$20 & UNDER: Thinking Inside the Box
Aug 14 2020

$20 & UNDER: Thinking Inside the Box

By: Kim Ranjbar

Like other service-oriented businesses, the restaurant industry has been slammed pretty hard due to the pandemic and resulting shutdowns. Though we inch ever closer to Phase Three, new breakouts and bad actors have business-owners struggling daily with the decision to allow dine-in, to offer only takeout and delivery, or to close their doors altogether. Even at 50-percent capacity, eateries still aren't pulling in enough to get out of the red. Some places are able to remain closed, holding their breath till "things get back to normal." Others are wading their way through the rigors of new regulations, opening for dine-in, takeout, and delivery. Then there are a few inspired entrepreneurs who are thinking "inside the box."

Instead of focusing solely on how to sell the experience they offered before the pandemic, some restaurants and cafés are taking advantage of their unique connections to farmers, fishermen, and artisanal local producers to offer mini farmers markets, where customers can box it up and take it all home. Not only are restaurants offering a physical space for these folks to sell their goods, they are, in a very real sense, offering customers the ingredients they need to recreate the restaurant experience in their own kitchens—or inspiration to come up with something completely different.

Thalia, the neighborhood restaurant that opened in the LGD last August, has been killing it with their weekly mini farmers market. Judging from the lines around the block, folks from all over the city have been flocking to the Saturday Thalia Market for blueberries from the Northshore from @2sistersberryfarm, hand-packed pints of cool, creamy bliss from @lucybooneicecream (her Northshore honey and brownie peanut butter flavors are guaranteed to delight), and small-batch kombucha and pickled goods from Ether Pickles & Ferments (@etherpicklesandferments). Fresh produce is also available from Paradigm Gardens or Laketilly Acres (or both). Viola's Heritage Breads (@viola_heritage_breads) is slinging baked goods, from rolls to cornbread and cookies, and, most recently, there are gorgeous Georgia peaches from The Peach Pelican. This weekly bounty is garnished with fresh pasta and other prepared goods from Thalia herself (a.k.a. Kristen Essig, Ana Castro, and team), plus locally made gifts from The GOOD Shop and handmade cloth masks from @muchgoodco.

Over on Broad Street at Coffee Science, purveyor Tom Oliver has taken the café to a whole new stratosphere, featuring an option to make groceries online. Through coffeesciencenola.com, customers can order a box of farm-fresh produce from Covey Rise in Husser, Louisiana; micro-greens from urban grower Laketilly Acres; or whole chickens and eggs from Greener Pastures out of Singer, Louisiana. Your dairy needs are covered with milk, yogurt, and Creole cream cheese from Mauthe's Progress Milk Barn in McComb, and why not throw in a jar of fig and lemon preserves created by Jamboree Jams (@jamboreejams) and a bar of dark milk chocolate from Piety & Desire, made right here in New Orleans? They also offer quarts of house-made gumbo, Bolognese, and etouffée. Oh, and by the way, Coffee Science also sells coffee! Add a pound of their special "Feed the Secondline" blend (part of the proceeds goes to the Krewe of Red Beans) to the cart, or 64 ounces of cold brew, and you're done. Best part? If you live in the area, you can have all this delivered right to your door.

Down on Jefferson Highway, the folks at Hippie Kitchen have taken a somewhat different tack with their restaurant market's offerings. All of the "grocery" items are made in-house, with ingredients sourced from everyone in the community. Herbs from neighborhood gardens are used almost as much as the vegetables ordered from Louisiana Fresh or the meats from Eunice Superette. Hippie Kitchen's executive chef and founder Harveen Khera leans towards vegan- and vegetarian-friendly foods, from her multi-grained bread and focaccia to apple butter, ketchup, and hummus, but certainly doesn't shy away from smoked and pulled pork, organic chicken salad, or cured salmon. Essentially deconstructing their menu, the neighborhood restaurant offers a large, rotating menu of sauces, curries, salads, prepared veggies, and baked goods, including their own pizza dough. Don't forget to get in on some of Khera's ice cream, such as mango coconut, vanilla cardamom, and "adult" flavors like mint vodka chip.

**Since the shutdowns began, chef/owner Jason Goodenough at Carrollton Market has persevered, selling swoon-worthy family meals for curbside pick-up—everything from fried chicken and dirty rice to lamb souvlaki and shrimp pad thai. In late May, when restrictions began to lift, the Riverbend restaurant opened for dine-in, with Friday- and Saturday-night prix-fixe tasting menus, and then, in early June, Carrollton Market kicked off its first, well, market. Along with heat-and-serve, grab-and-go, and ready-to-cook (like those crazy-big cinnamon rolls!) items for curbside, Goodenough was now offering pantry items, such as daily selections from St. James Cheese Co., Benton's Bacon by the half pound, Covey Rise local raw honey, Orleans Coffee Cold Brew, and fresh baguettes from Mayhew Bakery.

**Carrollton Market is currently closed for the month of August, but we're hoping to see them open again this fall!


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