The Gist: The owners, Cameron Hutton and Steve McKeon (also owners of Small Town Food Co.), along with Simon Ho (formerly of The Drake) call it "An ode to the rich culture and vibrancy of New Orleans, a place where the music is loud, the food is easy and the atmosphere is as hot as downtown NOLA."
Hutton and McKeon grew up together and went to public school together. After opening Small Town Food Co., they quickly wanted to work on another project together, including Ho.
"We wanted something that would be bar heavy. The restaurant was our first child and since we’re all bartenders, we wanted to be able to focus on really great drinks," McKeon says. "We saw potential in the neighbourhood and the room." After careful consideration, an emphasis on live music and the bar were the key with a "New Orleans filter" and small food menu added. Hutton sums it up nicely – "Good blues, good bites and good cocktails."
Grub: The skeleton menu has everything you need – oysters ($6-$32), po’ boys - including alligator, y’all! ($10-$16), and classic Southern treats such as boiled peanuts ($3), okra three ways ($6), hush puppies ($10) and beignets ($8) for dessert. And almost everything except for the sides, you can eat with your hands, including the Cajun Crab Legs ($15). Such fun!
Libations: Absinthe ($13-$19) being poured from gorgeous vessels that look right out of the 20s is just part of the experience. Then you get to taste it. And how cool that not only French absinthe is available, but local distillers Dillon’s is on hand.
The classics are fanfreakintastic too. A Sazerac ($14) is gently made with American rye, herbsaint and peychauds; and a French 75 ($12) gives bubbly a whole new meaning with the addition of gin and lemon to the champagne.
Signatures too, are stellar choices. Little Death ($14) is one sexy concoction full of rye, Amaro Lucano, salted chocolate caramel and rosemary smoke. Want something a little more perfume-y? Try the Crescent City ($12) featuring daisy infused vodka, Chartreuse, peach, lemon and egg white.
You’re just going to have to come and try one of everything. Seriously.
Deets: With 60 seats in the stylish interior and 50 out on the patio, it’s just big enough for a N’awlins party every night. In fact, the patio’s huge.
The interior includes tables snugly tucked together (after all, this is how they do it in New Orleans!) and welcomes guests from Bay Street to across the street. There’s no cover, unlike other music venues in town and the focus here is all jazz and blues. You won’t find any rock bands on the calendar.
Fixtures & Fittings: The guys did all the work themselves and redid pretty much "everything but the floor and ceiling." The banquette was covered in a stunning turquoise fabric and finished with tufted buttons. Tables were covered in old newspapers to create the feeling of a traditional crawfish boil – which you’ll be able to experience this summer out on the patio. They even redid the walls, revealing former Mitzi's Sister remnants and brick veneer!
The addition of copper on top of the bar makes a gorgeous statement and is mighty durable too – with three bartenders for owners, the bar was reworking for optimal pouring and mixing of drinks. And lighting rosemary on fire to bring out its fragrance.
The piano was put in the middle of the rood, so that "instead of watching the band, you’re part of it." Swoon.
Off the Menu: The Okra Threesome ($6) showcases okra in all its glory - pickled, fried and blackened. You’ll feel so Southern, you might just start speaking with a drawl.
Baked Oysters ($12) are done a la Rockefeller, finished with a parmesan gratin. Here they are not heavy and cloying like most, but herbaceous and bright. You’re going to order another right away, so don’t even pretend like you won’t.
Shrimp Po’ Boys ($12) are fairly mainstream across the city now, but the cornmeal dredge, and keep-it-simple toppings lettuce, tomato and remoulade let the buoyant shrimp be center stage, all tucked into a soft toasted white bun. Pure bliss.
Beignets ($8) are deep fried and finished with a deep dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Light, airy and just sweet enough, you won’t be weighted down, which means you can get up and dance all night long.
How Cool is This?! Voodoo candles, shrunken heads, a stuffed alligator, and Mardi Gras beads peppering the space might seem gimmicky at first glance. But a crafted cocktail, a few hush puppies and some heart-wrenching, soul-searching John Lee Hooker and you’ll feel like you’re right on the Bayou.
At the Stove: Charles Duncan
Head Honchos: Cameron Hutton, Steve McKeon and Simon Ho
Visiting Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 5pm – 2am
Map It: 890 College St. (at the corner of Delaware, 1 block east of Dovercourt)
Phone It In: (647) 345-8282