Saying the last several months have challenged restaurants to adapt would be an understatement. Some became mini-groceries and others battened down the hatches to wait things out. Others have been lost entirely. Alison Vega, the chef and owner of Station 6, was deliberate regarding how she brought her Bucktown seafood outpost back online. “Our first menu was for to-go orders,” she said. “It was only items that could travel well and I tested them to be sure.” The menu was defined by that criteria – favorites like her Mama’s Crab Casserole didn’t make the cut, as sizzling hot skillets don’t travel well. The resulting operation was streamlined, with simpler inventory and more efficient cost controls to weather the storm.
As restrictions eased, Station 6 was able to leverage its abundant outside seating to bring customers safely back into the fold. At press time, its comfortable, fan-cooled al fresco tables could accommodate more than 40 diners. With the help of PPP, Vega brought back her core kitchen and front of house crew and has had success in operating a new hybrid largely outdoor seating and takeout model. “Also, people are drinking a lot these days so the bar sales are incredible,” she added.
Station 6 is known for its seafood. Vega has a connection – her husband works for a top-notch seafood purveyor – and she is also a partner in Cajun Caviar, a local women-owned bowfin caviar company. Grounded in quality sourcing, the restaurant’s hallmark is skillfully executed dishes using quality ingredients without pretension or fuss; it is a white-tablecloth experience served in a shorts-friendly casual Bucktown setting.
Start with Ali’s Wedge, a creative play on a wedge salad that swaps the iceberg for an array of smaller little gem wedges instead. It comes loaded with their house-smoked bacon, pickled red onion and tomato then topped with a bleu cheese dressings. Dress it up with some shrimp for a few dollars more.
Seafood sits at the heart of the menu. If it is available, order the softshell crab, a defining dish topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and a beurre blanc sauce with its namesake perched atop a bed of garlicky Brabant potatoes. “I only use egg whites for the batter – which makes it especially light and crispy,” Vega said. “And that ‘crab on crab’ thing was my husband’s idea.”
Blackened drum makes for an assertively seasoned alternative choice, its heat undercut with its buttery Sauce Delery, a variation on beurre blanc originally concocted by her father that features fresh herbs like oregano and thyme. A newer dish which has proven popular is charbroiled redfish on the half shell. With skin and scales intact on one side, the filet is charred on the grill and finished in the oven with an aromatic compound butter. The advantage to this technique (and also an old fisherman’s trick) allows the meat to stay moist throughout the cooking process.
Station 6 is family friendly as well, with a kid’s menu and also green space on the levee for them to explore during dinner, making it fit right in with the Bucktown vibe. Which, in short, is what you will find at Station 6 – fine dining cred with casual comfort and laid-back style.
ABOUT THE CHEF
Alison Vega is a New Orleanian who made a name for herself with the ‘ain’t dere no more’ Vega’s Tapas on Metairie Road. During a long stint in Antigua with her husband Drew and their sons, the duo owned The Larder, a gourmet-to-go outpost on the Caribbean Isle. Returning to New Orleans so their sons could attend high school and college saw the launch of Station 6, her seafood-centric outpost which backs up against Lake Pontchartain’s levee in historic Bucktown.
Station 6, 105 Metairie Hammond Highway, Bucktown; 345-2936. Station6nola.com
Another seafood stalwart with tons of al fresco seating to consider is Middendorf’s in Pass Manchac. This original location offers far more character then their rather nondescript location in Slidell. Fresh local seafood including their signature thin fried catfish is served across a sprawling array of decks and outdoor seating with plenty of stuff for kids to explore.