Arbor eats … Southern brasserie and bar Laurel Oak opened recently inside the new Magnolia Hotel on Gravier Street Downtown. Chef and restaurateur Troy Guard was tapped to consult on the Central Business District restaurant and worked closely with Executive Chef Wesley Rabalais to develop the menu. Rabalais is known for working in local kitchens, like the now-defunct Kenton's and French Quarter favorite Brennan's. With a design concept inspired by nature and a focus on local ingredients, Laurel Oak offers classic New Orleans dishes, such as BBQ Shrimp, hush puppies, and a fried green tomato sandwich. They also feature Benton's ham tartine; a Gulf seafood roll with remoulade; and jerk-spiced duck with a cauliflower soubise (onion cream sauce), peanut dukkah, and baked Sea Island red peas. 535 Gravier St., (504) 527-0006, laureloakrestaurant.com
You'll never want to leave … A new sushi spot just opened up on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview. Lotus Bistro is touted as "a hip-trendy Japanese restaurant and sushi bar," with chefs Dylan Owens and Edgar Cervantes leading in the kitchen. The menu offers a wide variety of Japanese cuisine, from teriyaki, ramen, and katsu to sushi and hibachi. Lotus is open every day for lunch and dinner, except Monday. 203 W. Harrison Ave., (504) 533-9879, lotusbistronola.com
Let's do lunch! … Riverbend bakery Maple Street Patisserie added an Italian lunch menu recently, in addition to its daily breads, pastries, and cakes. Lunch items include pizza, meatball Parmesan, and chicken Parmesan sandwiches. Owners Patricia Donohue and Chef Ziggy Cichowski were inspired to introduce their new grab-n-go menu after a recent trip to Italy. Maple Street Patisserie is open Tuesday through Sunday. 7638 Maple St., (504) 304-1526, maplestreetpatisserie.com
Mash-up… Making the leap from festival-food vendor to brick-and-mortar, Ajun Cajun recently opened up on Oak Street. Taking over the space formerly occupied by Ninja Sushi, this so-named fusion spot is owned by local sushi chef Momo Young and is offering dishes like a Yakiniku po-boy with garlic ribeye, pepper shrimp po-boy, fried seafood platters, ramen, donburi, and udon. 8433 Oak St., (504) 866-7077, ajuncajun.com
Upstairs, downstairs … Almost a year after opening in the French Quarter, Jewel of the South has launched an upstairs dining room, leaving the ground floor for a more casual approach and a new name: The Grove. Partners Chris Hannah, Nick Detrich, and John Stubbs have at last fully realized their plans for this St. Louis Street bar and restaurant with The Grove, an intimate cocktail lounge with tapas-like bites, downstairs; and the Jewel, a more formal dining room, upstairs. "It was always our plan to open a multi-story dining and drinking destination with something for everyone," says Detrich. "It's been a year-long process, and we're really excited it's finally come to fruition." Chef Philip Whitmarsh will be flaunting his culinary skills in the upstairs dining room and tree-lined courtyard, while Hannah will oversee the cocktail program downstairs. 1026 St. Louis St., (504) 265-8816, jewelnola.com
Lilting libations … Inspired by the building's roots as a center for "1920s Vaudeville and Dixie Bohemia," a new bar and live-music venue dubbed the Double Dealer has opened up underneath the Orpheum Theater. This basement-level "speakeasy" pays homage to the city's "vibrant counterculture and love affair with all things debaucherous." Named after an influential literary journal from the 1900s, the Double Dealer offers a main bar with creative libations, a VIP room with a lounge-like environment, the Poker Room (which offers poker, obviously), and the Green Room, which features a stage that plays host to everything from musicians and burlesque to magicians, sword-swallowers, and more. 129 Roosevelt Way, (504) 300-0212, doubledealernola.com
So sad to see you go …
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view, nothing ever stays the same. As anything else in life, some things remain nearly the same, yet others go by the wayside. Most recently, the restaurant industry has seen some unfortunate closures, but we're always hopeful the proprietors will have plans for their horizons.
First off, Aglio, a deli and bar in the South Market District, was forced to close after almost three years in business. Reopened by Mike Mericle and Marie Guevara-former employees of Chef Philip Lopez, who originally opened the neighborhood spot as Part & Parcel-the eatery featured house-cured meats and homemade pickles, signature cocktails, and, most recently, a brunch. They'll be missed!
Self-named sports restaurant Azul closed in Lakeview after less than six months in business. Built from the ground up, the space was a new project from longtime restaurateur Danny Millan, who had recently run Cava in the same neighborhood.
With little to no notice or hoopla, the NOCHI Café by Gracious is no longer "by Gracious" anymore. The café is still open, but now it is run by the institute itself, with Gracious Bakery's involvement having just sort of disappeared. Thankfully, we can enjoy pastries, breads, and desserts from the bakery's three other locations, but we will miss the foodstuffs of Chef Michael Doyle, who is no longer heading the kitchen. Perhaps he'll pop up in another venue? Here's hoping!
Also, without notice, Heads & Tails Seafood & Oyster Bar shuttered in Harahan. Owned and operated by Shelley Flick and Executive Chef Brandon Green, the strip-mall restaurant was like a taste of the French Quarter out in the burbs. One day, a closed sign appeared on the front door, and the place hasn't reopened since.