Let’s say you plan an outing for a Friday or Saturday afternoon with a friend from out of town. You decide to visit the Garden District and have lunch at Commander’s Palace. As you exit, you remember what an experience it is to visit one of New Orleans’ most famous cities of the dead: Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, directly across the street from the restaurant. So you amble across Washington Avenue to its imposing wrought-iron gates.
Big changes are coming to the corner of Thalia and Constance Streets where Lengua Madre, a restaurant that offers a contemporary, personal approach to Mexican cuisine, will open at 1245 Constance St. on Wednesday (Aug. 4). It will be the first solo endeavor of chef Ana Castro, who previously worked as sous chef at Coquette on Magazine Street and as co-sous chef at Thalia, which operated in the same location as Lengua Madre. Castro was also the head of the kitchen at the brief pop-up Here Today in the spring.
Castro was born in South Texas and raised in Mexico City by her paternal grandmother.
Legendary local music venue Tipitina’s plans to expand by opening up a coffee shop next door that will also serve as a bar and live entertainment venue at night.
The City Planning Commission approved the plans in a unanimous vote on Tuesday (July 27), with the provision that all music must be indoors with windows and doors closed. The coffee shop will be on 4331 Tchoupitoulas St., in a building previously used as a commercial short-term rental space known as Tchoup House. The venue has a rear patio and upstairs deck.
In comparison to the bopping music club next door, the new entertainment venue will be low-key, focusing more on piano and acoustic performances.
“The live music that we are envisioning would be akin to a piano bar: small scale, a piano man, or perhaps a jazz or funk trio,” according to a project description the club submitted. “An intimate vibe, nowhere on the level of size or production that the artists who play inside Tipitina’s require.” This expansion represents a hopeful new chapter for Tipitina’s, which like all music venues has struggled mightily to survive the pandemic.
Empanola, the spot that serves up traditional and New Orleans-inspired empanadas, is opening a new location at 3109 Magazine St. on Aug. 1. The site is the former location of novelty and gift shop Bootsy’s Fun Rock’n, which closed last summer. The Empanola location at 7321 Freret St., a neighborhood favorite since 2019, will remain Empanola’s main store, where all of the empanadas are baked.
When Paul Irons and his sister Marseah were growing up, they regularly passed the corner of Monroe Street and Earhart Boulevard a block and a half from their Hollygrove home. “I remember when it was a Church’s Chicken. I remember when it was not a Church’s Chicken,” said Irons, noting that four generations of his family have called Hollygrove home. “And I remember seeing it vacant for a long period of time.”
At last week’s City Council meeting, Irons and Marseah Delatte, managing partners with New Orleans Restoration Properties, saw the council members give unanimous approval to their plan to develop the now-blighted square block — including the cement slab where the Church’s used to be — into affordable housing. The Grove Place complex promises 43 affordable housing units in an area with convenient access to multiple job centers.
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.
There are few, if any, churches that have the treasures of St. Alphonsus, which opened in 1857 in the Lower Garden District. Once past its front doors, the church’s beauty — the ceiling frescos by Italian-born New Orleans artist Dominico Canova, the stained glass windows by German artist F.X. Zettler and the hand-carved walnut communion rail — are a revelation. But behind the pretty façade, there are problems.
The frescoes are damaged by water, noticeable by the wooden laths seen in the ceiling where a painted cherub could have been. The lead pieces that hold together the stained glass windows are disintegrating.
The City Planning Commission was especially enthusiastic over Docket 021/21 at this week’s meeting. “I want to thank you for making me cry at a CPC meeting,” said a smiling Commissioner Sue Mobley, seconding a motion to approve the developers’ request. After a round of enthusiastic “yeas,” Commissioner Kyle Wedberg said: “I’m very excited to make this unanimous.”
This unanimous vote was not for just any conditional use to permit a hotel with live entertainment in the LaSalle Street Overlay District, with nine provisos. It was for the Dew Drop Inn. The Dew Drop, the city’s leading Black music venue for three mid-century decades, holds a hallowed position in New Orleans cultural history, in rock ’n’ roll and rhythm-and-blues history, and in the hearts of many musicians.
A new restaurant and bar that aims to support the business community opened on 4525 Freret St. on Friday. A combination bar, restaurant and workspace, The Business Bar was already packed on opening night when it held a happy hour for entrepreneurs. Laughter and conversation bounced off the walls; some customers grooved in their seats to the R&B music playing overhead, while others mixed business and pleasure as they worked on their laptops while also clinking cocktails with names like “Old Fashioned Grind,” “Bloody Fresh Start” and “Break Even Expresso.”
The co-owners of the restaurant were putting in sweat equity as they rushed to keep up with the flood of customers on opening night. Jade Newman, 31, sprayed down tables and greeted customers while Jessica Robinson, 32, manned the bar.
In the Carrollton-Hollygrove neighborhood, the houses are especially colorful. The Carrollton-Hollygrove subkrewe’s theme is “Nesting in Place” — a nod to the neighborhood bird sanctuary that resident peacocks call home.
Courtney Bullock, one of the subkrewe’s co-captains explains how the Krewe of House Floats idea came together. “It all blew up in a week,” Bullock said. “There was a division of neighborhoods, and I knew that people would want to decorate their houses — we just had to do something.”
Bullock’s house, adorned with musical instruments and a piano banner, has a musical theme. “The title of my house float is ‘Lay That Funky Music,’” she said.