The little lakefront burg of Bucktown has been synonymous with seafood for generations of New Orleanians. Mere mention of its name is enough to bring visions of boiled crabs or fried oysters and shrimp piled over buttered toast.
The latest addition to Bucktown, however, has a different slant on local seafood. At Station 6, the menu draws on a greater variety of fish and some more personalized ideas for casual Louisiana food.
In one sense it’s a chef-led seafood joint, and in fact it has two chefs at the helm, Drew Knoll and Alison Vega Knoll. But while each is accomplished in the fine dining realm, Station 6 is a homecoming venture and its flavors are more down home than high flying.
“We wanted something that would reflect what we grew up with,” said Alison. “This is comfort food to us.”
Station 6 is by the Jefferson-Orleans parish line. It’s in the building that was the longtime home of Two Tony’s restaurant, tucked between levee walls and across the street from the clutch of seafood markets and restaurants that still speak to Bucktown’s heyday as a fishing hub.
The Knolls are aiming to be a step up from the traditional eateries here. Instead of po-boys and seafood platters, their menu has lamb burgers and grilled salmon tacos, crabmeat casserole and oyster spaghetti. The seared swordfish is finished with curried brown butter and couscous instead of a vegetable medley. Raw tuna is dressed with jicama and choupique caviar. For dessert, buttermilk drops become a bread pudding with butterscotch sauce.
At the small oyster bar, built into the main bar, a shucker opens Plaquemines Parish oysters and also some of the specially-cultivated “off bottom” oysters from Grand Isle and Alabama producers that have lately found a niche with local oyster lovers.
The menu prices are also a step up from the neighborhood norm, with most entrees over $20, and most starters over $10.
A Bucktown reboot
Station 6 is a return to the restaurant business for the two married chefs. Alison Vega Knoll opened Vega Tapas Café in Old Metairie in 1996, which is credited with launching the tapas trend locally. Her husband, Drew Knoll, worked his way up to chef de cuisine at Emeril’s Delmonico, leading the kitchen of the celebrity chef’s high profile Creole restaurant. In 2004, they sold Vega Tapas (which is still going strong) and moved to Antigua, working at resort restaurants there before opening their own restaurant, the Larder.
As their family grew, they heard the familiar call of home that New Orleans eventually broadcasts to its expats. They left the Caribbean with their four boys and returned. Knoll became a partner in Craig Borges’ Seafood Co., a local restaurant supplier, and here he got a different vantage on the food business.
“As a chef, you think you know seafood, but you only see one side of it,” he said. “It’s different on this end. You see what it takes to get it from the boat to your door. It’s been enlightening.”
Some of those applied lessons of seasonality, sourcing and specialty suppliers have guided the plan for Station 6.
Of all the facets of local life that have been up for re-evaluation lately, the New Orleans …
The approach at Station 6 aligns with a trend of newer “New Orleans neighborhood” restaurants, which share a sometimes lighter and generally more modern approach to casual regional cooking. It’s new for Bucktown, however.
Station 6 is a small restaurant, with room for about 50 at a collection of tables and the small bar inside. There’s a covered porch, which is not screened but rather slatted, and there’s a corner lounge area with sofas.
The bar has a handful of drafts, a rum punch from their Antigua days and a wine list built to complement the full-flavored seafood on their menu (Grüner Veltliner and Albariño, French and Italian reds, a half-dozen rosés).
The Station 6 name is a reference to the huge pumping station that towers over the restaurant at the end of the 17th Street Canal, a name infamous from the city’s Hurricane Katrina experience. That station is also why the address was available.
For 17 years, the long, low building was home to Two Tony’s. As post-Katrina plans advanced for a larger and more capable pumping station for the canal, the area all around the restaurant became a construction site. In 2011, Two Tony's hopped across the parish line to a new address about a mile away in West End, where it still serves its Creole-Italian menu.
When the Knolls spotted the real estate sign putting the building back on the market, they knew it would be the right place to get cooking again.
Drew acknowledged that New Orleans dining has changed a lot since they each last ran kitchens here in 2004, and that's one reason they're focusing on Louisiana flavors that strike a chord for them personally.
"It's Louisiana food, the kind of food we crave, and we're doing it our way," he said.
105 Old Hammond Hwy., 504-345-2936
Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sunday.