As the New Orleans dining scene grows ever more diverse, flavors and cuisines are pouring in from across the globe. One new niche, however, comes to us from just a state or two away — Louisiana’s neighbors around the South.
“Modern Southern” is a hot dining trend from coast to coast, and lately it has arrived in New Orleans with a succession of new restaurants. More broadly based than our indigenous Creole cuisine, more specifically regional than modern American, it takes local flavors and familiar ingredients in different directions.
Sure, there’s a lot of pimento cheese, fried pickles, rabbit, grits and gravy across their menus. But the South is changing, and so too are the ways chefs understand and interpret Southern cooking. So our new harvest of modern Southern restaurants show how flavors from Southeast Asia to the Middle East are staking a claim to the Southern palate alongside the heritage of classic French or smokehouse barbecue traditions.
The trend has been building for some time in New Orleans, with elements of the style strongly evident at Boucherie from its start in 2008, for instance, and an entire modern Southern menu in play at Tivoli & Lee since 2013. The past year alone, however, has seen the circuit come into bloom. Here are five local restaurants that have opened since 2014, each putting their own stamp on the modern Southern style now.
1032 Chartres St., (504) 308-3106; angelinenola.com
Dinner nightly (brunch and breakfast to come later this spring)
Chef Alex Harrell, formerly of Sylvain, opened Angeline earlier this year down along the (relatively) quiet end of Chartres Street in the French Quarter in the Hotel Provincial, in the space that was previously home to Stella! It’s a good deal more casual than its predecessor, and feels a little like an outing to a country home with a clean-lined country elegance worked across its progression of rooms. Harrell’s menu is definitely Southern, but not predictably so, with an emphasis on its European roots and the chef’s own interest in Mediterranean cuisine. Shaved Parmesan melts slowly over butterbean tortellini and into a dark, restorative broth built from red eye gravy, and a smoked carrot puree, adds a simultaneously sweet and earthy element to the rabbit Milanese.
231 N. Carrollton Ave., (504) 609-3871; brownbutterrestaurant.com
Lunch Tue.-Sat., dinner Thu.-Sat., brunch Sun.
A bit more casual than the other restaurants in this batch, Brown Butter debuted early this year in a tucked-away slot at the back of a Mid-City strip mall. If the location seems low-key, chef Dayne Womax’s dishes make bold statements in highly contemporary presentations. A rabbit roulade is packed as tightly as a stick of andouille and sliced over gnocchi made from cornbread, and even the steak is colorfully splayed with romesco sauce and split, roasted grapes. At lunch, sandwiches and plates like the paneed pork chop glittering with sea salt and chow chow are more down to earth but still exhibit the house style.
8132 Hampson St., (504) 252-9928; carrolltonmarket.com
The general lay of the land at this Riverbend bistro is little changed from its days as One Restaurant, with its intimate contours and fascinating, cooking-show-style open kitchen. But today chef Jason Goodenough takes the cuisine across much different turf. The flavors are undeniable Southern, and rooted in our region, but they’re free from cliché. Smoked drum, stirred into a creamy, herb-strung salad, is finished with pepper-spiked choupique caviar, for instance, and Creole cream cheese gives cavatelli pasta a light tang between musky truffle and heady mushrooms. Presentations on the plate are especially beautiful.
428 E. Boston St., Covington, (985) 400-5663; oxlot9.com
Dinner Tue.-Sat., brunch Sun.
Opening an ambitious restaurant inside a boutique hotel in the center of the small town sounds like a daydream for a harried chef. But since Oxlot 9 debuted last summer in Covington’s new and very impressive Southern Hotel, chef Jeffrey Hansell has been making this vision a reality. Louisiana flavors and a contemporary Creole approach are prominent features of his menu, but they still form only a part of the finely wrought fabric here. Oysters in puff pastry and fried frog legs sound familiar but take on the refreshingly original aspect, ceviche is made from royal red shrimp, and black eyed peas and mustard greens are worked into a Japanese udon noodle soup.
1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., (504) 324-6020; nolapurloo.com
Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat.
As the exhibits of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum wend through the history of regional foodways, the gleaming open kitchen at its attached restaurant and bar Purloo works out some ideas their future. Chef Ryan Hughes applies a museum-quality mix of precision and originality to the task. This take on drum, for instance, is balanced on cardamom-scented grits and artichoke barigoule — a braised artichoke with the back-of-the-mouth tang of lemon and wine. A shrimp and clam boil arrives in the style of the Carolinas’ Lowcountry; the curried goat with lemongrass is a Mekong-to-Mississippi transplant. The lunch menu brings in sandwiches and an excellent fried chicken, brined in the kitchen’s own pickle juice and encased in a dark, mildly spicy, greaseless batter.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.