The weather might be cooling down, but the restaurant industry just keeps getting hotter, not slowing down one iota from the sweltering summer scramble. Although we'll all be preparing for the family festivities on Thanksgiving Day, there's oodles of other things to get excited about, starting with the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival presented by Abita Beer on Sunday, Nov. 18. Past fests have proved to be something of a scramble, as seemingly everyone in town wanted to attend, but the festival producers have taken steps this year to ease the crowding and loosen foot traffic down Oak Street.
This year, the two music stages will be located off Oak Street in order to open up the entire 8-block corridor. Over 30 food vendors from all over the Greater New Orleans Area will be in attendance including Boucherie, Coquette, Dong Phuong, Crescent Pie & Sausage, Fat Hen Grocery, Mondo, Gattuso's, GW Fins and more. A special eating area sponsored by Parkway for Poorboys will be located in the Castellon Pharmacy parking lot, where festival-goers can relax and enjoy their delicious po-boys. Additionally, an all-new Kid's World will be hosted by St. Andrew's Episcopal School on the campus at 8012 Oak St. featuring open playtime, organized activities and food and beverages for children and adults. We're all anticipating a wonderful, "new & improved" Po-Boy Festival!
Like our many and varied festivals, pop ups just keep popping up around town and there is a lot of buzz about one Uptown, at French sandwich shop Tartine on Perrier Street. Owner Cara Benson's husband Evan, who is also a chef, has started a Tuesday night gig called Roosterfish. Each week Evan features a different, seafood-based menu with dishes like Smoked Trout with beet ravigote, Gulf Fish & Chorizo and Lump Crab Gnocchi.
On the other side of town, there's a Friday night pop up dubbed We've Got Soul inside Marie's Bar in the Marigny. Chef Tres Barnard, who has worked at K-Paul's Kitchen and the Royal Sonesta, is whipping up some serious soul food that all the locals are raving about. Rooted in his Mississippi heritage, Chef Barnard's dishes include Blackened Farm Raised Catfish, Bacon & Molasses Braised Red Cabbage and Southern-Style Chess Squares with macerated raspberries.
Only a couple of streets away, on the other side of Elysian Fields, Chef Brandon Palamo is serving up "Tex-Mex Food with just a kiss of New Orleans" at Brandito's Burritos. Located inside the St. Roch Tavern on the edge of the Bywater, Chef Palamo is offering his cuisine daily with everything from Breakfast Burritos and Huevos Rancheros to Street Tacos and Gorditas.
In other news, there's new flavors on the horizon at Sara's Bistro in the Riverbend. Born and raised in Northern Louisiana, Chef Bart Thomas was recently hired on as manager and consulting chef of the eclectic Uptown restaurant.
Working with Executive Chef Ganesh Ayyengar, Chef Tomas has added his own touches to the already international menu through presentation changes and the inclusion of more local ingredients.
Matt Cummings and Kevin Fruits, who also own the Decadence Shoppe Cafe in the French Quarter, recently opened another restaurant in the Bywater dubbed Prime Grille.
A casual eatery near the corner of Dauphine and Louisa Streets is serving up plates like Coffee & Chicory Filet, Spicy Pecan Crusted Catfish and Coconut Fried Shrimp with pineapple-mango-mint cocktails sauce. Prime Grille is opened Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sunday for brunch.
Over in Gentilly, the popular Munch Factory has found a new location across from the University of New Orleans on Elysian Fields Avenue. Chef Jordan Ruiz and his wife Alexis are excited about the new building, what was once Nacho Mama's Mexican Grill, considering they have more space both in the dining room and the kitchen. They are still serving classic Creole food like Chicken & Sausage Gumbo and Shrimp Remoulade with Fried Green Tomatoes, but they are also offering Latin specials like Fish Tacos with chimichurri and tostones and Tres Leches Cake.
Finally, although owner Neil McClure has tried to keep it a secret, the word is out that McClure's BBQ, the crazy-popular restaurant popping up at Dante's Kitchen in the Riverbend, will have a permanent address on the corner of Magazine and Bordeaux, right across the way from Le Bon Temps Roule. Remodeling of the previous animal clinic is already begun and Chef Neil is hoping to open his doors before the new year.