For a few years, it’s seemed like the number of restaurants in New Orleans couldn’t possibly keep growing. Many restaurateurs to whom I’ve spoken, all experienced and knowledgeable about the industry, have told me that increasing rents and a saturated market meant the growth wasn’t sustainable.
And yet while there have been some closures, restaurants keep opening. I don’t know if we’re in a bubble, but I do know that it’s a good time to be a diner in the Crescent City. Here are a few restaurants that have opened recently, or which are on the cusp. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and if I’ve covered a place recently (Freret Beer Room, for example), I’m not going to discuss it here.
Mike Gowland, or “Fireman Mike,” as he’s also known, has one of those outsized personalities that is difficult to dislike. It’s one reason he’s been featured on televisions shows, and it’s at least partly why he and his wife have been successful in the restaurant world. Until earlier this year, you could find chef Gowland at Rocksy’s, in Fat City, but recently he has opened Toula’s Nola Bistro, at 109 Tchoupitoulas street, near Canal.
Chef Gowland’s focus is on comfort food and big flavors, executed with flair – crawfish beignets stuffed with jalapenos, corn, roasted pepper and Cheddar, and served with a white remoulade; alligator sauce piquant in a spicy tomato gravy; Cajun Cordon Bleu pizza, with Chisesi ham, chicken cooked with Crystal hot sauce, andouille creamed spinach, Swiss and Monterey jack cheese are examples of Toula’s menu.
Soon chef Gowland will introduce his Cake Bar concept, which will combine both savory and sweet small plates with cocktails, including some made with New Orleans coffee. Chef Gowland’s wife, Deidre, bakes cakes that, like Mike’s food, are old-school in form, but with interesting twists. It should be a neat concept.
You can call 504-571-5599 to find out more about Toula’s, or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Chef Phillip Lopez is shortly opening two food outlets in the Troubadour Hotel, at 1111 Gravier St., in the CBD. Petit Lion will be a semi-casual bistro modeled after neighborhood restaurants in Paris. On the hotel’s rooftop, the chef is opening Monkey Board, which will serve Lopez’ take on street food.
The move towards casual dining may surprise those only familiar with Lopez’s first two restaurants, Root and Square Root, both of which are more sophisticated, and the latter of which focuses on lengthy, fixed price tasting menus. But even when Lopez’s cooking is at its most inventive, at heart he’s simply updating simple dishes, and his focus has always been on food that tastes good. There’s no better example of this than Part & Parcel, the fantastic sandwich shop Lopez opened at 611 O’Keefe avenue in the South Market District earlier this year.
I have high expectations for Petit Lion and Monkey Board, and will certainly be covering both in more detail in the future.
Chef Michael Gullotta is another chef who has a background in fine-dining, and whose most recent restaurants, MoPho and Tana at Treo, are more casual. MoPho is Gullotta’s take on Vietnamese food, and Tana has a grounding in Italian cuisine. His next venture, which should open in the next several weeks, is Maypop, which will be located in the Paramount apartments in the space formerly occupied by Ursa Major.
At MoPho, the emphasis is on the eponymous soup, noodles, rolls and banh mi sandwiches, but Gullotta has always run more ambitious dishes as specials. Those specials have been some of the highlights at MoPho, and they’re going to form the basis of the menu at Maypop, which will also expand the regional focus beyond Viet Nam into other regions of Southeast Asia. As with Petit Lion and Monkey Board, look for more coverage of Maypop soon.
Let me know if you’ve been to a new restaurant recently, and what you thought, in the comments.