In an upcoming issue of New Orleans Magazine, I’ll be covering Stokehold, the restaurant in the recently-opened brewery Port Orleans, but my visit there was fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d share a few things here as well. First, this is not “bar food.” Yes, Stokehold is in a brewery tap room, but the three chefs behind Stokehold have fine-dining experience and put it to good use.
The chefs are Jeremy Wolgamott, Phillip Mariano and Tim Bordes, and they’re having a great time coming up with and cooking the menu at Stokehold. They told me that in most cases they start by tasting a beer Port Orleans’ chief brewer, Brian Allen, comes up with, and then bounce ideas off each other until they have a dish to complement the brew.
In other cases, the genesis of a dish is a happy accident. Mariano was already making fresh corn tortillas for “Goulachos” (tortilla chips fried to order and topped with Bavarian-style goulash), and the chefs were using them to scoop up another menu item – roast beef tartare – during the day as they worked. It wasn’t long before the beef (Wagyu, to be precise) tacos appeared on the menu.
There are desserts available as well, and two are paired with beers – the caramel cannoli with the Slack Water brown ale, and the lemon pound cake with an IPA. Mariano said the brown ale tastes almost like a chocolate milkshake when eaten with the cannoli. It’s the sort of experience you can expect at Stokehold, by which I mean a pleasant surprise.
That was certainly my reaction when I tasted the pretzel rolls made with spent grain from the brewing process and served over a Cheddar cheese sauce. They’re light, with a slightly crisp exterior and fluffy inside. When I tasted one, I was sitting with Mariano and Bordes, and my response was, “holy sh*t!” It’s a response they’d heard before.
When I saw the menu at Stokehold, I was surprised by how inventive it was. I shouldn’t have been, of course, because I was familiar with the food Wolgamott, Mariano and Bordes were capable of putting out. Still, it’s not the sort of stuff you expect at a brewery. It’s absolutely a casual place; there’s a patty melt on the menu, as well as fish and chips, but the patty is made of Wagyu, and the “chips” are twice-cooked, smashed fingerling potatoes.
Stokehold and Port Orleans are open every day but Tuesday, from 11 a.m. until around 10 p.m. during the week, and later on Friday and Saturday. You can find them at 4124 Tchoupitoulas St., a few blocks on the downtown side of Napoleon.