The Rich Aroma of Opportunity
A look at current hot spots for culinary growth
New Orleans has found itself in the midst of a renaissance, and one of the most visible signs of transformation is the recent flowering of local restaurants. Naturally, this has occurred in the usual places: the French Quarter, the Warehouse District and along Magazine Street. But Oak Street and the stretch of Freret Street between Jefferson and Napoleon avenues are also suddenly brimming with new restaurants.
Where else might serve as the next land of opportunity for new restaurants? Here are a few possibilities.
Lakeview: A Steady Forward March
It takes two hands to count the number of new restaurants that have opened in Lakeview during the past couple of years. Another Broken Egg handles breakfast duties. Brisbi’s and the Blue Crab do seafood at the Lakefront. Cava brings another fine dining option to Harrison Avenue. The Backyard provides a kid-friendly option. Ming’s offers Chinese.
These are just a few of the new restaurants that have opened since Katrina, joining some revived neighborhood standbys, all whose prospects are enhanced by the disposable income of local residents and their tendency to stay within the self-contained atmosphere of the area. It’s also worth noting that, according to Realtor.com, 70124 was the third most-searched ZIP code in the U.S. in 2014.
The O.C. Haley Comet
Back before Katrina, when Café Reconcile opened, it was hard to imagine that the ramshackle O.C. Haley corridor would become a shiny destination for gourmands. The street is now home to Casa Borrega Mexican restaurant, Jack & Jake’s Public Market, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and Purloo Southern Cuisine. Adolfo Garcia’s new, meat-centric Primitivo and a multi-vendor food court called Roux Carré are on the way. Also in the area is Colombian restaurant Mais Arepas, on Carondelet.
The rising fortunes of the neighborhood and new developments, such as the Harrell Building, give venues in this part of Central City a growing, built-in audience.
Rampart and St. Claude
Change is coming rapidly to the ride down Rampart and St. Claude. Some might remember this once-forlorn commercial strip as the home of poor-boy joints, Peristyle, a few old-school charmers like the late Restaurant Mandich … and not much else. Gradually, the area is taking on a more voguish feel, with developments like the Healing Center and the culinary conglomerate at the St. Roch Market. A certain non-controversial Cuban restaurant chain named Café Habana will soon be joining the scene, and you’ll be able to get there on a pretty new streetcar. The renovation of St. Roch and other developments in the neighborhood, including a planned new hotel/condo development on Rampart, should bolster the growing customer base.
New Orleans East is Hungry
New Orleans East is vast and home to roughly one-fifth of the city’s population, but its days as a commercial hub – when people drove far out of their way to visit the sprawling Lake Forest Plaza mall – are gone. Residents today feel underserved, and that’s no truer than when it comes to meals. Still, there’s plenty of upside if you like Vietnamese food, with old-country stalwarts such as Dong Phuong serving some of the most authentic stuff in town. There are also those restaurants that take advantage of the east’s proximity to the catch of the day – such as Vucinovich’s on Michoud or Castnet Seafood on Hayne. But if the clamoring of residents is any indication, there’s plenty of room for new entries.
Peter Reichard is a native New Orleanian who has written about the life and times of the city for more than 20 years, including as a former newspaper editor and business journalist.