What change three decades can bring. As a college student I was the assistant manager of La Casa & The Garden Pottery, a funky, upscale home furnishings store at Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue. La Casa was a rarity. Pretty much everything else on the street was either an antique store or a bar. The only restaurants I remember are Bouligny, on Magazine at Marengo streets and Joey K’s. When La Casa closed at 6 p.m., I locked the door, raced to my car and took off. The neighborhood was flat out dangerous. I recall a hostage situation at a grocery store. The streets were empty at night.
Magazine Street has evolved to be a source of pride with world-class privately owned boutiques of every ilk and an array of bars and restaurants that keep the street buzzing at all hours.
Craving a picnic in Audubon Park? Send in your order to Picnic Provisions & Whiskey and they’ll deliver your meal to you under your favorite tree. A good time is to be had in their colorful dining room at the corner of Magazine and State streets. Consider the Smoked Fish Dip with house-made saltines; Pimento Cheese with roasted chilies; Crawfish Boil Hot Fried Chicken; and Campfire Cookie Dough S’mores, an irresistible combination of chocolate chip cookie dough, Butterfinger pieces, broken pretzels, crushed potato chips and torched marshmallows.
Head down the street a few blocks to Saba, chef Alon Shaya’s contemporary homage to his Israeli heritage, where he cooks his ethereal pita bread in a wood-burning oven, and turns out the creamiest hummus imaginable and tops it with every decadent ingredient he can get his hands on. A recent visit brought lumps of jumbo lump crabmeat, roasted corn, lemon butter and mint. The marinated Lamb Kebabs are served with charred scallions, pea purée and pine nuts, while the juicy, perfectly charred Hanger Steak is flavored with zesty muhammara, charred peppers and fresh herbs. Family meals meant for passing are also offered.
At Apolline, chef Michael Shelton offers his contemporary Creole brunch menu Tuesdays through Sundays. Before the dinner rush starts, what must be one of the greatest happy hours ever ensues: Tuesdays-Fridays, 5-6 p.m. offers $2 mimosas, $4 beer, $5 glasses of house wine and $6 classic cocktails. Small plates – think chicken poutine for $6, or a trio of plump charbroiled oysters topped with caramelized leeks, bacon marmalade and Pecorino, also for $6.
Perhaps the longest running restaurant on the street, New York Pizza offers the thin crust New York is known for with a French-style dough for a bit of New Orleans flair. For the ultimate bargain head in for the Pint and a Slice Special: $5 for a slice with one toping and a choice of six beers – mainstream, craft and imported – on draft.
Mahoney’s has grown to two locations from its original Magazine Street outpost where the line is usually out the door. Both the Buffalo Oysters and the Buffalo Shrimp are out-of-control good, topping friend specimens with a piquant Crystal Buffalo sauce and creamy bleu cheese dressing. A large oyster poor boy is pricey at $20.95, but large enough to satisfy two. The lunch combo is a relative bargain at $10.95 when 14 different sandwiches are offered with a soda and a bag of Zapp’s chips.
Catch up with the beautiful youths at Little Korea BBQ when they pack the place on Friday and Saturday nights. You save not a cent occupying a table with a built in grill to cook your own meat as opposed to having the kitchen do it for you, but that seems to be a thing for the college set. Check out the crispy KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) Wings, Japche (sweet potato starch noodles with vegetables, tofu and/or beef); or one of the many meat platters on offer.
Magazine Street, you’ve come a long way.
Apolline, 4729 Magazine St., 894-8881, ApollineRestaurant.com
Little Korea BBQ, 2240 Magazine St., 821-5006, LittleKoreaBBQ.flavorplate.com
Mahoney’s Po-Boys & Seafood, 3454 Magazine St., 899-3374, MahoneysPoboys.com
New York Pizza, 4418 Magazine St., 891-2376, NewYorkPizzaNola.com
Picnic Provisions & Whiskey, 741 State St. (corner of Magazine Street), 266-2810, NolaPicnic.com
Saba, 5757 Magazine St., 324-7770, EatWithSaba.com