The exhibits at the newly relocated Southern Food & Beverage Museum (1504 O.C. Haley Blvd., 504-569-0405; southernfood.org) interpret the culture and history of the South through its food. With Purloo (504-324–6020; nolapurloo.com), the restaurant now open inside the museum’s new Central City home, those interpretations now continue on the plate and in the glass.
With an open, demonstration-style kitchen surrounded by a 30-seat dining bar, and room for 40 more at tables, the restaurant was conceived as both a stand-alone dining destination and an integral part of a museum visit.
The restaurant is led by chef Ryan Hughes, who ran Purloo as a weekly pop-up at nearby venues since early 2013 as the new food museum took shape.
The name comes from a rice dish of the Carolinas’ Lowcountry cooking. Hughes worked in Charleston, S.C. earlier in his career and that region’s influences show up across Purloo’s menu. Other dishes, from pecan-crusted barbecued short rib to a Southeast Asian-inspired curried goat with lemongrass, show a kitchen with a broad view on the influences and flavors of the modern South. A weekly-changing list of specials will highlight different states.
The museum’s bar is an exhibit and a storied antique in its own right. It was a fixture of the West End seafood restaurant Bruning’s from 1859 until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina reduced the structure to splinters. While Bruning’s never reopened, the museum painstakingly reassembled the bar and has outfitted it to serve restaurant customers and museum visitors.
Purloo serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday and plans to add lunch in the future.
With a large menu of small plates, there’s always been plenty of room to change things up at Vega Tapas Café (2501 Metairie Rd., 504-836-2007; vegatapascafe.com). But since first opening in 1996, the restaurant has remained notably consistent, and that looks like it’s bound to continue under new ownership.
Last week Greg Francis announced he had purchased the Old Metairie restaurant from chef Glen Hogh, who will continue his catering work. Francis, who was part of the management team behind Kingfish, Broussard’s and other restaurants at Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, promoted the longtime sous chef Will Sampson to executive chef and said he would keep many of the menu’s signature dishes in place.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.