St. Roch Market opened April 10 with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and community leaders on hand to hail the project as a sign of economic development.
"This is your community center," Landrieu said. "This is your neighborhood. This is to build this neighborhood back in a way that gives us an opportunity to give folks in New Orleans a place to live and work and play."
Following a $3.7 million renovation, the historic market, which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina, reopened as a food hall with a dozen vendors, a bar, some grocery items and seating indoors and outside.
The St. Roch Market originally opened as an open-air neighborhood market in 1875, and it was enclosed in 1911. Before Katrina, it was home to a seafood market, but the new St. Roch Market, opened by Will Donaldson and Barre Tanguis, features food counters offering everything from Nigerian cuisine and Korean-infused Creole dishes to sandwiches, salads, seafood, an oyster bar, savory crepes, bread, cakes, juices and more. There's also a full bar called The Mayhaw.
When she was dissatisifed with the job market following her college graduation, Lesley Turner and husband Artis Turner started talking about starting their own food truck business. In August 2014, they launched Dirty Dishes, which is focused on waffles. They jumped at the chance to be part of St. Roch Market as a step towards a brick-and-mortar restaurant. For now, they're focusing on the market, but they'll soon juggle both the truck and the market and use some of the seven employees they've hired at St. Roch to support catering jobs. At the market, they offer a menu of sweet and savory crepes. "Dirty" is taken from the nickname of a deceased cousin, but they also think of the term as part of their style.
"We want to take a dish and funk it up, make it Dirty," Lesley says.
One of their most popular food truck dishes is smoked Gouda macaroni and cheese that they make "Dirty" with crawfish and tasso. The roughly 10-item regular menu includes build-your-own crepes and the Elvis-inspired Jailhouse Roch, filled with peanut butter, banana, bacon and marshmallow.
At the Lagos counter, chef Tunde Wey is continuing the "ambassadorial" mission of his pop-up of the same name. After doing two pop-up dinners in New Orleans, he moved here from Detroit to open in St. Roch. His menu focuses on a handful of traditional Nigerian dishes, such as jollof. A dish he sees as an antecedent to jambalaya, it's a combination of spiced rice, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Wey adds bouillon cubes to a pot of jollof while working in St. Roch's shared kitchen and describing why he thinks it'll appeal to local customers.
"It's deja vu," he says. "It's familiar because it resembles something people know."
At the soft opening Thursday, his menu also included frijohn, a black bean and coconut pudding with hot pepper and nkwobi, a cowfoot stew spiced with calabash, nutmeg and habanero. His counter also offered bottled Ghanian palm juice and some Nigerian staples.
After working at high-end Italian restaurants in San Francisco and at Cochon Butcher locally, Kristopher Doll turned his focus to butchering and curing meats at his own business, Shank Shop. He opened Shank Charcuterie at St. Roch to serve sandwiches, charcuterie boards and to sell sausages, meats and cheeses. Doll is a native of Lafayette, so the charcuterie board he offered Thursday included andouille and chaurice sausages as well as Italian sausage, head cheese, boiled egg, remoulade, mostarda and bread. For a sandwich, he served Italian sausage topped with peperonata on ciabatta.
Keenan McDonald opened St. Roch Forage, which offers fruits, vegetables and flowers. She has background in organic farming and currently works as an intermediary between regional farmers and chefs. At St. Roch, she's selling produce to vendors and the public, and produce comes from urban farms and gardens in New Orleans East as well as farms in Mississippi and Alabama. She sources mushrooms form the Northshore and strawberries from Hammond, striving for prices between Rouses and Circle Food Store, she says. But she's also offering bargain $10 grab bags. She also will offer weekly $20 and $30 boxes, which will have fruits, vegetables and items such as bread, seafood, coffee or juice from other St. Roch vendors as they develop partnerships.