Renewal, rebirth, rejuvenation and revival are all hallmarks of springtime, especially when it comes to the restaurant industry in New Orleans. It's time to pay homage to the delicious cuisine and excellent music that our city is so well-known for, with a slew of new festivals and restaurants...however will we keep up?
What was originally the New Orleans Roadfood Festival is returning as Food Fest-a celebration of "America's hometown eats." During the weekend of March 23, four blocks of the French Market will be packed with vendors from all over Louisiana, as well as the rest of the U.S., offering their best dishes to the masses who plan to attend. The feast will include ribs from Tennessee, steak sandwiches from New York, low-country catfi sh stew from South Carolina, handmade turtles from Massachusetts and "Panzarrottini" from New Jersey. Naturally, many locals will be representing, including popsicles from Meltdown, Shrimp Remoulade from Antoine's, Alligator Etouffee from Chad's Bistro and grilled cheese sandwiches from Frencheeze.
In addition to the two-day street festival, Food Fest also offers a sampling of "America's Hometown Sweets" on Friday, March 22 at Cafe Reconcile. Plus, you can also purchase tickets to enjoy a traditional fais-do-do down on the bayou with a menu featuring a full-scale crawfi sh boil, shrimp boil, an open-pit pig roast, corn and potatoes and jambalaya. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit nolafoodfest.com.
Speaking of crawfi sh (and festivals for that matter), there's a brand new celebration taking place on Saturday, April 6 dubbed the Crawfish & Bluegrass Crawl. Three groups plan to parade through the Warehouse District on a journey from Ernst Cafe to Rio Mar Seafood and Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar, where they will sample local brews, margaritas and caipirinhas. This liquid-laden lurch will culminate at the Rusty Nail, where the crowds will enjoy bluegrass performed by The Ramblin Letters and 600 pounds of crawfi sh. For more information, please visit creolepubcrawl.com.
Another crawl, the San Francisco Bay Area's Dishcrawl, is making its debut in New Orleans on Tuesday, March 26. Crawlers will experience a "one night, three-hour culinary and cultural tour" of four different restaurants in the Carrollton neighborhood. The specifi c locations are kept secret until the tour, but we can easily guess which restaurants might be participating...what do you think? For tickets and more information, visit dishcrawl.com.
Amidst other signs of renewal, the hit pop-up Noodle & Pie is being revived, but this time in its very own space. Chefs Emanuel Loubier and Brian Armour are opening the new restaurant inside the old Reginelli's location on the corner of State and Magazine. The chefs will be focusing on handmade ramen, with the addition of other dishes that will refl ect a large range of Asian specialties. Noodle & Pie just wouldn't be Noodle & Pie without pastry chef Kristyne Bouley's fabulous pies, like her ever-famous honey and pine nut, among many others. The owners hope to open Noodle & Pie sometime in May 2013.
In other news, the much-anticipated new burger joint, Charcoal's Gourmet Burger Bar, fi nally opened its shiny new doors on the corner of Magazine Street and Jackson Avenue. Built up from the ground, the restaurant features a "Build Your Own Burger" bar where you can choose your own buns, toppings, condiments, sides, and especially meat. Choose from your average options like beef, turkey or veggie, or take a bite of something a little bit different with antelope, elk, bison and venison. Charcoal's also offers seafood burgers built with shrimp or salmon.
Finally, the openings never seem to stop over on the ever-bustling Freret Street. The most recent addition includes Liberty Cheesesteak, where partners Michael Casey and Joseph Seremet have realized their dream of opening a Philadelphia cheesesteak shop at long last. The restaurant has taken over the former Dat Dog location and is proud to offer a real experience with Italian rolls shipped in fresh from Philadelphia, grass-fed beef and provolone, American and Wiz cheese.
Another newcomer to the Freret corridor is the "upscale" sandwich shop Wayfare. Ray Arnona, his daughter Toni, and son Vincent are managing the new restaurant, much like their other family business on the West Bank, Vinnie's Sports Bar & Grill. Wayfare offers hand-crafted artisan meats and cheeses built into mouthwatering sandwiches, like a Salumeria featuring salami, coppa, soppressata, pickled banana peppers and provolone.