Laurel Street Bakery long ago earned a following at its original location, tucked deep into a corner of Uptown on its namesake street. Since 2013, however, the bakery and café has been at home on South Broad Street.
It was an early addition to a block of vintage commercial buildings that were redeveloped as part of a push to revitalize this crossroads hub at the center of New Orleans. Lately, it has gotten a lot more company as other artisan producers have set up shop next door and nearby.
Here’s a look at a collection of new arrivals that have joined the bakery and café in the past year.
Hard cider, softer edges
Broad Street Cider & Ale (23 S. Broad St., 504-405-1854) is the city’s only dedicated cidery, and the dry, crisp, sometimes potent stuff flows in a dozen varieties. Most are made in house, with a few others “visiting” from other producers.
Jon Moore and Diana Powell opened it over the summer. It functions as a tavern and follows the general format of a craft brewery, with a taproom and “cider garden.”
As the name implies, though, Broad Street Cider & Ale does serve more than cider. There’s also a short selection of beer and wine from other producers.
Made from fermented apples, hard cider typically has alcohol content similar to beer, though some can be much stronger. They make a refreshing, lighter-tasting beverage, and the drink is gluten-free.
The house styles run through the citrusy Belle and the tea-tinged Duchess of Devonshire to the downright funky Sir Brett Nelson. They are not sweet, which may come as a surprise to some who mostly know the big brand ciders.
The craft focus and early hours keep the ambiance closer to a lounge or even a coffee house than a typical bar. It can feel like a taproom with softer edges. For cider lovers, it’s like finding an oasis in the orchard.
The tasting room is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
New rum from old technique
Roulaison (2727 S. Broad St., 504-517-4786) is a very new distillery dialing back to a very old style of rum making.
Walk inside and the aroma of molasses cooking suffuses the spare industrial space. Here, co-founders Patrick Hernandez and Andrew Lohfeld turn out batches of rum, 90 gallons at a time.
The spirit goes directly to the bottle, with no aging, but this rum has far more complexity and character than its crystal clear appearance might suggest. It’s a denser, funkier style more aligned with the roots of rum in the colonial age than the baseline flavor of the better-known brands.
“We’re going for a really full-flavored product,” said Hernandez. “It’s a white rum, not a light rum.”
The heart of the operation is a bank of five pot stills, which rely on the same principles that gave rum its punch in the pre-industrial era. A sip of this rum starts with tropical flavors and a hint of spice, ending with an earthier finish.
Hernandez and Lohfeld saw a void in the market for this type of rum, and in New Orleans — with its proximity to Louisiana cane country — a natural home to develop its potential.
Roulaison takes its name from the Creole French term for the sugar cane harvest.
Roulaison rum is distributed to stores around the New Orleans area and available at the distillery’s tasting room (Wed.-Fri., 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., free tours Sat. at 3 p.m.).
The curtains in front of Christopher Nobles’ shop windows are long, rectangular and the color of chocolate.
“What else would it be?” Nobles said with a grin.
This week, Nobles drew those curtains back to officially open Piety & Desire Chocolate (2727 S. Broad St., 504-491-4333), his chocolate shop, factory and home base. The grand opening is Saturday.
Piety and Desire is a “bean-to-bar” chocolate maker that lays the whole intricate process bare. Beans arrive fermented and dried in burlap sacks. When Nobles is through with them they’ve become bonbons glazed with iridescent art nouveau swoops, barks marked with sea salt and caramel and regular bars with uncommonly rich flavor.
Piety and Desire joins a small circuit of bean-to-bar chocolate makers (another local example is Acalli Chocolate). It’s part of the bigger trend of small-scale craft food makers.
Just past a small retail counter, the room stretches on like a combination of a kitchen and a diagnostics lab. Between mixers and conveyor belts, there’s all the gleaming machinery to take the humble bean through the steps of roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining, filtering and tempering en route to becoming slabs of chocolate and delicate confections.
“It’s all right here,” Nobles said, bringing the whole operation under a quick sweep of his hand. “Oz is right in front of you.”
Piety and Desire Chocolate is open Tuesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Now showing: craft beer
The old Gem movie house has been shuttered for so long that a generation of New Orleans people may have never even known it was there.
Now though, the name up in lights on the marquee here is Wayward Owl Brewing (3940 Thalia St., 504-827-1646), and the latest releases come from the beer vats within, not a Hollywood studio.
Wayward Owl debuted about a year ago, joining the ranks of craft breweries around town. In scale, it holds down the middle ground — bigger than the nano, taproom breweries, smaller than the more established local brands.
For creative reuse in the brewing field, however, Wayward Owl is in a class by itself.
The renovation here brought back a vintage-looking Gem sign and retained the classic cinema look on the outside. Inside, Wayward Owl runs a taproom room in the front lobby area, which works like an indoor beer garden with long benches and a shuffleboard table. Ranks of tanks brewing up IPA and wheat beer extend down to where the theater screen once stood.
Food trucks park outside most nights, and the taproom sells Wayward Owl beer by the glass on site and in sizes from cans up to kegs to go. Founder and head brewer Justin Boswell keeps an array of specialty and seasonal beers rotating between the flagship brews.
This week, the brewery will release the first cans of its Privateer Pale Ale, a Belgian-style ale produced through a partnership with the University of New Orleans. Boswell said more of Wayward Owl’s specialty beers will soon be added to the canning line, with some destined for stores and others available only at the brewery.
Taproom hours are Tuesday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.