Lengua Madre to offer a personal, contemporary take on Mexican cuisine at Thalia and Constance

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.

Hotel Saint Vincent ‘a place to slow down’ in the Lower Garden District

The stage was set on a balmy summer night when musician, vocalist and indie favorite St. Vincent captivated the audience in a courtyard that once saw saints of another sort. It was the opening night party for Hotel Saint Vincent in June, and it seemed like the A list was out in full force for one of the more posh hotel opening celebrations the city had seen in a long time. 

The party was also a revelation: It showcased the long and winding road of the building complex constructed as an orphanage just after the Civil War into its current incarnation as a 75-room hotel developed during another seismic cultural and economic shift, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hotel Saint Vincent is a project of MML Hospitality, helmed by Larry McGuire, Tom Moorman and Liz Lambert, whose expertise in developing hotels and restaurants — transforming, might be a better word — is seen in Austin, Texas, where the company is based.  

The group worked with local developers Jayson Seidman and Zach Kupperman, who are part owners and developers. They are co-founders and developers of The Drifter in Mid-City, and Seidman is a co-owner and developer of the Columns, a late 19th-century Thomas Sully designed house turned hotel and bar that just went through its own re-do in 2020 and early 2021.

Pickleball, ‘the fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of,’ planned for vacant warehouse space in Lower Garden District

Pickleball may be coming to former warehouse in the Lower Garden District. The City Planning Commission last week voted to approve plans for the sports facility. 

Pickleball is a paddle sport that incorporates elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and was created as a family activity, according to USA Pickleball. NBC News has called it “the fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of.” 

The 21,000-square-foot former warehouse space on 460-462 Josephine Street and 2120 Rousseau Street, near the Walmart, will be remodeled to create five indoor pickleball courts and one outdoor court. Approximately 10,000 square feet would be added to include a second floor with a restaurant and bar. Plans show 24 off-street parking spaces. 

The former warehouse space is on track to become the first dedicated pickleball facility in New Orleans, according to developer Renee Melchiode.

Fried chicken, ice cream and wine: Here Today pop-up satisfies a trilogy of cravings

Here Today, a weekend popup in the Lower Garden District had its soft opening March 5. The endeavor is run by Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette, and includes popular ice cream popup Lucy Boone Ice Cream, and newcomer Patron Saint Wine. Stoltzfus is spearheading the project that will be serving a menu that includes a fried chicken sandwich ($6), pickled vegetables ($8) and other rotating items. Chef Ana Castro, who heads the kitchen at Here Today, will be cultivating a menu that is sure to interest meat and veggie lovers, alike. 

Stoltzfus had the idea for the pop-up when he saw the space at the former Thalia location, 1245 Constance St., sitting empty. “It was just sitting here and I knew that it had a liquor license,” he said. “Because of restrictions, the space is too small for regular dine-in service, so I thought that a pop-up would be a perfect fit.

City plans safer bike paths in Central City and Lower Garden District

The Office of Neighborhood Engagement hosted a pre-construction meeting Thursday to inform Central City and Lower Garden District residents about bicycle infrastructure improvements coming to their neighborhoods. Construction on the project on the East Bank began in August 2020, and the Thursday meeting allowed residents to view the proposals for their area. The project will bring bike lanes and street redesigns to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from St. Charles Avenue to South Broad Street, Melpomene Street from St. Charles Avenue to Camp Street, Baronne Street from Calliope to Phillips Street, South Galvez Street from MLK to Erato Street, and South Broad Street from Fourth Street to Thalia Street.

Walk-up COVID-19 testing held this week in Broadmoor, Lower Garden District

The city’s free walk-up testing for COVID-19 will be held in Broadmoor and the Lower Garden District this week. Anyone, with or without symptoms, is eligible to receive a test. No ID or health insurance is required. Testing at the Andrew Wilson Elementary School at 3617 Gen. Pershing St. in Broadmoor takes place Monday (June 29) and Tuesday (June 30) from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — or whenever tests run out.

Lower Garden District neighbors question rezoning request for former corner store

A request to rezone a long-shuttered corner store on Josephine Street back into commercial use is raising questions among neighbors in the Lower Garden District, who say the lack of a specific tenant and the wide range of possible uses create the potential for trouble on a vulnerable residential block. Matt Hamdan of Metairie has owned the single-story brick building at 700 Josephine St. (at the intersection with Chippewa Street) since the early 1980s, he said at a recent meeting with neighbors. He building has been vacant since before Hurricane Katrina, when he closed the corner store there before, he said. During that time, it lost its commercial zoning, and the property is now classified for two-family residential.

Tech company Levelset hopes to impact local economy

by Christian Willbern, Uptown Messenger

Levelset, based in the Lower Garden District, is an example of the fast-growing tech industry in New Orleans. Since 2006, New Orleans has seen “more than 45 high-tech startup or subsidiaries,” which resulted in “the creation of more than 20,000 jobs,” according to U.S. News. Levelset provides a cloud-based payment and management platform for the construction industry, in an effort to cut through the slow pay cycles, burdensome paperwork and costly disputes in a what has been a relatively low-tech industry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Dynamics Statistics, two out of three construction businesses fail within five years — more than any other industry. “The only reason businesses fail is because they run out of cash,” said Scott Wolfe Jr., Levelset’s founder and CEO.

Building on Sophie Wright Place applies for short-term rental approval

By Sue Strachan, Uptown Messenger

The wners of 1901-07 Sophie Wright Place met with neighbors in the Lower Garden District on Tuesday, Non. 16, about their plans to turn a second-floor unit into a short-term rental. 

Ash Salem, Raouf Mousa and Ralph Mousa (as 1901 Sophie Wright LLC)  purchased the property in April 2019. They also own apartment-rental units in Lakeview, Chalmette and Mid-City. Most people know the building as the location of the Munch Factory restaurant, located on the first floor, and its proximity to Half Moon Restaurant, Hi-Volt coffee shop and Il Mercato, an event rental space. There is a commercial permit for the property and the owners have already applied for STR permits for three second-floor units, two of which are already allowed by city ordinance, with the owners applying for a conditional use for one short-term rental in a HU-B1 zoning district (Historic Urban Neighborhood Business District).

Magazine Street office complex design needs more pizzazz, neighbors tell architects

By Sharon Lurye, Uptown Messenger

The monthly board meeting of the Lower Garden District Association on Monday featured a presentation on plans for a new office and retail building at 1335 Magazine St. The three-story building will include features such as meditation areas, a library, co-working space and a two-level terrace — making it stand out as a modern office building. “When you enter this courtyard, the idea is for it to feel like a spa,” said Patrick Schindler, president of Felicity Property Co., the real estate firm behind the project. But while the presenters promised that the space would be Zen, some audience members at the meeting seemed to think of the building plan was just Zzzz. “It does look square and boxy,” one member of the audience commented during the question-and-answer period.