For years, the search for great Vietnamese food around the New Orleans area often led to Gretna, an early enclave of the Vietnamese community and a hub of many traditional restaurants. More recently, some of the best known names from that dining circuit have begun heading across the river, the latest being Nine Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 504-366-7665; ninerosesrestaurant.com), a.k.a. Hoa Hong 9.
Nola.com reported this week that the restaurant would expand with a new French Quarter location. In an interview with The Advocate, Nine Roses proprietress Anna Nguyen explained her plans for Nine Roses Café, which she intends to open in May at 620 Conti St., in a small restaurant space that was most recently Somethin’ Else Cafe, next to the new Sucre and Salon by Sucre.
“It is my dream to have another restaurant where I can show people authentic Vietnamese food,” said Nguyen.
It’s not likely to supplant the draw of the original Nine Roses. That restaurant has the proportions of a banquet hall and a menu to match, with a deep roster of formal and family-style Vietnamese dishes alongside an assortment of Chinese dishes. Nine Roses Café will be much smaller and serve a shorter list of pho, bun, banh mi, spring rolls and stuffed bao (or soft, steamed rolls), and it should bolster the ranks of fast casual food options in the Quarter.
It will be a counter service cafe serving lunch and dinner, offering an outdoor seating option along the adjacent Exchange Place pedestrian mall. No changes are planned at the Gretna location, Nguyen said.
Meanwhile, work is slowly progressing for the return of Pho Tau Bay. The Takacs family announced plans to relocate to downtown New Orleans in February when they closed the doors of their Gretna restaurant, citing the planned redevelopment of the shopping center Pho Tau Bay had called home since the 1980s. Renovations are underway at 1565 Tulane Ave., across from the old Charity Hospital, where they had operated their Pho Tau Bay Express before Hurricane Katrina. Karl Takacs Jr. said his family was taking a break in the interim and didn’t yet have a timeline for opening the new restaurant.
Pizza and pastry in the CBD
When finished, the South Market District — now taking shape in the CBD — will bring hundreds of new apartments, a swath of new retail space, parking garages and a hotel. New casual eateries are also part of the blueprint for this multi-block development, with a cluster of them planned for its Paramount apartment building. This week brings the debut of one, a preview of another and a busy day on Friday.
First to the table is Blaze Pizza (611 O’Keefe Ave., 504-208-1028; blazepizza.com), part of a California-based franchise that applies the fast-casual assembly-line format familiar to pizza. It opens Thursday (April 16), and on Friday (April 17) the restaurant will offer free pizza all day for people who follow the company on its social media streams. Blaze Pizza serves lunch and dinner daily and is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Another coming attraction at the Paramount is Willa Jean, a bakery and cafe from the Besh Restaurant Group led by its pastry chefs Kelly Fields and Lisa White. While it’s expected to open during the summer, on Friday the chefs will host a bake sale outside Willa Jean’s future home at the corner of O’Keefe and Girod streets.
It’s a preview of the sweets and breads they plan to serve at the bakery. The Besh chefs will be joined by local bakers and food bloggers Kieu Tran, Jessica Bride of belleannee, Joy the Baker and Graham Blackall of Glazed and Confused.
The bake sale goes from 11 a.m. until supplies run out, and proceeds support programs from the nonprofit John Besh Foundation.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.