Isis Restaurant & Bar (828 Gravier St.) opened recently in the CBD. The restaurant is the first for owner John Soliman, who was born in Egypt and whose previous careers include stints in marketing and marine surveying. He named the restaurant Isis because that was the first Carnival parade he saw when he moved here, and because it was also the name of his grandmother. The location is off the beaten path, but the space has been renovated nicely and the menu reflects both Soliman’s heritage and the vagaries of running a breakfast/lunch joint in the CBD. There is a Mediterranean side of the menu that’s a mix of standard Middle Eastern fare: grape leaves stuffed with rice and ground beef, chicken shawarma sandwiches, falafel and kibbeh. The rest of the menu is more in line with ambitious sandwich joints of indeterminate provenance – there are Reuben and Cuban sandwiches, grilled fish tacos and a number of different burgers, including the Isis special, which combines beef and lamb with feta cheese. Isis is also unusual among Middle Eastern restaurants in that it has a full bar. Which is nice, if I do say so myself. And I do.
You can call 522-4747 for more information.
SoBou (316 Chartres St.) stands for “South of Bourbon,” according to a recent press release. Ti Martin, who’s behind the new venture (that replaces Bacco in the W Hotel French Quarter), was quoted in the release describing SoBou as “a spirited restaurant,” meaning that the focus will be on both food and drinks, and you can expect cocktail pairings with your food in addition to the more traditional wine suggestions. There is a solid team running things; Tory McPhail is a consulting chef and Juan Carlos Gonzales, right, will be in charge of day-to-day operations in the kitchen. Lu Brow will head the cocktail program and Abigail Gullo will serve as in-house bar chef. Listen, I know the name is ridiculous. Nobody in New Orleans says “SoBou” for “South of Bourbon.” But a name isn’t everything, and with the backing of the Brennan family, this place is definitely worth a shot.
Call 581-1200 to learn more.
• Two new Vietnamese restaurants have opened on Magazine Street. If that sounds like déjà vu, it’s not. I mean, you may very well suffer from some sort of terrible neurological disease that gives you the sensation that your life is repeating, à la that Groundhog Day movie, but in this instance it’s not your disease at fault. Seemingly all of the vacant storefronts on Magazine Street (and some streets nearby) are now occupied by restaurants serving the cuisine of Vietnam. Pho Noi Viet (2005 Magazine St.) and Lilly’s Café (1813 Magazine St.) are the latest; both began serving in the last few months. Each is a relatively modest shop where you can get standards such as pho, bun, rice platters and banh mi, though the options for pho are broader at Lilly’s. The explosion of Vietnamese restaurants along Magazine Street has been welcome, at least for someone who loves a good spring roll.
Call Pho Noi Viet at 522-3399 and Lilly’s Café at 599-9999 to learn more.
The rotating Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St.) is one of the best places in the city to get a cocktail, watch the crowds on Royal Street or both. As part of a wider renovation, the hotel recently expanded the bar by opening up the formerly cave-like space to the Canal Street side of the bar. The result is a much larger and more comfortable seating area with windows that actually let in natural light. The hotel has also added Criollo Restaurant and Lounge, naming Miami native Joseph Maynard, left, as chef de cuisine. It is hard to believe that a restaurant could compete for attention with the Carousel Bar, but the Monteleone is obviously taking dining seriously. It is a positive development, if a bit overdue.
Criollo is open seven days, for breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m., for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Call 681-4444 for more information.