Wherever old urban industrial areas are being redeveloped across the land, new restaurants are opening amid weathered brick and iron, burly beams and broad windows. That’s the backdrop that Sac-a-Lait (1051 Annunciation St., 504-324-3658; sac-a-laitrestaurant.com) inherited at the Warehouse District’s Cotton Mill apartments, too, but this ambitious new restaurant has a much more rural starting point.
Sac-a-Lait was opened last week by the chefs (and married couple, and soon-to-be parents) Samantha and Cody Carroll. She’s from Gonzales; he’s from Batchelor, a tiny farm town in Pointe Coupee Parish where his family grows grains and crawfish and where he learned to hunt and fish.
In 2010, fresh out of culinary school, they opened their casual restaurant Hot Tails in New Roads, at least in part to boil some of that Carroll family crawfish alongside creative takes on rural comfort food. After winning the 2013 Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, an annual chef competition, their plans for a higher-aiming restaurant kicked into gear.
The Sac-a-Lait menu is upscale and contemporary, and it’s also aligned with a current of robust Louisiana camp-inspired cuisine now getting more attention in New Orleans.
“It’s what we love and what we know,” said Cody Carroll. “We try to branch out, but it just never satisfies us the same way. In competitions, when we cook different styles, we get our asses kicked. When we cook our style, Louisiana food, we kick ass.”
They make a boudin crossed with turtle soup and add smoked frog legs and alligator sausage to their gumbo. “Lost trout,” the dish that earned their cook-off title, is battered like pain perdu. And there’s fried venison back strap, a deer camp delicacy here done up with seared gnocchi instead of the customary fries.
They dub their seafood tower the “low tide tower,” and fill it with raw oysters and hot boiled crawfish. Salt pork for the greens and beans cures under the wooden lids of short barrels by the kitchen. The farms providing the produce aren’t named on the menu, but the fishing boats supplying Gulf oysters get a shout-out. This is a big place where small details abound, and they’re pointing to a different perspective for the Louisiana table.
Sac-a-Lait serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday, with lunch hours to come later.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.