Spring is in the air and festival time in New Orleans is about to begin because, as we all know, the celebrations never stops here and neither does the ever-churning restaurant industry.
Miles Prescott was recently named Executive Chef of RioMar, the popular Latin American seafood destination in the Warehouse District founded by owner Nicolas Bazan and Chef Adolfo Garcia. Prescott has been cooking since 1993 and attended The New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Aside from working with Chef Garcia, Prescott has learned from other great chefs all over the U.S., including David Snyder of Halyards in Georgia, John Gorham of Tasty & Sons in Oregon, and Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia in Chicago, not to mention Susan Spicer, Tom Wolfe and Chris DeBar right here in New Orleans. Prescott's fi rst time as Executive Chef at The Country Club earned him much recognition and named him one of the New Chefs to Watch in 2009.
Speaking of Latin food, Gimme Tacos, , which has been appearing every Thursday at BJ's Lounge in Bywater, has also started making appearances at Street Coffee on St. Claude street every Sunday and the Piety St. Arts Market. You probably also saw them slinging tacos during several of the parades during Mardi Gras. Try to catch them around town and get a taste of their tacos, like fried avocado, bacon-wrapped slaw dogs or tomatillo and pasilla-braised brisket.
In other news, Franky & Johnny's over on Arabella Street Uptown has closed its doors with the intention of moving to another location. The announcement was recently made public on the restaurant's website, www.frankyandjohnnys. com. After suffering from several health code violations last year, the 71-year-old seafood joint seems to have cut their losses and set out to fi nd another spot to begin anew.
Another spot on the move is the Hard Rock Cafe, which recently relocated its digs to the fi rst block of Bourbon Street. The global, rock memorabilia chain that began its fame in London has been a resident on the other side of N. Peters for over 25 years. The new location on Bourbon is a state-of-the-art facility featuring the cafe's latest designs and technology. True to its conception, the eatery will also still feature iconic music memorabilia from both local and international artists and their “legendary” burgers.
If a ten-ounce burger just isn't enough, Juicy Lucy's over on Carrollton Avenue has the ultimate burger challenge just for you. Dubbed the “Juicy-Fa-Latta,” this meaty monster includes a hefty, two-pound patty stuffed with all your muffuletta favorites like mortadella, pepperoni, ham, Swiss cheese and provolone, then topped with olive salad, making the whole beast weigh in at a staggering five pounds.
Similar to Freret and Oak Streets, the area of Central City on and around Oretha Castle Haley has been a new nerve center of neighborhood rehabilitation with the opening of several restaurants and shops. Among them is a brand new cafe dubbed Church Alley Coffee Bar. Bayou-born artist Renee Claire Blanchard recently opened the little corner java bar that emphasizes sustainability, community involvement, and a healthy dose of environmental respect...not to mention premium fresh-roasted coffee from French Truck Coffee and tasty homemade pastries.
On the other side of the I-10 and only a few blocks from the Superdome lies another brandnew spot called the Little Gem Saloon. Owners Dr. Nicolas Bazan and Tim Clark wanted to pay homage to the days when the 400 block of Rampart was a mecca for jazz and ragtime music with this 20th-century, Spanish revival building that houses nightly performances by local and not-so-local musicians and well-crafted cocktails and cuisine. Little Gem Saloon's chef Robert Bruce is offering classic Creole cuisine, with dishes like Daube Glace and Brabant Potatoes, plus several favorites from his family's former restaurant, Maylie's, which closedin 1983
It wouldn't be Bywater if it wasn't bustling with new business, and the latest in this fast-moving neighborhood's revitalization is the recent opening of Mariza. Located on Chartres Street in the Rice Mill Lofts, this new restaurant features “honest, unfussy Italian cuisine” created by Chef Ian Schnoebelen of critically-acclaimed Iris Restaurant in the French Quarter. Filled with soaring windows, exposed brickwork and massive wooden beams, Mariza offers a rustic and comfortable space in which to indulge dishes of tuna and snapper carpaccio, house-cured “salume,” plenty of pasta, hanger steak and braised lamb belly.
Finally, Ma Momma's House is expected to open this month in New Orleans East on Crowder Boulevard. Owner Earl J. Mackie has taken the former restaurant, which closed in May, and reinvented it with a new concept, new recipes and new management. Aside from the featured favorite “Cornbread, Chicken and Waffl es,” Ma Momma's House will also offer red beans & rice, mustard greens, grilled pork chops, shrimp and grits and Southern-fried catfish.