Congratulations on surviving another Mardi Gras. You have lived through 12 strains of head cold, influenza, strep throat and some strange tingling in your foot that the doctors believe may be stemming from an undiagnosed neurological problem. Now it’s that small naptime between Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies and minds well. This year, start the spring cleaning with your best fork forward.
It looks like the type of location the Coen Brothers might film a botched homicide, the long bare strip mall in a gigantic cracked parking lot off the West Bank Expressway. You expect to find a skating rink or a bowling alley, but the destination is Pho Tau Bay, the beloved and unassuming Vietnamese restaurant with its own cult following. If chicken noodle soup is good for the soul, then Pho Tau Bay’s Pho Ga will take you to another level of enlightenment. Tender slabs of chicken bob about in thin rice noodles and light broth, which of course you can flavor with all your favorite accompaniments. Are rice noodles not your thing? I have certain friends who swear by the thicker tapioca noodle soup. And of course, there is the classic Pho Bo with meatballs and thin wisps of meat cooked to your liking. An ample selection of spring and summer rolls are perfect for sharing, and tons of vegetarian options are available. Best of all, most of the soups are under $7 a bowl, so you can save money for a personal trainer.
Located in a beautifully renovated building, Maurepas Foods is a classy addition to the Bywater. The dining area is composed of simple wooden tables and light chairs, warm orange walls and exposed wood. It is very clean with the freshly renovated feel reminiscent of the many restaurants that have opened up on Freret Street lately. While Freret Street has celebrated a foodie renaissance in the past year, it’s nice to see that the Bywater is also getting a taste of new, innovative restaurants and local food resources (Satsuma Café and The New Orleans Food Cooperative also round out the locavore friendly options). The menu features a selection of fresh, organic produce, meat and fish – all local. Simplicity prevails. An impressive cauliflower caponata with red onion, capers, pine nuts and roasted pepper is served on toasted baguette. Oysters on the half-shell are topped with a puréed mustard green vinaigrette, a silky and plump addition that adds a pleasantly refreshing sensation to the raw oyster without overpowering it. Accompanied by house-made toasted fennel crackers, these oysters are a surprisingly original concept for a city that hates to go without hot sauce and saltines or butter and a chargrill. Then there is the kimchi. If there is one reason to go to Maurepas Foods, go for the kimchi. Chef Michael Doyle (formerly of Dante’s Kitchen) is all about small, affordable plates of fresh food: Goat tacos with house-pickled green tomatoes and cilantro harissa, or sweet potato and peanut croquettes with salted plum jam, shiitake and amaro glaze. The flavors here are innovative and the menu defies categorization other than all-local and delicious. Not to mention that the sleek copper bar is manned by some of the city’s best mixologists, whom you’ll recognize from Sylvain and Eiffel Society. Cocktail nerds will be in abundance and that, too, is a nice addition to Bywater, otherwise known for various degrees of raucous dive bars. The best-named cocktails in town range from traditional Millionaire Juice (really a bourbon milk punch) to eccentric: This Little Piggy features bacon bourbon, amaro, damarara and heering. You may have to be a “Jeopardy” champion to know what’s in the drink, but it will go down fast anyway, whereas Maurepas Foods should last for a long time.
City Greens | 909 Poydras St. | Suite 125 | 524-2822
Maurepas Foods | 3200 Burgundy | 267-0072 | MaurepasFoods.com
Pho Tau Bay | 113 West Bank Expressway | Suite C | 368-9846
For lunch hour in the CBD, the new City Greens features light, fresh options with a variety of salads, soups and wraps. Take out a watermelon and cucumber salad in an eco-friendly to-go container, so both you and the environment can feel healthier.