The biggest story for New Orleans food in 2010 didn't happen in a kitchen or a dining room, but far out in the Gulf with BP's oil disaster. We'll be monitoring the impacts of the spill for years to come, but as the seafood supply struggled back in the second half of 2010, it was more deliberately celebrated by restaurateurs, fishermen's advocates and diners.
In a way, this experience was similar to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when there was grave concern about the future of New Orleans' culinary culture. Then, as now, we heard the call to more fully appreciate the delicate and vital resources that could be lost and to support them with renewed vigor.
This lesson surely came at a terrible cost, but 2010 offered plenty of evidence of the city's culinary resurgence five years after Hurricane Katrina. Despite the BP disaster, the march of interesting new restaurants rolled right along.
At the high end came the adventurous, Anglo-centric cuisine of Feast (200 Julia St., 304-6318), the debut of a jewel box of a cafe called Rue 127 (127 N. Carrollton Ave., 483-1571) and the entry of the extremely ambitious Meson 923 (923 S. Peters St., 523-9200) — which also saw the abrupt departure of chef Christopher Lynch.
Two years after closing his namesake French Quarter restaurant, chef Dominique Macquet returned with Dominique's on Magazine (4729 Magazine St., 894-8881). His comeback was hardly the only one this year. Katie's (3701 Iberville St., 488-6582) and Sid-Mar's (3322 N. Turnbull Drive, Metairie, 831-9541) each reopened for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Pete Vazquez, chef of the Katrina-casualty Marisol, joined chef/owner David Whitmore at Mimi's of River Ridge (10160 Jefferson Hwy., River Ridge, 737-6464), and veteran local chef Guy Sockrider opened Roux on Orleans (717 Orleans Ave., 523-2222). Mike's on the Avenue (628 St. Charles Ave., 523-7600), an emblem of 1990s New Orleans dining, returned as well.
Fans of small plates, craft cocktails and wine bars had a lot to celebrate this year with the openings of Three Muses (536 Frenchmen St., 298-8746), Oak (8118 Oak St., 302-1485), the Eiffel Society (2040 St. Charles Ave., 525-2951) and Lilette chef John Harris' Bouligny Tavern (3641 Magazine St., 891-1810). Upscale comfort food saw new contenders with Sylvain (625 Chartres St., 265-8123) in the French Quarter and the addition just this month of chef Brack May's Cowbell (8801 Oak St., 298-8689) in the Riverbend. Chef Susan Spicer opened Mondo (900 Harrison Ave., 224-2633) in Lakeview, and she also celebrated the 20th anniversary of her first restaurant, Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 525-4455). Emeril Lagasse toasted the same milestone at his flagship Emeril's Restaurant (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393), while Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114) and Lilette (3637 Magazine St., 895-1636) each notched 10-year anniversaries.
Another milestone of sorts occurred at Upperline (1413 Upperline St., 891-9822), where chef Ken Smith resigned after nearly 20 years to train for the priesthood. He passed the torch to chef Nathan Winowich in September.
2010 also marked the passing of Myrtle Romano Baquet at age 88. Along with her late husband Edward Baquet Sr., she ran Eddie's on Law Street in Gentilly and raised a family that would continue a tradition of Creole soul cuisine at a succession of restaurants across town, including today's two locations of Lil' Dizzy's Cafe.