A cluster of construction in the CBD is turning a number of high rise buildings into hotels.
Right in the midst of them, however, a much smaller boutique hotel is also taking shape down at street level, and this one promises a different approach, a very modern bar and a casual Peruvian eatery from some familiar names in the local restaurant business.
Work is in the final stages on the Catahoula Hotel, at 914 Union St., which will have 35 rooms across a pair of 19th century buildings. It is slated to open in March.
“We want it to be a neighborhood hotel, it should be feel like a bed-and-breakfast, but urban,” said Keely Williams, who is developing Catahoula Hotel with her business partner A.J. Brooks. “We think about it as a bar with rooms upstairs.”
That bar will be overseen by Nathan Dalton, now food and beverage director for Catahoula Hotel. He was previously bar director for Felipe’s Taqueria, a local restaurant chain known for its cocktails.
Catahoula Hotel’s bar will double as a coffee bar, and its kitchen will serve a menu of Peruvian flavors guided by Dana Honn, chef of the nearby café Carmo, who is consulting here for the launch.
The three-story Catahoula Hotel will also have a rooftop tiki bar, which Dalton said should debut later this spring. It will be open to the public, not just to hotel guests, he said.
Catahoula Hotel occupies two adjacent buildings, which are now conjoined. The older of the two, dating to the 1840s, was originally a townhouse that at one point was owned by the New Orleans architect James Gallier, according to the developers’ research.
Both buildings had been empty for many years before Williams and Brooks acquired them through their company Ley Line Development. Catahoula is the company’s first project.
The 900 block of Union Street has been a quiet, fairly dismal throughway for many years, dominated by the empty edifice of the former New Orleans Public Service Inc. headquarters. Now that building, known as NOPSI, and the adjacent Dyrades Building, are under redevelopment to become a 217-room hotel.
A few blocks away, across Poydras Street, an Ace Hotel with 234 rooms is expected to open in March.
While Catahoula Hotel is much smaller, the property is bigger than its narrow street presence suggests, extending deep into its block. Balconies, a former stable, a twisting townhouse staircase and other details speak to its pedigree. The bar and cafe hold down much of the front of the property, and continues to a small courtyard.
Brooks and Williams bought their property.
Williams and Brooks have been developing the Catahoula Hotel concept with the idea that it should be as much an amenity for downtown residents as lodgings for out-of-town visitors. The bar and casual café here is the key.
“It will really be more like a bar with food than a restaurant,” said Honn. “And it will be a Peruvian bar with the full range of flavors that brings.”
Look for ceviche and tiradito, a Peruvian style raw fish preparation similar to crudo. Honn has a chicharron sandwich in mind and causas, which are like scultped, layered terrines of potato and other savory ingredients.
At Felipe’s, Dalton made the Peruvian brandy pisco as much a bar staple as tequila. For Catahoula Hotel, he’s devising a three-part drinks menu, with one section dedicated to pisco cocktails, another to classic New Orleans cocktails and a third for “experience drinks,” or elaborate concoctions that are intended to be the center of attention while they last.
One example will be mixed with “miracle fruit,” a berry that has a tongue-twisting effect, temporarily making intensely sour, acidic or bitter flavors taste sweet. This one will come with a selection of different flavors to taste while the berry is in effect.
While Catahoula Hotel is a new project for Honn, he has pursued Peruvian cuisine at Carmo for quite some time. The restaurant hosted pop-ups focused on Peruvian flavors, and Dana and his wife and co-chef Christine Honn have traveled to Lima periodically to cook with chefs there. That’s where he’s drawing his inspiration for the Catahoula Hotel menu.
“I want to keep it very close to traditional Peruvian, and add flavor from local ingredients,” Honn said. “That’s how it is in Lima. The best restaurants have traditional dishes, but they’re not stuck there.”
914 Union St.,
Opening March 2016
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.