Lots of exciting things will be vying for your attention when Red Stick Social opens April 15. There will be bowling, bars, live music, a rooftop deck and green space for outdoor gatherings. The 30,000-square-foot Government Street social hub makes its home in the 103-year-old building that once housed a power plant, the remnants of which are showcased in the intriguing design.
And then there's the food.
Executive chef George Sittig is focusing on "modern Southern" and "modern Acadian," he says, with a menu that features dishes like Crawfish Mac 'n' Cheese ($17), which mixes crawfish and tasso with cavatappi pasta and a Mornay sauce; an "Acadian Style" po-boy ($10-$12 depending on meat) and a duck and sausage gumbo ($6.50 for a cup; $8.50 for a bowl). The venue menu (there's an extensive catering menu, too) also includes tacos, burgers, shareable plates and flatbreads.
Red Stick Social, a community gathering space that will feature a bowling alley, live music venue, restaurant and bar, is set to open Feb. 1 a…
"When people come to Red Stick Social," Sittig says, "I believe they’re just coming to a regular party in someone's backyard or a regular function that a friend or a family is having. And they're going to eat good food at that function, and they're going to party, and they’re listening to good music, and they want to have fun."
The "modern Acadian" menu seems completely natural: Sittig is a proud Louisianian.
He rolls up the sleeve of his white chef's jacket to enthusiastically show off his tattoo of the flag of Acadiana — below some ink of the Swedish Chef Muppet charachter a little higher on his arm.
A Lafayette native, Sittig grew up in the same neighborhood as his mother.
"We still speak a lot of French at home — I'm happy about that. I listened to zydeco on the way to work this morning," he says with a laugh. Serendipitously, his daughter was born on Mardi Gras day a few years ago.
Sittig graduated from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux and trained in the kitchen of Au Pied de Cochon in Paris. After a short stint in Los Angeles, Sittig spent about 15 years in the Caribbean, holding executive chef positions in St. John and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and owned a restaurant in Puerto Rico.
Red Stick Social, the Government Street entertainment venue built in a renovated Entergy power plant, plans to open April 15, the business's o…
But he wanted to raise his family in Louisiana, in the culture he loves, so he moved back, settling in Breaux Bridge. Before joining Red Stick Social, Sittig was the chef at Grosse Savanne Lodge in Lake Charles.
We recently spent a few minutes with the chef. Here's his take on the menu at Red Stick Social, how it fits into the location and what "modern Acadian" means. Our conversation follows, edited for length and clarity. For more of the interview, go to theadvocate.com.
What would you like to do with the menu at Red Stick Social?
So, if you are you familiar with the gastropub scene that happened 8, 9, 10 years ago, it's slightly a spin-off of that. It's a bit more higher-end food, more thoughtfully put together than your average place similar to this. I guess the theme would be more modern Southern or modern Acadian.
Everything is well thought out and put together in a way that we can please most people, because that's the goal of a restaurant, but still keep that core value — in tune with that kind of Acadian cooking, with what represents south Louisiana, with the flavors that you see on a regular basis, including with the other cultures that have embedded themselves here.
When you say “modern Acadian,” what elevates it to “modern”?
When I say modern … it's kind of a mix. So, we're looking at things that your grandmother may have cooked for you. You’re taking the rice and gravy aspect and refining it as much as possible to end up with something that's very familiar taste- and texture-wise — and you definitely know that it's from here, it's from this area. But presentation has a large play in that and refinement of the technique.
The base menu is there to introduce people to it, and then the specials that will run are going to be put forward to start to push the envelope of how far we can go with the regular foods that we've eaten so far. We've taken things as simple as cornbread, and try to, you know — how can we make the best possible cornbread that someone has ever had?
Do you have any tips?
Uh (laughs) We’ll let you taste it. The food is complex in the techniques that we use to make it and they're complex in flavor, but they're not so complex to where you can't understand it. You should be able to taste these things and say, "Oh, this is just like this that we make at home. And they probably put this together." So we want people to try to go home and try to figure out, you know — try to attempt to cook these things. And, they may see that it's a little bit more difficult, so they'll come back to us to get it.
I always want to ask this question of chefs who make a menu that is very much south Louisiana. People grow up with this food and everybody says their mom has the best gumbo —
I think my brother-in-law has the best, personally. (Laughs) My mom wouldn't like that, but it's true. His is right.
Is there a worry of building a menu that takes these familiar flavors and trying to present it to people who have high expectations, or who might say, "Oh, whatever I have here is never going to be better than this other dish?"
You know, that's kind of the point, to make it so good and to refine it so much that you definitely taste the uniqueness in everything. And that is comparable to, you know, with your grandmother’s or your mother's, or in my case my brother-in-law’s. We want it to be, "Hey, you know, this is pretty close to yours."
Is there anything on the menu that you want to be a surprise or anything that you feel like, “OK, this is not part of south Louisiana tradition”?
You may think originally from looking at it there are some things that — (for example) we have some Korean-style tacos on there. And … you may say, “What does Korean barbecue have to do with south Louisiana?” But the people of Laos and Vietnam have embedded themselves in the culture, and they have a very similar style barbecue as the Korean barbecue. We're going to call it Korean barbecue because people can identify to that much more than a Vietnamese barbecue. But, they have embedded themselves in the culture.
When designing the menu, I look at New Iberia and Freshwater City and those areas down there, the Vietnamese and Laos people, they speak like us, they eat like us, you know, they boil crawfish just like us, and everything else. They are part of our culture, and that’s a part of what modern Southern, modern Louisiana, or modern Acadian can be.
In a business where there's a lot of other things going on — people are bowling or maybe here for a show or just having cocktails — where do you see the menu playing a part in all of that? Do you want people to come here for dinner specifically, or is it more, "This is a good dish that's going to accompany something else?"
I think to answer, if this answers the question, music and fun and food is our culture, period. And so, I think that's what we're trying to encompass as a whole. We don't have one without the other. So many different genres of music were created in south Louisiana. Our food is definitely unique to anywhere else in the world, especially in the U.S. — I like to say we're the only place in the U.S. with a true actual American culture because it was created here, along with our speech and everything else.
So, when people come to Red Stick Social, I believe they’re just coming to a regular party in someone's backyard or a regular function that a friend or a family is having, and they're going to eat good food at that function and they're going to party and they’re to listen to good music and they want to have fun. They may not have a bowling alley, but that's our fun over here. Everything has an equal portion — the food has equal portion, the music ... You put them all together and you just have a good old Louisiana good time, you know. That's pretty much it.
Red Stick Social
Open Monday, April 15
1503 Government St.