Monday, August 9, 2010

The Post-Katrina Top 20: #20 - #16

No one will argue that the game was forever changed on August 29, 2005. As we approach the five year anniversary of that fateful day, no small number of scribes will dare to put paper to pen and describe post-Katrina existence. Over the next month you will read hundreds (if not thousands) of articles on the recovery of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Most will be well-written pieces focusing on how far we have come, how much further we have to go, what is better, what is worse, and what ain't dere no more.

We could wax on poetically about the casualties of the storm, but we have never been known to cry in our beers. An equally emotional tale could be written about the restaurateurs who rebuilt and persisted through the recovery, but that's a whole other task to which we will leave for the professionals. Instead, we want to focus on the enormous growth of the New Orleans restaurant and beverage scene over the last 5 years. So each Monday over the next four weeks, we will be counting down our favorite additions and improvements to the New Orleans food and drink scene since Katrina. Better than before? You tell us.

#20: Cure - Our first brush with Cure posed some... ahem... challenges. It occurred about one month after the amber-hued apothecary opened. After waiting at the bar for fifteen minutes, Peter tried to order a vodka tonic and was told, "We don't serve that here." What he got instead was a sweet drink topped by a cute umbrella. But both Cure and our experiences there have changed for the better. The converted firehouse now dispenses one of the city's best cocktail experience. Neil Bodenheimer consistently pushes his staff, led by Kirk Estopinal, to develop new cocktails incorporating long forgotten elixirs. Plus, the bartenders at Cure have gotten over their original celebrity cache and now focus their energies on just getting you a drink. All this makes Cure one of the most delightful places in the city to grab a cocktail.

#19: Stanley - While the concept was born pre-Katrina, Chef Scott Boswell first opened his upscale diner only out of necessity when renovations to sister restaurant Stella! were derailed by the levee failures. After a year-long run in an adjacent space on Decatur, closing down for the reopening of Stella!, and moving to a prominent location on Jackson Square, Stanley is now one of the most popular breakfast spots in the French Quarter, where the Breaux Bridge Benedict has diners craving boudin first thing in the morning.

#18: Huevos and Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. - Disaster beget a second restaurant for Bart Bell and Jeff Baron as well, when the building which was originally supposed to house Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. collapsed during Hurricane Gustav. In serious need of cash flow, the duo began serving breakfast next door at Huevos while the new home of Crescent Pie was being constructed next door. Patrons still flock to Huevos for tamales and chorizo in the morning; but when the sun goes down, the shift focuses to the offbeat pizzas and flaky crusted handpies at the quirky restaurant on the corner.

#17: The Meteoric Rise of Tales of the Cocktail - Tales of the Cocktail began before Katrina, but perhaps no festival better showcases why people love coming to New Orleans. People travel to the Big Easy to have a good time, explore, and drink. Tales does all of this and more. Led by the charming Ann Tuennerman, her husband Paul, and a team of Angels, everyone from cocktail geeks to beach bums, industry vets to molecular mixologists can find a seminar, tasting or party to their liking. Just the sheer volume of people, brands, and PR gurus who show up to pitch the latest rum or new cordial make Tales an indispensable item on any cocktail aficionado's calendar. As one brand rep told us, "If your product isn't at Tales, you lose an entire year of revenue, recipes, and respect." Plus, any festival that can draw almost twenty thousand people to New Orleans in the middle of July deserves a hearty cheers from us.

#16 Food from South of the Border - Every cloud has a silver tequila lining. The Mexican and Central American food scene in New Orleans has never been greater, and it started with the humble taco truck. Originally these Mexican meals-on-wheels catered specifically to the growing number of laborers who flocked to the city for recovery work, but soon people of every creed and color could be seen standing in line for affordable lunches of barbacoa and carnitas. Several vendors have capitalized on their success by moving into permanent spaces, but others like Taqueria D.F. continue on as modern day chuck wagons. With newbies like Taceaux Loceaux catering to late night crowds around town, the taco truck looks to be a delicious fad which will be sticking around for the foreseeable future. The scene has further grown as places like Restaurante Telemar, Taqueria Guerrero, and Pupuseria La Macarena have set up shop all over town showing that the food of Central and South America is as varied and interesting as the countries themselves. We look forward to watching these cuisines establish a permanent foothold in the New Orleans scene.


NOJuju said...

My partner and I were just talking about this last night. One of the good things that Katrina brought us was a wonderful and much needed restaurant infusion. I'm thrilled that our ethnic cuisines are finally starting to fill out, that we finally have truly good Italian, that the focus has lifted off old school (which has it's wonderful place, don't get me wrong) and that we are finally getting a new breed of restaurants and food ideas in this city. The diversification and shifted focus focus toward authentic/fresh/locally sourced/done right is one of my greatest post-K joys.

Donnie Boy Riguez said...

Bud's re-opening on City Park has to be #1.

Kevin said...

Looking forward to this series.