Thinking Inside the Box

Like other service-oriented businesses, the restaurant industry has been slammed pretty hard due to the pandemic and resulting shut-downs. Though we inch ever closer to Phase 3, new breakouts and bad actors have business-owners struggling daily with the decision to offer dine-in, only takeout and delivery, or closing their doors altogether. Even at 50% capacity, eateries still aren’t pulling in enough to get out to the red. Some places are able to remain closed, holding their breath till “things get back to normal.” Others are wading their way through the rigors of new regulations, opening for dine-in, takeout and delivery. Then there are a few inspired entrepreneurs who are thinking “inside the box.”

Instead of focusing solely on how to sell the experience they offered before the pandemic, some restaurants and cafes are taking advantage of their unique connections to farmers, fishermen and artisanal, local producers to offer mini-farmers markets where customers can box it up and take it all home. Not only are restaurants offering a physical space for these folks to sell their goods, they are, in a very real sense, offering customers the ingredients they need to recreate the restaurant experience in their own kitchens … or inspired to come up with something completely different.

Thalia, the neighborhood restaurant that opened in the LGD last August, has been killing it with their weekly mini-farmers market. Judging from the lines around the block, folks from all over the city have been flocking to the Saturday Thalia Market for blueberries from the North Shore @2sistersberryfarm, hand-packed pints of cool, creamy bliss from @lucybooneicecream (her North Shore Honey and Brownie Peanut Butter flavors are guaranteed to delight), and small-batch kombucha and pickled goods from Ether Pickles & Ferments (@etherpicklesandferments). Fresh produce is also available from Paradigm Gardens or Laketilly Acres (or both!), Viola’s Heritage Breads (@viola_heritage_breads) are slinging baked goods from rolls to cornbread and cookies, and most recently there are gorgeous Georgia peaches from The Peach Pelican. This weekly bounty is garnished with fresh pasta and other prepared goods from Thalia herself (a.k.a. Kristen Essig, Ana Castro and team), plus locally made gifts from The GOOD Shop and hand-made cloth masks from @muchgoodco.

Over on Broad Street at Coffee Science, purveyor Tom Oliver has taken the cafe to a whole new stratosphere featuring an option to make groceries online! Through, customers can order a box of farm fresh produce from Covey Rise in Husser, Louisiana, micro-greens from urban grower Laketilly Acres or whole chickens and eggs from Singer, Louisiana’s Greener Pastures. Your dairy needs are covered with milk, yogurt and Creole cream cheese from Mauthe’s Progress Milk Barn in McComb, and why not throw in a jar of fig and lemon preserves created by Jamboree Jams (@jamboreejams) and a bar of dark milk chocolate from Piety & Desire made right here in New Orleans? They also offer quarts of house made gumbo, bolognese and ettouffee … oh and by the way, Coffee Science also sells coffee! Add a pound of their special “Feed the Second Line” blend (part of the proceeds goes to the Krewe of Red Beans) to the cart or 64oz of cold brew and you’re done! Best part? If you live in the area, you can have all this delivered right to your door.

Down on Jefferson Highway, the folks at Hippie Kitchen have taken a somewhat different tack with their restaurant market’s offerings. All of the “grocery” items are made in-house, with ingredients sourced from everyone in the community. Herbs from neighborhood gardens are used almost as much as the vegetables ordered from Louisiana Fresh or the meats from Eunice Superette. Hippie Kitchen’s executive chef and founder Harveen Khera leans towards vegan and vegetarian-friendly foods from her multi-grained bread and focaccia to apple butter, ketchup and hummus, but certainly doesn’t shy away from smoked and pulled pork, organic chicken salad or cured salmon. Essentially de-constructing their menu, the neighborhood restaurant offers a large, rotating menu of sauces, curries, salads, prepared veggies and baked goods, including their own pizza dough. Don’t forget to get in on some of Khera’s ice cream such as mango coconut, vanilla cardamom and “adult” flavors like Mint Vodka Chip!

Since the shut-downs began, chef/owner Jason Goodenough at Carrollton Market has persevered, selling swoon-worthy family meals for curbside pick-up, everything from fried chicken and dirty rice to Lamb Souvlaki and Shrimp Pad Thai. In late May when restrictions began to lift, the Riverbend restaurant opened for dine-in with Friday and Saturday night prix fixe tasting menus and then in early June, Carrollton Market kicked off its first … well … market! Along with heat and serve, and grab and go, and ready-to-cook (like those crazy-big cinnamon rolls!) items for curbside, Goodenough was now offering pantry items such as daily selections from St. James Cheese Co., Benton’s Bacon by the ½ pound, Covey Rise Local Raw Honey, Orleans Coffee Cold Brew and fresh baguettes from Mayhew Bakery.

*Article originally published in the August 2020 issue of Where Y’at Magazine

**Thalia and Carrollton Market are closed

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