As two massive new hospitals have been taking shape between Canal Street and Tulane Avenue, some of the earliest new businesses to crop up around them have been small eating and drinking establishments.
Now, with the first of the two facilities, the University Medical Center, opening its doors Saturday, more of these businesses are coming to fruition, and others are joining the redevelopment pipeline.
The latest is a proposal to open a CC’s Coffee House at 2323 Canal St. on a lot now used as a tow truck yard. Local entrepreneur Antony Marullo is planning the project, a franchise of the Baton Rouge-based coffeehouse chain.
“I think this is a great location for the hospitals and staff, and for people coming down Canal Street on their commute, to get a quick breakfast,” said Marullo, who also runs the French Market Bar & Restaurant on Decatur Street.
Marullo hopes to open the 1,600-square-foot coffee shop by March. Plans call for a drive-through window. That would require a zoning waiver, and he has applied for it.
About a block away and across the street, the Waffle House chain earlier announced plans to build a new restaurant on the site of a former used-car lot at 2500 Canal St. When presenting its proposal to the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments in May, a company official described it as “probably the fanciest Waffle House restaurant you will ever see,” with an outdoor patio included in the plans, according to a report from MidCityMessenger.com.
More hospitality businesses also have been staking out turf near the corner of Tulane Avenue and South Broad Street, with close proximity both to the hospitals and the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Next week, a lounge called SideBar is slated to open at 611 S. White St., a side street address in the shadow of the courthouse. Replacing an earlier bar called Night Court, it will serve craft cocktails, wines and local beers. It won’t have a kitchen, though it may add cheese and charcuterie plates later on.
SideBar is the first business venture for Keith Magruder, a longtime local service industry worker who lives nearby.
“I just wanted to be part of the revitalization going on here,” Magruder said. “The idea is to have a nice little watering hole for all the doctors and nurses and everyone working around here.”
Nearby, a restaurant called the Big Cheezy has been open at 422 S. Broad St. since March with a menu built around grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, salads and novel, griddled beignets. One of them is stuffed with strawberries, Nutella and mascarpone cheese.
Another grilled cheese restaurant called Melt is also in the works just around the corner at 2549 Banks St. (John Georges, publisher of The New Orleans Advocate, is an owner of the building). Melt is planned as a fast-casual eatery and will have its own bar. The restaurant is slated to open in late fall, said partner Miles Tully; renovations are now in progress.
Just across the street, Skip Murray, a co-founder and former partner in the Dat Dog hot dog business, has been running his separate hamburger joint Dis & Dem — originally called Dis & Dat — at 2540 Banks St. since last fall. A location of the Wow Cafe chicken wing restaurant chain also opened earlier this year at 2220 Tulane Ave. as part of a new apartment complex built across the street from the medical centers.
The hospital projects inspired an earlier wave of new eating and drinking establishments here, too. For instance, the po-boy shop Avery’s on Tulane opened in 2012 at 2510 Tulane Ave., banking on the potential of the hospitals while the piles were still being driven across the street. And at 3701 Banks St., the proprietors of the popular Mid-City pub Finn McCool’s opened Treo, a combination cocktail lounge, art gallery and eatery, early in 2014.
One early entrant in the area closed before the first hospital’s debut, however. Pizzicare, a pizzeria at 3001 Tulane Ave., opened in 2011 but closed last year. Its proprietors have no plans to reopen there, and the address remains empty.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.