It can be easy to forget that the French Quarter is a neighborhood. Not a normal one, but a neighborhood nonetheless. As such, it has a neighborhood’s needs, like a place to relax without yard-long beers or novelty shirts. Leave it to the LeBlanc + Smith Restaurant Group to come up with solutions. They’ve carved out an identity by opening places designed to appeal to locals through thoughtful approaches to both food and spirits. Meauxbar and Sylvain are two examples. To this you can now add Longway, their latest offering.
Housed in one of the Quarter’s oldest buildings just a few steps off Bourbon, Longway benefits from a respectfully contemporary redesign that opens into a spacious courtyard. Liam Deegan handles the bar side of the equation, while Chef John Sinclair handles the kitchen. Both worked together at Barrel Proof prior to Longway and bring their chemistry into this new endeavor.
Sinclair has fine dining chops – he has worked at both Herbsaint and Coquette – and while those skills are evident the approach is more casual. “Like a lot of people, some of my favorite dining experiences have not been at a crazy-expensive restaurant but at a picnic table with friends. We want it to be that kind of comfortable place,” he says. For Sinclair, it boils down to using familiar elements as starting points then branching out into components that stretch expectations. The menu is gently shaped by the shared New England backgrounds of both Sinclair and Deegan. For example, the fried calamari comes with charred lemon and blistered grape tomatoes in an elevated play on its more traditional accompaniments. “I know Liam would have preferred a paper basket, lemon wedge and side of marinara, but I couldn’t leave it at that,” Sinclair adds.
Try the radishes and butter, a simple dish that is salty, spicy, fatty and crunchy all at once. The home fries, cubed potatoes studded with pork belly chunks and caramelized onions, is a crowd pleaser and easy to share. For sandwiches, the chicken layers flavors with a silky chicken mousse to complement the chopped thigh meat. There is also a Wagyu beef sandwich made with flank steak from the heritage breed. “Liam didn’t want a burger on the menu and I was totally on board with that, so we came up with this as an alternative,” Sinclair says.
Longway’s menu emphasizes sharing, and toward this end they employ a clever method by which diners fill out a card for their table’s order, akin to what you’d find at a sushi restaurant. It also has the added bonus of speeding up service. The card also has a check box for “One of Everything,” an easy option for larger groups.
As you might expect given this restaurant group’s portfolio, the cocktails at Longway are top-notch. “Liam’s approach is pretty clean and simple. He’s not a crazy ‘We’re making our own bitters!’ kind of guy,” Sinclair says. “He wants classics that are made well with the right ingredients. They are classics for a reason, right?” There is an emphasis on cocktails like the Sazerac and the Old Fashioned. While the drinks are not necessarily paired with the menu, both Deegan and Sinclair have a feel for each other’s styles having worked together at Barrel Proof.
Longway is a good choice for late-night dining with the kitchen open every night until midnight. They serve lunch (it’s the same menu as dinner) Friday through Sunday as well.
For suds aficionados, Port Orleans Brewing Company offers an impressively broad selection of proprietary brews on tap in their showcase brewpub on Tchoupitoulas Street. Beers are complemented with a menu including pretzel rolls made with spent grain from the brewing process and fish and chips with a Vietnamese twist (Nuoc Cham in lieu of malt vinegar).
MEET THE CHEF
Chef John Sinclair hails from Connecticut where he was admittedly not a particularly motivated high school student. He caught the cooking bug while working for the Boy Scouts in their Order of the Arrow program, where he did demos that emphasized how to easily cook healthier and better meals while camping. From there he enrolled in a culinary program before moving to New Orleans. He gained fine dining experience at Herbsaint and Coquette (as well as its spinoff pop-up Little Bird) and also worked as a bar back at Barrel Proof – perfect experience for his new, greatly expanded role with Longway Tavern.
Longway Tavern, 719 Toulouse St., French Quarter, 962-9696. D Nightly. L Fri-Sun. Longwaytavern.com