Ian McNulty: Cook it, and they will come _lowres

Image provided by Good Work Network -- Work begins this week on the Roux Carre food court in Central City.

Momentum has been building for years along Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, the once-thriving but long-tattered commercial stretch in Central City, and lately food concepts have been drawing more attention to the potential here.

Thursday will mark a new milestone as the nonprofit Good Work Network hosts a free, public launch party and groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction on an outdoor food court and event space dubbed “Roux Carre: the Food Port of New Orleans.” It’s from 4-6 p.m. at 2000 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

The Good Work Network helps minority- and women-owned companies get off the ground, and it conceived Roux Carre to incubate new food businesses and help others grow. When finished in the spring, vendors will serve African-American, Latin American and Caribbean food from small, walk-up booths arrayed around a covered seating area and stage.

Roux Carre will have four stalls for food vendors, while Good Work Network will operate a fifth as a bar and a sixth will be a juice bar and sno-ball stand run by the Youth Empowerment Project, another nonprofit based nearby.

There are now eight prospective vendors under evaluation for the four Roux Carre spots, and each will offer free samples of signature dishes at Thursday’s event. The selection committee tasked with picking the final four includes Paco Robert, a founder of the supper club concept Dinner Lab; chef Armand Olivier of Olivier’s Creole Restaurant; local restaurant consultant Dianne Sclafani; and chef Adolfo Garcia, a partner in several local restaurants.

Garcia also has a new restaurant under development just two blocks away on O.C. Haley Boulevard. While details are still taking shape, Garcia said it would be a casual, neighborhood-style restaurant that should open in the spring.

More is stacking up along the boulevard. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum opened here in September and Purloo, a modern Southern restaurant from chef Ryan Hughes, is slated to open inside the museum in November. Later this year the nonprofit restaurant Café Reconcile intends to add dinner service to its current lunch schedule. And food distributor Jack & Jake’s is now converting a nearby schoolhouse into a market and food emporium, slated to open after Thanksgiving.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.