What with the peak of carnival and superbowl XLVii, things around the crescent city have been a might bit crazy this month. Everyone has been operating on overdrive, ready to serve the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have come to enjoy the festivities. in the midst of Mardi Gras, the avenue is a-changin'. The Asianfusion, creole restaurant Mike's on the avenue shuttered its doors in the new year and is going through some remodeling and redecoration before it becomes another steakhouse opened by Desi Vega of Mr. John's. chef Mike Fennelly will be hanging up his toque for a while to open an art gallery in Maine, while famed hostess Vicky Bailey will be spending more time with her children, as well as continuing a role with the new steakhouse.
Another sort of switcheroo is happening inside the Maison Dupuy Hotel. chef Michael Farrell left le Meritage and Bistreaux for a "sabbatical" in the cayman islands, and the hotel has promoted Executive sous chef Mark Harris in the interim. Harris has worked in New York under the guidance and tutelage of many great chefs including Deborah stanton and Gordan Ramsay, but fell in love with New Orleans in 2010 and has never looked back. "i'm excited and thankful to be given the opportunity to take the helm of these unique restaurants," said Harris. "chef Farrell has been an incredible mentor and i look forward to continuing to turn out exceptional cuisine that our guests have come to love."
Magazine street has also been playing musical chairs, what with Byblos moving to the former Nacho Mama's location and cafe Rani bidding us farewell only to be replaced by La Fin du Monde, another cross pollination creation from Bar Tonique and serendipity with hints of French Truck coffee. chef Jonathan Lestingi from stella! assumes the helm and offers tongue-tickling dishes like cajunspiced popcorn, house-made kimchi and scallops in a sauce of butternut squash. With bartenders Michelle McMahon and Geoffrey Wilson whipping up spirits, it would be a mistake not to indulge.
Chef Edgar caro of Baru Bistro & Tapas is stretching out into another venture with partner Thomas Peters in what is no longer Rocky's Pizza at 3222 Magazine street. The new restaurant, to be dubbed "Basin Seafood & Spirits," will focus on savory, south Louisiana seafood like boiled crawfi sh, BBQ shrimp and po-boys. The partners are shooting for an opening that will coincide with the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival by shell. They'll also be sprucing up Baru with a second-fl oor lounge area and ceviche bar.
Jump a bit further up Magazine. Just past Napoleon we anxiously await del Fuego Taqueria, which is moving into the bright yellow Brother's Three building. They'll be offering california-style Mexican food, and one can only hope that the Mission-style burrito has fi nally made the trek over 2000 miles to be warmly welcomed by locals and Golden state transplants all over this fair city of ours.
Another change on Magazine street is the unexpected closing of the short-lived c'est la Vie Bistro. Before we could blink, longtime restaurateurs Arthur and shawnette Humphrey opened the World Famous nawlins Jazz café in its place. This will be the sister location for their World Famous Nawlins café & spice Emporium on N. Peters street in the French Quarter. The Humphreys are excited to reach out to more locals, which is why they brought their classic creole cuisine uptown.
Lisa Barbato, whose baked goods we all know and love at the crescent city Farmers Market, now has her own commercial kitchen and bakery called rivista, just a couple doors down from La Petite Grocery on Magazine. There, she will continue her good works like gingerbread cinnamon rolls, chunky Monkey Muffi ns with banana, dark chocolate and coconut, and tarts with molasses roasted beets and Gorgonzola cheese. We'll keep seeing her at the Market!
Freret street still hasn't slowed its frenetic pace of new businesses: for example, the recent opening of PubliQ House, a new, hip bar and music venue. What does that have to do with food, you ponder? Well, it seems that PubliQ owners hope to offer local, food truck round ups in the parking lot, like one of the latest sensations on wheels, Frencheeze, who offers delicious grilled cheese sandwiches like smoked Gouda, provolone and creole tomato on peasant bread, or goat cheese, grape jelly and apple wood-smoked bacon on a buttery croissant. it should be interesting to see how this plan plays out...
Over in Metairie, just across the causeway from Lakeside shopping center, Mellow Mushroom Pizza recently opened their newest location. The Georgia-based pizza franchise offers a menu of "handcrafted" pizzas, appetizers, salads and sandwiches using "only the highest quality ingredients". The location refl ects jazz and blues in its décor with a collage of instruments suspended from the ceiling, original murals of musicians like Fats Domino, The Neville Brothers and Dr. John, plus pendant lights constructed from actual instruments. The Mellow Mushroom in Metairie also features a full-service bar with specialty cocktails and craft beers, plus several big-screen TVs that will be tuned to both college and pro sports.
Finally, over on Prytania street, a new confectioner opened up right next to the creole creamery inside what was the fi tness center. chefs Jack Petronella and coleman Jerrigan are the proud owners of Manhattan Jacks, whose main focus is sweets like hand-made, buttery toffees, chewy caramels, nutty brittles, creamy barks, biscotti, macaroons and more. Yet another delicious stop for your sweet tooth!