A collection of neighborhoods collide near the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Magazine Street, where the Irish Channel, the Garden District and Coliseum Square shatter into a streetscape of awkward diagonals and one-way streets. Fittingly, the dining options here are as eclectic as the indie boutiques that pepper this stretch of lower Magazine. And along with the established players comes a host of newcomers that add additional dimensions to the mix.
District Donuts Sliders and Brew opened in mid-October and shares a common wall with Stein’s Deli. Their Vietnamese iced coffee doughnuts are filled with condensed milk pastry cream and black tapioca pearls, then topped with coffee glaze and chicory powder. Their French toast doughnuts are stuffed with maple-mascarpone cream and have macerated strawberries and candied brown sugar crumbles spooned over the top. This all sounds daring, I know. And these are just a few of the addictive premium doughnuts you’ll find here.
A trio of partners put the project together. Aaron Vogel, Chris Audler and Stephen Cali were tossing around ideas for places that would add value to the neighborhood and provide it with something new. Among them was a donut shop. “We wanted to do a craft-style donut place where they were made from scratch all day long,” says co-owner Vogel. “And when we found this space we fell in love with it and then we tailored our concept around it.”
They had a lot of work ahead. Previously a retail establishment, when they first walked in it was brick walls and a cement floor. They ran a hood up three stories, had to tear up some of the cement slab to run gas pipes and add air handling. Vogel tapped a 23-year-old friend and NOCCA grad to build out the sign, cabinets, bar, tables and chairs. The result is a space with a “farmhouse industrial feel” – lots of warm and dark colors and wood throughout but with the mechanical stuff exposed.
Once they’d zeroed in on doughnuts, the rest of the concept fell into place. Recognizing that doughnuts would not capture lunch and dinner, they settled on sliders to keep the seats filled. Along with the basic burger sliders, they offer a vegetarian version (recently lemongrass tofu dressed with Bibb lettuce) and a few specialty options, like a pork belly slider and one with oxtail and a horseradish cream sauce.
Coffee was a natural complement to their doughnuts. 1000 Faces Coffee out of Athens, Ga., supplies their beans. They have a finely tuned coffee program differentiated with a couple of unique concoctions, in particular their Nitro cold brewed iced coffee on tap, which is kegged and shot through with nitrogen, resulting in a head that cascades downward similar to Guinness Stout. Chocolate milk on tap and high-quality Maine Root soda round out the drinks.
Finally, don’t let the “brew” in their name throw you off – they don’t have a liquor license and it is BYOB but they offer a speed-chiller for bottles and Stein’s Deli next door offers a tremendous range of quality beers. And for the truly broke, Jewel Food Store is nearby.
A block down from District Donuts and Sliders is Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. A welcome addition to an underrepresented cuisine in New Orleans, Nile offers a menu roughly split between tibs (sautéed dishes) and wots (saucy, stew-like options). Both are served with injera, a slightly sour, spongy flatbread that doubles as a utensil. Traditionally diners tear off bits and use it to scoop up portions of the dishes, but flatware is offered as well.
Nile also offers vegetarians an array of complexly seasoned items, buttressing another underserved niche in the local dining scene. To sample a selection of the multifaceted options, try the yetsom beyaynetu, which offers a cross section of most of the vegetarian options. These include a beet salad as well as a curried vegetable stew. Also good is the gomen, a soul food-like dish of stewed greens spiced with hot peppers. Carnivores will enjoy the key wot, a lamb stew cooked in berbere sauce – a cornerstone seasoning blend of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil and fenugreek, among other spices. A beef version is offered as well. The clean, spacious restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license, but offers a BYOB policy.
The owners of newcomer HiVolt, a block past where Magazine Street splits into a one-way street, did a terrific job with their build-out, renovating a long-vacant building into a modernist hangout with distinct ovoid windows and a mid-century modernist vibe. Admittedly more of a coffee shop than a restaurant, it does offer a shortlist of creative vegetarian and gluten-free offerings, along with a token meat dish, to complement its high-octane coffee program. The menu breaks down along toast, breakfast and sandwich options, as well as pastries from a small case. Some creative choices include their PBC&J (peanut butter, coconut shavings and fresh-sliced jalapeño) and their ATO (avocado, tomato, onion and walnut oil). A roast beef sandwich is on there to assuage carnivores, and a short list of smoothies, soups and salads round out the fare. Bellegarde Bakery provides the bread.
But the focus here should really be on the coffee. Beans are sourced from Counter Culture Coffee out of Atlanta, and extractions are done in a number of ways. Along with the usual array of espresso-based drinks, they do pour over – my personal favorite way to get to know a bean. If available, try an Ethiopian with its naturally distinct blueberry notes. A couple of interesting cold-drip preparations are offered, most notably the Oji Drip that comes from a centerpiece extraction contraption that looks a bit like a steampunk grandfather clock.
3 Newly Notables
District Donuts Sliders and Brew
2209 Magazine St. | 570-6945
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
Nile Ethiopian Cuisine
2130 Magazine St. | 281-0859
Lunch and dinner daily
1829 Sophie Wright Place| 324-8818
Breakfast, lunch and light dinner Mondays through Fridays; breakfast and lunch on Sundays
In the Neighborhood
Neighborhood favorite Stein’s Deli is arguably the best New York-style deli in the city and has a synergistic relationship with District Donuts and Sliders – lots of patrons buy beer at the former to drink at the later. A pair of Vietnamese establishments (Lilly and Pho Noi Viet) tempt with their fragrant pho. Finally, offbeat dessert and wrap destination Honeydeaux offers shaved ice concoctions, bubble tea and healthy smoothies.