A local restaurant group that runs several hotspots around town has a new project underway for Uptown, and this week the company named its chef and announced other details.

Chef Kristen Essig will lead the kitchen at Cavan, which is expected to open early in 2016 in a historic townhouse at 3607 Magazine St. Essig is executive chef at the French Quarter bistro Meauxbar, and she will continue in that position as she runs Cavan.

The new restaurant is being developed by LeBlanc + Smith, which also runs Meauxbar, the Chartres Street gastropub Sylvain and the Lower Garden District bar Barrel Proof.

While her menu for Cavan is still taking shape, Essig said seafood would take the starring role, with a contemporary approach for the local catch and ingredients from farther afield.

“We will always have our primary focus on the Gulf of Mexico, because we believe in supporting a sustainable, healthy, well-employed Gulf,” she said. “But we may still bring in some special oysters from somewhere else or a nice cold water fish from the Pacific. It’s a big playground we have to work with.”

Cavan will have dining rooms on two floors and a bar, courtyard, porch and private dining areas. Essig said the aim is to create a casual and convivial neighborhood restaurant in synch with modern dining tastes.

“People are eating differently these days, people are sharing, they’re sampling around the menu,” she said. “It’s important to us that we create a place here where the neighborhood wants to come together, to be another option for that kind of setting.”

The Magazine Street address, known as the Cockerton House, dates to 1881, and its conversion to a restaurant will accentuate that history. In a release, LeBlanc + Smith described its intended style as “beautiful decay,” with a design “taking care to preserve the artful aging of the structure that plays an important role in telling the history of the building.”

Essig said she likely preview some dishes for Cavan as specials at Meauxbar as her menu develops, and she may field test ideas as special dinners or events at Paradigm Gardens, the urban farm and event space that she and a number of other local chefs help operate in Central City.

While Cavan will serve meat and vegetable-focused dishes, the attention to seafood fits with some of the advocacy Essig has pursued recently. She’s a founding member of the Chefs Council for Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries, or GULF, a program of the Audubon Nature Institute. The council helps GULF develop programs that restaurants around the Gulf Coast can tap, like training for wait staff to include local and sustainable themes when guiding customers through menus and specials.

Cavan is named for the county in Ireland as a tribute to LeBlanc + Smith partner Robert LeBlanc’s family heritage.


3607 Magazine St.

Anticipated opening: early 2016

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.