When CellarDoor (916 Lafayette St., 504-383-5583; cellardoornola.com) opened late last month, it brought a short menu of intriguing dishes and another craft cocktail specialist to the CBD. It also brought a lushly ambient but long dormant downtown building back into circulation.
Modern art is a prominent part of the program here, including a contingent on display from a London gallery, but proprietor Gregory Gremillion said the inspiration for CellarDoor springs from its historic address.
“This is a project based around the space and respecting its history,” Gremillion said.
Known as the Swoop-Duggins House, this three-story brick townhouse dates to 1850. It once housed the eponymous restaurant of the late Christopher Blake, a writer and raconteur dubbed the “gourmet laureate” of New Orleans. Later it was a lunch and happy hour spot called the Sporting House and, briefly, a lounge called the Velvet Room. But the space has been empty since Hurricane Katrina.
There’s no street parking along its narrow, tree-lined, usually quiet block of Lafayette Street, contributing to an off-the-grid feel to the location, and you enter CellarDoor through a side alley. The floor plan still resembles that of a residence, with a discrete seating area overlooking the courtyard patio and a long, narrow parlor serving as the main dining room.
Jamielyn Arcega, formerly a private chef, runs CellarDoor’s kitchen, and her initial menu is based on wide-ranging global flavors worked mostly into small plates and snacks ($5-$13), with just a few entrées ($13.50-$18).
Pot stickers are tinted black with squid ink, stuffed with chopped shrimp and crowned with roe, for example, while lamb kebabs are topped with garlicky gremolata over a peach and apricot relish. Her adobo chicken wings are deboned and stuffed with dirty rice, and she serves fried chicken skin with avocado and cilantro crema.
From the small, eight-seat bar, Michael Yusko oversees a cocktail list balancing modern and classic drinks and a short wine list long on regional diversity.
CellarDoor opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and serves late. Gremillion plans to add weekday lunch in August and weekend brunch in September.
The people behind a new tavern taking shape on St. Claude Avenue are already well known around town. This week and next, they’re letting people get familiar with the menu at their upcoming venture, too.
Alana and Jim Monaghan, owners of the indispensable French Quarter pub Molly’s at the Market and also Monaghan’s 13, and Lloyd Miller, their long-time manager, are developing Junction (3021 St. Claude Ave.), a bar with a menu of specialty burgers and 40 beers on tap.
This week (through July 12) and next (July 15-19), they’re previewing some of Junction’s burgers and other bar food at Molly’s. Junction kitchen manager Abe Lemoine will serve different portions of his menu each week, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., working from Molly’s tavern kitchen pop-up style.
Miller said Junction should open sometime in August and will serve from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.