Given that the focus of this column is generally on new and changing restaurants, the July issue should present a real challenge. But this is New Orleans in 2014, and finding new restaurants to cover is less difficult than it might otherwise be, even during the hot months when the industry generally slows down.

Speaking of taquerias, chefs John Besh and Aron Sanchez recently announced plans to open Johnny Sanchez Taqueria (I’ll let you guess where they got the name) in the space that until recently housed Ste. Marie, at 930 Poydras St. The chefs met in the early 1990s when Sanchez was working in New Orleans with chef Paul Prudhomme. Sanchez is a frequent judge on the Food Network TV show “Chopped,” and a native of El Paso, Texas, who clearly has a love for the Crescent City.

As noted above, taquerias are typically causal places, and that appears to be the plan for Johnny Sanchez as well, though with two fine-dining chefs in the mix, no one will be surprised to find more ambitious food on offer. I thought Ste. Marie was an under-rated restaurant, particularly during its last months when chef Kritsen Essig was in charge. But while the sleek, modern space fit into the overall design of the office building that hosts it, the address is crying out for a more comfortable eatery.

The plan is for Johnny Sanchez to be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and while the press release announcing the restaurant had little details about the drinks program, I’m going out on a limb to predict there will be multiple cocktails featuring tequila and mescal. Look for Johnny Sanchez to open in the fall, hopefully in time for at least part of the Saints season.

Johnny Sanchez Taqueria, Del Fuego Taqueria and Pho Cam Ly

Folks driving down a certain stretch of Magazine Street earlier this year no doubt wondered what was going on at 4518. That is the address of Del Fuego Taqueria, a California-style Mexican restaurant that was scheduled to open at the beginning of this month. Owner and chef Dave Wright is a native of the Golden State, and though his most recent cooking experience was at the Chicago-style pizzeria Midway, indications are that he takes Mexican cuisine seriously.

In addition to a wide selection of high-end tequilas and mezcals, Del Fuego will make its own corn tortillas. Taquerias are meant to be casual, and the menu will be reasonably priced.
Contact Del Fuego at 894-8558 to find out more.

Johnny Sanchez Taqueria, Del Fuego Taqueria and Pho Cam Ly

There was a time when a Vietnamese restaurant opening anywhere but the West Bank or New Orleans East was notable. That isn’t exactly true any more, but numbers don’t always mean quality; while some of the newly opened places are good, others haven’t prompted me to return.

I will go back to Pho Cam Ly, which opened in March at 3814 Magazine St. The restaurant is named for a waterfall near Da Lat, where owners Mung and Minh Ha grew up. The menu is standard for local Vietnamese eateries, but I found the pho to be excellent, with a clear, fragrant broth and high-quality meats. There is one novel aspect to the place; if you can eat 2 pounds of noodles, 2 pounds of meats and a big bowl of broth, you can win the Pho Challenge, which gets you a T-shirt and no bill for the soup.

Pho Cam Ly is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and until 6 p.m. on Sundays. Call 644-4228 to find out more.