Who doesn’t love a good secret? Last year, the local internet seemed to be alight with talk of birria tacos — tacos traditionally made with lamb, goat or beef stewed in a pepper marinade, creating a paste. The meat sits in the marinade overnight, and is then served in a corn tortilla (although Secret Birria uses flour tortillas) and dipped in its own juices. Last year, the dish was made popular locally by chef Will Avelar at Mawi Tortillas in Metairie. Secret Birria — which comes complete with a secret owner, who is present at the restaurant but prefers the food to speak for itself — is serving up the tasty Mexican dish in an unassuming building at 323 Octavia St., near Jefferson Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street in the West Riverside neighborhood.
Manager Alex Caluda told me that the owner got the idea for a restaurant that serves birria tacos after traveling through Mexico; he thought that hearty dish would do well here.
Chateau Sew & Sew Fabric & Sewing Studio on Magazine Street seems like an anachronism in the time when the number of people who sew (sewists as they are now called) is declining. But the folks at Chateau Sew have a plan. It was started in 2015 by the mother-daughter team of Susan Jackson, a quilter, and her daughter Karen Flournoy, who mostly made garments. When Flournoy’s son was about to start school full-time, her mother suggested that, because she loves fabrics and had made clothes for her young son, they open a shop. “In 2014, I went to work on a business plan, researching how to source fabrics.
A co-owner of Bayou Beer Garden and Bayou Wine Garden wants to open a new bar in Uptown on Tchoupitoulas Street – but first he will have to face the objections of neighbors who say they don’t want to turn their street into an entertainment district. Dubbed Riverside Bistro and Beer Garden, the proposed establishment would be located at 4842 Tchoupitoulas, across the street from F&M Patio Bar and down the block from Grit’s Bar on Lyons Street. At a virtual neighborhood meeting on Monday, local residents raised their concerns that a third bar in the area would lead to too many issues with parking, noise and late-night revelers getting into traffic accidents on the busy street. “The first person that lies in front of my house drunk and passed out in 1 in the morning, you’re gonna hear from me,” said Donna Williams, a nearby resident.
Kami Galeana, another neighbor, said she was worried about how late hours on a school night would affect her 6-year-old child. “It turns that whole area into an entertainment district.
The annual Champagne Stroll is returning to Magazine Street this Friday (May 7) through Sunday (May 9). This year it is called “Champagne Strolling” and takes place as a three-day event: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The spring 2020 Champagne Stroll was virtual, on a live interactive video feed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual component will also continue this year.
The Magazine Street Merchants Association sponsors the event and encourages everyone to sip and shop safely. “Despite the pandemic, we are trying to maintain the traditions of our Magazine Street events,” said MSMA President Kevin Gillentine, who owns the Kevin Gillentine gallery at 3917 Magazine.
14 Parishes Jamaican Restaurant is settling nicely into its latest location at 8227 Oak St. Chef Charles Blake and Lauren Johnson Blake, a husband-and-wife team, have been serving up traditional Jamaican food out of the Pythian Market on Loyola Avenue since May 2018. While that location caters mostly to a lunch crowd, the Oak Street location is hoping to find its way into New Orleanians’ dinner plans. Charles, who hails from Spanish Town, Jamaica, has a passion for food and has been cooking his entire life. He and Lauren, a New Orleans native, met in Atlanta, where she also fell in love with his cooking.
Even a fire, hurricanes, financial collapses and a pandemic cannot keep the Neutral Ground Coffee House from being there for its devoted regulars.
Last summer, as the coronavirus raged, it was saved once again when two new owners, James Naylor and Phant (a.k.a Caroline) Williams, stepped in and purchased the venerable Uptown coffee house. “We are a community, some of whom have been here since 1977,” Naylor said. “Really, it’s like family – very inclusive and multigenerational too.”
The bohemian enclave goes back to 1974, when a graduate student named Greta Lee opened the Penny Post on Maple Street. It featured not only coffee, tea and pastries but live music, chess and backgammon, and lively conversation. By the time it closed after a fire in 1977, it had a loyal following.
Last summer, in the midst of the pandemic, the team behind Cure opened a restaurant in a building many New Orleanians remember as a gas station and as the Freret Service Station. Vals, at Freret and Valence streets, serves Latin American food with a focus on Mexican flavors. It is the latest member of the CureCo family, which includes the nearby Cure and Cane & Table in the Quarter. Vals didn’t just come together over night. Owned by partners Neal Bodenheimer, Turk Dietrich, Matthew Kohnke and chef Alfredo Nogueira, the project was five years in the making.
Vintage Green Review, a local zero-waste education and consulting business, has opened its first brick-and-mortar store at 3530 Magazine St. After gauging community interest over a multi-week pop-up at the same address, the store’s owner, Sarah Andert, was so encouraged by the reception that she signed a lease to make her residence permanent. “Operating out of a physical location allows me to engage directly and regularly with customers,” Andert said. This marks New Orleans’ first zero-waste store and bulk refill bar, according to a press release that states it offers “a long-term option for plastic-free living, sustainable shopping, zero waste supplies, and the ability to refill household and personal care products in reusable containers.”
While the shop is currently open for business, its grand opening weekend will kick off on Earth Day, April 22, and continue through April 25. The event will feature discounted supplies, product giveaways and pop-up food vendors.
City College of San Francisco biology professor Jonathan Siekmann was enjoying his visit to New Orleans when he spotted Meyer the Hatter, known to be the South’s largest hat store. Within minutes, Siekmann was sporting a new Panama-style straw to shield him from the Louisiana sun. “The pandemic has been a struggle. It was the worst business climate I’ve ever seen in my 46 years selling hats,” said Paul Meyer, a fourth generation hatter. “We depend on tourists and, until recently, there just weren’t any.”
Meyer’s great-great grandfather Samuel H. Meyer started the business in 1894 on St.
A pot of red cacciatore sauce bubbles on the stove, sliced eggplants roast in the oven, and bright green bowls of salad are piled high with chickpeas and jewel-like cherry tomatoes. An Italian feast is being prepared – but while Mediterranean flavors abound, there’s no cream, cheese or meat to be found. At Clairly Vegan, owner Claire Steiner has been attracting customers with plant-based versions of classic flavors. Steiner started her vegan catering and delivery business just this June in her own kitchen, with her mother, Anna Cannizzaro Steiner, helping out. “She would come over and we would cook away all day,” she said.
The business now sells 75 to 100 orders per week out of Carrollton Commissary, a rented kitchen space on Willow Street.
Gogo Borgerding’s entire inventory of iconic cuff bracelets and other handmade pieces was stolen from a Magazine Street shop, where Gogo Jewelry had held a pop-up sale on Saturday (March 13). The robbery was discovered Wednesday morning. Chad Ramey, Borgerding’s assistant, said he arrived at the former Francesca’s boutique at 3333 Magazine St., where the pop-up was held, at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday and saw the display jewelry was gone. He started to get anxious, but thought maybe Borgerding had moved it. Then he walked in.