also has tomatoes, lime, coconut milk and bitters.” It is that last component that gives it an especial complexity. Mirliton chow chow plays an accompanying role.
Spicer’s cousin Jonas Owens oversees operations as GM, and Chef Sarah Master (formerly of Mondo) runs the kitchen. But there is no mistaking Spicer’s care, attention and time spent here. As the dining landscape adjusts to a post-pandemic environment, locally-owned places from top-tier talent like Rosedale that feature less fuss and more al fresco are likely to be the beneficiaries. As long as places like this can survive, so can the unique character of New Orleans dining.
Rosedale, 801 Rosedale Dr., Mid-City/Navarre, 309-9595, Rosedalerestaurant.com.
ABOUT THE CHEF
Chef Susan Spicer is among the most recognized names in the hospitality industry. Originally from Key West, her cooking career took off in the ‘80s at the Maison de Ville hotel. Eventually she opened Bayona, which stamped her reputation on the national map. She won a James Beard Award in 1993 and has appeared in a series of television shows and was the inspiration for a lead character in HBO’s Treme. Along the way she has helped to blaze a trail for women in the industry and remains a nationally respected figure in the culinary landscape.