The Next Generation
A healthy crop of cafés and boutique shops continues to blossom in New Orleans. Encouragingly, they are often the realization of efforts by young locals looking to be a part of the rebuilding process. First time small business owners like Madison Curry of Il Posto Italian Café on Dryades Street and Tiffany Wallace of Lucky You! Candy Company on Magazine Street, have stepped up follow their bliss. Here’s to hoping that they flourish in the year ahead.
Il Posto Italian Café
For Madison Curry, the experience of managing a small café near Gramercy Park in Manhattan kindled a desire to own a place of her own. While visiting home at Christmas, an empty building on Dryades Street with big windows and an attractive overhang continually caught her eye. “I just thought that it would make a really cute café,” she said. After the storm she came home with the idea of opening her own business as part of the recovery. “Then this building came on the market, and I decided that it was a sign,” she said.
In Il Posto she envisioned a neighborhood place that would attract a lot of regulars. The big windows let in lots of natural light, and the nook of a dining room provides a cozy space perfect for a sandwich or coffee. Though open until 8 pm most nights, it has more of the feel of a daytime destination. “I purchase my coffee from my old bosses in New York,” Madison says. “They take their coffee very seriously and do a really nice job.” Other treats from New York include H&H Bagels.
A specialty here is the pressed panini sandwiches. The Classic Prosciutto features prosciutto San Daniel and fresh mozzarella with basil pesto on ciabatta. Served with a simple green salad tossed in a lemon and herb vinaigrette, this makes for a very satisfying (and healthy) lunch. Those wanting more assertive flavors will enjoy the pressed Adventure sandwich, made with Gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and honey.
The café’s location along a sleepy stretch of Dryades Street reinforces its feel of a neighborhood destination. Parking is easy and the atmosphere is relaxed. “This side of St. Charles didn’t really have any like this—a convenient place to go and get a sandwich,” she says. “I like this location and know the neighborhood because it is my mom’s neighborhood. Now this is my neighborhood, too.”
Lucky You! Candy Company
Stepping into the Lucky You! Candy Company on Magazine Street is a transformative experience. Sweets from childhood that appear on the shelves awaken memories of being a kid again. The shop is loaded with an assemblage of sweet treats, many imported and impossible to find elsewhere, along with candy-related delivery vehicles such as piñatas. (One Tiki statue version was particularly tempting.)
Here is a shop that reflects the personality of its own, Tiffany Wallace. But her childlike enthusiasm belies her sincerity and real-world work experience. With a background in food and beverage, retail, and a hospitality and tourism management degree from UNO, a candy shop made for the perfect complement to these skill sets. After Hurricane Katrina displaced her family from Lakeview, she found herself asking them what was going to happen to the city.
“I kept asking them, ‘Y’all, who is going to rebuild?’” Wallace recalls. “The answer finally dawned on me: It is me and my friends and our generation that are going to have to pitch in and help do this.”
Tiffany then set out to find something she could offer New Orleans, to see what kind of niche she could fill. She remembered when Jackson Brewery opened when she was a kid and how exiting it was on the upper floor, where bulk candy was sold. “I had other great associations with candy, like going to the beach and getting saltwater taffy. And one day I asked myself, ‘Where is the candy in this town?’” She traveled and did research at places like Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City, but eventually found her greatest inspiration in the mom-and-pop penny candy stores that dotted New Jersey.
Tiffany’s current “Top Five” treats includes the butter popcorn jelly bellies, peppermint saltwater taffy, a selection of one of the gummy candies (she is partial to the Peachy Penguins), and the Curley Wurley candy bar from the English division of Cadbury’s. Rounded out with one of her novelty Grillz Candy and you will have, in Tiffany’s words, “the quintessential Lucky You! experience.”
Located just a few blocks off the parade route, Tiffany is also gearing up for Mardi Gras crowds with an old-fashioned popcorn machine and fresh-spun cotton candy. For Carnival riders, she is offering cases of candy necklaces suitable for throws at a discount.
Future plans to expand the shop include converting the backyard into the Mad Hatter Tea Garden for use as a party space. Plans include a staffed grilled-to-order quesadilla station along with a build-your-own milkshake bar, featuring blend-ins from the shop like Gummy Sharks, Pop Rocks and Lemon Heads.
Corbin Does Dinner
Chef Corbin Evans, formerly of Lulu’s in the Garden, has partnered with the St. James Cheese Company to offer dinner on Thursday evenings. His menu changes each time, but is always built around whatever is fresh, seasonal and available from the Farmers Market. Evans’ efforts are complemented by a selection of cheeses chosen by St. James proprietor Richard Sutton. Reservations are required and guests are invited to BYOB.
The savory hot and sour soup at La Thai on Prytania Street is just the thing to warm you up on a cold February day.
Sweet, Salty and Sour!
Il Posto Café
4607 Dryades St.
La Thai Uptown
4938 Prytania St.
Lucky You! Candy Company
4505 Magazine St.
St. James Cheese Company
5004 Prytania St.