Chef Kristen Essig shows off her new menu at Meauxbar
For New Orleanians, having a great bistro experience is pretty important. Sure, we appreciate fine dining formality and oyster bar parties too, but the idea of casual yet lovely dining with an updated menu from a great chef who is inspired by whatever inspires them that month, was meant for us, it really was.
The emergence of this in the city can surely be traced to the opening of Mr. B’s in 1979(?) or so at the corner of Iberville and Royal and that chef, Gerard Maras and Ella Brennan, owner. Gerard is one of the city’s finest chefs who is now working from his farm in Franklinton doing special events and teaching. Many trace their own great work in the city to their time with Gerard including my pal, celebrated chef Corbin Evans of Lulu’s, Lulu’s in the Garden, Savvy Gourmet and now Oxford Canteen in Mississippi who gave me an interview once about how Gerard was a true mentor to him and many others (like John Harris of Lilette, Brian Landry of Borgne, Alex Harrell of Sylvain, Aaron Burgau of Patois, Anton Schulte of Bistro Daisy, David and Torre Solazzo of Ristorante del Porto and Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing of MiLa as mentioned in a recent T-P article that traces farm to table dining to his Gerard’s Downtown after Mr. B’s.)
I mention these names, because even though Kristen arrived in New Orleans a bit later than the Mr.B’s days, she carries the same zeal and talent and would have been right there with Gerard if only she was old enough! And she can certainly be counted as a serious comer alongside those of her peers listed, all who follow the same principled and ambitious path that Gerard taught…
And because I believe that the reopening of the Meauxbar will be as important to the rebirth of the lively life on North Rampart with Essig at its helm. I wrote about her on another blog that I have and as mentioned there, I have great admiration for her style, her attention to detail and her commitment to local producers. Add to that, she is a French Quarter resident and so like her colleague (over at Stanley’s) Scott Boswell, wants to have a first-class kitchen to honor her own hood. In short, it’s just gonna be good and fun AND be a place for regular people to eat well… So count me in any time you are heading over there…
Story about Meauxbar
Listen, I like poor boys and muffalettas. You’ll find me in line at Johnny’s and at Central Grocery often, patiently waiting behind visitors who are nervously practicing saying muffaletta or ordering it dressed without feeling foolish.
But every once in a while, you just want a quick American treat done in a New Orleans way. That’s when I head to North Rampart to get a hot dog at the place next door to Mary’s Hardware’s new location between Orleans and Saint Ann. The owners of Dreamie Weenies are cool guys who take the dog and its surrounding environment seriously. I almost always get a Genchili dog (which I think should be called a GentillyChili) with polish sausage and then only add mustard and ketchup (you get your choice of type of dog and added condiments) as needed. The Genchili comes with their own “creole mix” and homemade chili which add just enough spice and residual flavor to make you want to slow down after each bite to savor.
What works against these guys is that people think of the hot dog as the crappy thing you see in the roller at the gas station or the burnt thing to the side of the grill at your neighborhood bbq, but these are made as meals and should be treated that way. I ain’t no slip of a girl that gets filled up from a latte; I eat food like my Polish and Greek and Cajun peops did before me and even I cannot always finish my Genchili in one setting. So the 8 bucks spent there feeds tummies well, the lovely inside feeds the eye and ears (music is local and lively) and the caring and onsite owners with their homemade ingredients feed the New Orleans soul.
So don’t be a snob- go get a dog done right.
These 2 pictures may be the best way to explain downtown culture. First, one of the venerable second lines Black Men of Labor holding their traditional Labor Day event on St. Claude to North Rampart’s Louis Armstrong Park and back. It marks not only the importance of the virtue of the working man, but also starts the second line season. Started in 1993, this Social Aid and Pleasure club holds tradition dear.
The traditions of Southern Decadence weekend are as far removed from BMOL as can be and yet as close as the shared idea of public space reclamation of what the city government (read America) would see as another “outsider” class.
The Southern Decadence Parade is held the same day as BMOL one or two blocks over in the heart of the gay French Quarter area. Southern Decadence history dates back to the early 1970s (when the motley parade started at now-only-a-memory Matassa’s Bar on St. Phillip) and has moved and morphed into a huge weekend for visitors who want to celebrate gay culture and show the buying power of inclusion.
Another moment to show the intersection of vibrancy and diversity in the French Quarter area.