Champagne sabayon tops a frozen grapefruit half at Effervescence. (©Shawn Fink)
There is nothing new about restaurants with big bar/cocktail/beer programs or bars with serious food. But New Orleans’ newest restaurant iteration is found tucked into distilleries and breweries, places where booze is the front man—sometimes the raison d’etre—though the food is no slacker. Sound intriguing? It is.
The new Lula Restaurant Distillery produces vodka, rum and gin made from 100 percent Louisiana sugarcane products, and offer retail bottles for purchase on-site. To dine, Lula co-owner and chef Jess Bourgeois created a menu that could easily be dubbed “Contemporary Louisiana.” Kick off with salty-sweet boudin eggrolls and a sticky fig-molasses dipping sauce, then try the tender braised rabbit with pickled pork-flecked white beans and green onion popcorn rice or Gulf shrimp lacquered and spiked with Lula Rum, tempered by an earthy soybean succotash.
Effervescence Bubbles & Bites, which opened mid-March, features Champagnes and sparkling wines—by the bottle, glass and on tap—from France, Italy and Spain. The menu of modern American small plates includes fried chicken, grilled octopus and caviar with crème fraîche and fresh-fried potato chips. Dessert is a hollowed-out grapefruit half filled with frozen grapefruit spheres, a drape of Champagne sabayon and a wisp of edible gold leaf.
The recent swell in local breweries is just short of shocking—currently hovering at around 17—with a growing number now adding dedicated restaurant spaces. The taproom at NOLA Brewing features pit man Neil McClure's big barbecue menu of smoky, tender barbecue and a few surprises—pho, banh mi, poutine and tacos made with smoked meats—that are a great match for the house-made beers. Joining in the trend, the recently opened Port Orleans Brewing Company houses Stokehold, chefs Jeremy Wolgamott, Phillip Mariano and Tim Bordes’ new venture serving elevated dishes with a modern American, Southern and Italian vibe, built around the beer brewed on site.