Wonderland & Sea on Tchoupitoulas offers ‘elevated fast-casual’ meals

By Marielle Songy, Uptown Messenger

Wonderland & Sea, a restaurant that aims to be sustainable, use local products, and provide employees with a living wage, recently opened on Tchoupitoulas Street across from F&M Patio Bar. 

Wonderland & Sea is owned by Taylor Floy Hoffman, Jonathan Rhodes and chef Joel Brown. Hoffman, a New Orleans native, has previous experience in social and racial justice and museum work. Now an attorney, Rhodes has an extensive restaurant resume that includes two Chicago restaurants, NoMI and Aubriot, recognized by the James Beard Foundation. Brown is from Oregon and, upon moving to New Orleans, has worked at Three Muses, Bacchanal and Café Hope, a training program for underprivileged youth in Marrero. At Café Hope, Brown began experimenting with the restaurant’s garden, learning how to use its plentiful produce. 

“In my experience with the garden there, I got used to going out and picking what I needed for the day,” he said.

Turkey and the Wolf team launches ’80s themed dinner spot on Magazine

Mason Hereford, the creative force behind breakfast hub Molly’s Rise and Shine and sandwich mecca Turkey and the Wolf, is launching his first restaurant with a dinner menu. Hungry Eyes, an ’80s-themed dinner restaurant, opens Monday (April 10) in the Magazine Street spot that used to be home to Red Gravy. That restaurant closed last April. 

Hereford is opening Hungry Eyes with his wife and business partner, Lauren Agudo, and Turkey and the Wolf chef Phillip Cenac. No stranger to accolades, Hereford has found success with Molly’s Rise and Shine and Turkey and the Wolf. Both restaurants regularly top local and national “best of” restaurant lists.

Team behind Costera opens Osteria Lupo on Magazine


Since 2019, Costera has been serving coastal Spanish-inspired cuisine on Prytania Street. The latest endeavor from owners Reno De Ranieri and Chef Brian Burns, Osteria Lupo, will bring the flavors of northern Italy to the Magazine Street. The restaurant opens Wednesday (April 5). Burns is a Chicago native who attended culinary school at the École Supérieure de Cuisine Française, now known as Ferrandi Paris. He and De Ranieri joined forces while working for the Link Restaurant Group.

Two Uptown chefs advance to the James Beard finals

The coveted James Beard Awards finalists were announced last week, including “Best Chef in the South Region” and “Emerging Chef.” Two of the finalists in that number are in Uptowns restaurants. And both are relatively new on the local food scene. Chef Ana Castro of Lengua Madre was honored in the “Best Chef in the South” category, which includes Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. 

And in the “Emerging Chef” category, chef Serigne Mbaye of Dakar NOLA advanced to the finals. The James Beard Awards, established in 1990, sometimes referred to as “the Oscars of the food world” are the highest honors in the U.S. food industry. The finalists were announced on March 29; and the winners will be announced on June 5.

Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner takes up residency at Carrollton Station

A new out-of-this-world food spot is popping up at Carrollton Station. Bertie’s Intergalactic Diner serves an array of comfort-food favorites and new inventions by owner and chef Trey Rintala. Rintala is from Slidell and was previously the sous chef at the now-shuttered French bistro Meauxbar. While he enjoyed his six years there, he admits that fine dining isn’t quite his style. “I appreciate my time there and utilize the techniques I learned working in a French kitchen,” Rintala said.

Colombian pop-up Waska mixes innovation with tradition

New Orleans’ culinary scene isn’t necessarily known for its Colombian food, but one local chef is working to change that. Jose Chris Blanco owns Waska, a Colombian-inspired pop-up that’s been making the rounds of local breweries. Blanco was born in Colombia and grew up in Miami; he considers Waska a tribute to his culture. He’s been cooking for about 13 years and started Waska in 2021, after moving to New Orleans. 

At Waska, Blanco experiments with different flavors inspired by Colombian dishes, but not what Blanco would call “your grandmother’s cooking.” “I play around with a lot of the same ingredients, but I use them differently,” Blanco said.

Neutral Ground Coffee House owners prepare for a potential ‘exile’

Caroline Williams, known by most as Phant, broke down in tears at the front door of Neutral Ground Coffeehouse. Someone waiting at the door mistook the Neutral Ground co-owner for a Realtor looking to sell the building where the coffee shop lives. That’s how Williams and James Naylor learned their coffeehouse could lose its longtime home. They don’t know when they will have to go, Williams said, but they’ve already begun preparing for Neutral Ground to be in “exile” if the building sells. Neutral Ground Coffee House is a “community space, part gallery, half stage,” often referred to as a safe third place for patrons.

Current Crop Roasting Shop lets coffee lovers roast their own

Coffee connoisseurs who want take their home brews a step further may find what they need at Current Crop Roasting Shop. The new Magazine Street retailer is not your typical coffee shop; it is designed to be a DIY a coffee roasting hub. Current Crop will celebrate its official grand opening at 3931 Magazine Street on Wednesday (March 1) at 3 p.m.

Current Crop offers products and experiences to help customers learn more about the art and science of home coffee roasting. As the trend of specialty coffee continues to grow, so too does the number of people interested in exploring the world of roasting their own coffee beans.  

Founder John Puckett said they want to contribute to the historic and already rich coffee culture of New Orleans. “We want to bring the love of home roasting to all those who appreciate a good cup of coffee,” he said. 

The store has coffee specialists on staff to guide and advise customers, as well as classes and educational resources.

The Tell Me Bar in the Lower Garden District lets the wine ‘be what it’s meant to be’

The Lower Garden District has a new social spot that features natural wine by local experts. Uznea Bauer, Cory Cartwright, and Tyler Robinson opened The Tell Me Bar on St. Thomas Street near the Pontchartrain Expressway in December 2022. 

It specializes in natural wine, which Bauer described it as wine created with as little intervention as possible. “You’re working as ‘hands-off’ as possible in the vineyard. You’re not using chemicals, pesticides or insecticides other than herbal applications and copper — more natural things with no chemicals,” she said.

Where to find a Friday fish fry without leaving Uptown

It’s Lent, the season of the Friday fish fry. Below are some fish fry opportunities in the Uptown area. See here for the archdiocese’s complete list of church fish fries in the metro area. If you know of a fish fry in the Uptown area that’s not on this list, we invite you to leave the information in the comments section. Good Shepherd Parish at Basilica of St.