Porkpie Provisions will serve barbecue, rotisserie chicken, salads and other items in the former Louisiana Seafood building at 2900 LaSalle Street, mostly geared toward walkup or takeout customers, said chef Brack May, who lives just around the corner. After renovating and expanding the location on a central Uptown-to-downtown artery, he hopes to make it easy for commuters to pick up breakfast on their way into work or dinner for four on their way home, he said.
“I think there’s a lot of good things happening in that area that are going to lift it up, and we want to be a part of that,” May said in an interview after the meeting, noting commercial developments nearby on South Claiborne. “Maybe people can come into the neighborhood, spend a little cash and make things better.”
The location would also have space for cooking classes and for May’s catering operations that are currently difficult to fit in Cowbell’s space, May said. He also considered a pie shop as part of the original plans, but noted that several other pie places are springing up around Uptown.
May’s request will require a conditional-use permit to sell alcohol for consumption at the restaurant, and the city planning staff is recommending approval but with 15 provisos attached. Architect Kimberly Finney had no objections to those that governed the operation of the restaurant, such as its closing time, but took issue with more-expensive requirements to relocate the dumpster, create new landscaping and rebuild certain curbs around the site.
Only one person from the neighborhood spoke about the project, community organizer Michael Robinson of the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, which represents several neighborhood groups. Robinson said he wasn’t speaking in support or opposition, but just “in the middle,” asking for more information about the project to be shared with the neighborhood.
“In lieu of not knowing, people just say ‘no,'” Robinson said.
Despite requests for a decision as soon as possible, the planning commissioners voted to defer a ruling on the permit until the June 11 meeting. Commission chair Craig Mitchell said he wanted to ensure that the planning staff was used to look at every angle before the project is sent to City Council for final approval.
In an interview after the meeting, May said he has some experience winning over a neighborhood, as he did with the Riverbend area when opening Cowbell, and plans for a cookout-style meeting at the LaSalle street location to introduce the project to neighbors. But the delays, he said, are frustrating to a small business owner trying to undertake a difficult and costly renovation.
“We’re not that far along in seeing what we can do there,” May said. “By the time we can do this, it may have to totally change.”
[Update, 12:22 p.m. Friday: The Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative issued a statement regarding its role in the neighborhood: “One of Jericho Road’s guiding principles is assisting residents as they themselves become empowered. Jericho Road does not purport to speak on behalf of or represent, but rather, support the residents of the neighborhoods in Central City.”]