New Food Co-op and Fatoush Restaurant

The New Orleans Food Co-op opened its doors this week at 2372 St. Claude Ave. in the Marigny. It's located in the New Orleans Healing Center, which also houses a yoga studio, green business incubator, healing arts collective, performance hall, interfaith center and a restaurant I'll discuss below. The market is still in the process of stocking things, but so far it looks good. It reminds me of nothing so much as the early days of the Whole Foods market location on Esplanade Avenue, or perhaps a more sophisticated version of the old Eve's Market Uptown.

There's a decent selection of produce, much of it local, and an impressive bulk food section where you can find nuts, grains, and legumes. The market is still working on sourcing meat, but at the moment you can pick up beef from Gonsoulin Land and Cattle in New Iberia. The market will also source beef, lamb, and chicken from Justin Pitts, who is a favorite at local farmer's markets, and local seafood from Inland Seafood.

The middle aisles of any grocery are where you'll find canned goods, dried beans, pastas, oils, cleaning products and the like. The co-op is no different, except that unlike Winn-Dixe or Rouse's, just about everything here is organic, green or some combination of the two.

There's still some work to do; the salad bar and soup station is unfinished as I write, and the dairy section is about to expand dramatically. But as things stand, and having been open less than a week, the co-op is already a viable grocery. Given the passion that the folks running the show have displayed, I'd expect only improvements in the future.

I've had one meal at Fatoush, a Turkish restaurant that shares space (and the 2372 St. Claude Ave. address) with the Co-op in the Healing Center, and while it has not yet started its full service, I'm convinced it's the most promising Middle Eastern restaurant to open in New Orleans in years. I base that statement on, admittedly, little evidence: a single falafel sandwich. But it was one hell of a sandwich. The falafel were light; crisped brown on the exterior and pale green inside. They were served with a yogurt sauce, thinly sliced tomatoes and lettuce between slices of a house-made bread that sets Fatoush apart from similar restaurants. It's a leavened bread, like pita, but without the pocket. Topped with black and white sesame seeds, it's known in Turkey as pide ekmeği. Or so Google tells me. Whatever it's called, the fact that it's baked in-house is an indication that they're taking things seriously at Fatoush.

Another indication is the gyro. It's not processed meat at Fatoush; they put slices of lamb and grass-fed beef onto the rotating skewer, letting it cook slowly before shaving it thinly for sandwiches. While patrons of the Lebanese and Palestinian restaurants that have dominated that corner of the ethnic market in New Orleans will recognize much of the food at Fatoush, the upcoming dinner menu also has Turkish dishes such as Piyaz (white bean salad with tahini, olive oil and garlic), Cacik (cold yogurt soup), Guvech (a vegetarian stew), and Iskender kabob (thinly sliced lamb with tomato sauce) that may not be as familiar. 

The restaurant doubles as a coffee shop, and currently serves breakfast in addition to lunch. Fatoush is open from 6:30 to 10, and I'm told that the dinner menu will be available this week. Call 371-5074 to find out more.

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