Uptown will have a new taco spot and outdoor margarita garden when Barracuda (3984 Tchoupitoulas St.) opens in mid-March. Chef and owner Brett Jones, a food and beverage consultant who managed Dinner Lab, spoke to Gambit about his new spot.
Gambit: Why are you opening a taco restaurant?
Jones: The typical inception story for everyone who goes into cooking centers on some food memory. I had a sibling who was getting married in Mexico City and I was a good bit younger, a teenager, and I had a chance to wander around the streets and eat tacos. I was brought up on Tex-Mex on the Northshore and southwest Virginia, so it was an eye-opening experience for me. One of my favorite foods at the time was General Tso’s (chicken) off of a buffet.
I got into cooking and tried to figure out what I could do to make things taste good. It took me a long time to realize that what I really liked doing was working in restaurants. I never really worked in Mexican restaurants. When I was working in Chicago or L.A., we were going to get tacos after work at a spot that was open at 2 in the morning. Whenever I have time off, I go to Mexico, or more recently L.A., to see different perspectives on the same kind of thing.
G: What does the restaurant look like?
J: The building looks like a neighborhood taco stand, but it also has a patio and this really beautiful backyard with massive palm trees and luscious vegetation, so we’re calling it a margarita garden and a taco stand. It’s about 3,000 square feet, and I built a bunch of picnic tables. It’s somewhere between an actual garden and a beer garden. The yard is gravel, but you could roll your stroller if you bring your kids. We want to make it accessible and inclusive, whether it’s older folks or a family with their kids and their grandparents or people that work in the service industry. I have a 3-year-old and my wife and I love to go to outdoor situations and have drinks and hang out.
Hot on the heels of Mardi Gras, the third annual Top Taco festival is at Woldenberg Park (1 Canal St.) March 14.
G: What’s on the menu?
J: The big focus for us is making fresh flour and corn tortillas, since that’s the foundation of what makes an excellent taco. We want to keep everything small and really accessible. We want to make sure that we’re serving a version of what’s typical or someone’s favorite taco. We’re going to have pork in the style of al pastor, carne asada that’s coming off of a wood-fired grill, chicken that’s been marinated in achiote and citrus, and also a fish taco with homemade crema. We’re going to do breakfast tacos as well, and we will have queso, because there’s too many Texans in New Orleans to fight that battle. There always is going to be a vegetarian option and we plan to incorporate a lot of vegetables into our daily specials, because we can’t all survive on cheesy steak tacos.
We’re also not going to charge $5 or $6 a taco. We’re going to keep it in the $3 to $4 range.
We’re going to have a small beverage menu, too. I’m excited about draft margaritas and we’re doing that for a lot of our drinks. We’re going to make aguas frescas every day and we’ll have a short selection of spirits that you can add to those. We’ll have Mexican Cokes and Fantas in a bottle. We want to keep a local IPA on tap as well as a Mexican lager, and of course there are variations you can build off of that — cheladas, micheladas, all that kind of stuff. And yes, there will be mezcal. — HELEN FREUND