Visitors to Jack & Jake's Public Market (1307 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-644-4841; www.jackandjakes.com) in Central City will find two full-service restaurants, an oyster bar, a Cajun butcher and a produce stand in a space that spans an entire city block. The 30,000-square-foot fresh food hub inside the former Myrtle Banks Elementary School building is slated to open soon, according to CEO and founder John W. Burns.
"We're still dealing with some last-minute issues but we're really, really close," Burns says.
With its rough-hewn aesthetic, the market resembles a modern general feed store and is outfitted with hardwood floors and brick walls, chandeliers and hand-picked antiques, including brass instruments, a French wooden handcart, butcher scales and artwork.
The three-story building includes a string of produce stands that stretch throughout the store and will showcase fruits and vegetables from local farms, Burns says. Shoppers will be able to buy meat, cheese, seafood and baked goods from local producers as well as prepared foods and other general supplies. The building has WiFi and ample dining space.
"It's a hybrid model where you have both retail and wholesale," Burns says. "It's a lot more like a European-style indoor market than anything else, really."
The market's mission is to provide underserved communities with fresh, local and healthy food. Nina Comancho, brand director for Jack & Jake's says the market will accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, and will give Central City residents preference in filling jobs.
Burns says his team will move large quantities of food from a select group of local farmers to schools, hospitals and other institutions.
"We want to help get food to the places we think need it most," Burns says.
Executive chef Ben Thibodeaux was brought aboard in February and is running the prepared food program as well as the two restaurants.
Thibodeaux hails from Lafayette and spent a decade in New Orleans at restaurants including Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, Palace Cafe and Tableau.
Jack & Jake's downstairs restaurant, Muddy Rivers, will serve Southern and Louisiana-inspired cuisine. Upstairs, a health food-focused restaurant called Island 40 will serve soups, salads, smoothies and a variety of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Also upstairs will be a seed bank where customers can buy gardening supplies, a bar space with taxidermy-covered walls where outdoor accoutrement such as grills and generators will be offered, and a test and training kitchen that may be used by visiting chefs or schools for educational purposes.
A long wraparound bar made of salvaged cypress sits at the center of the market on the first floor, and 16 different local beers will be served on tap. Growlers will be available so customers can take beer home. In addition to an all-local seafood booth, the market also has an oyster bar serving predominately Gulf bivalves
A big selection of prepared foods, including sandwiches, salads and sides, will be offered, Thibodeaux says. The market is collaborating with St. James Cheese Company on its cheese selection. There will be two full-service butchers including one specializing in Cajun products. Local ice cream purveyor New Orleans Ice Cream Company will be featured and a collaborative ice cream line is in the works. A bakery will sell breads, pastries and cakes from a host of local bakers including Sucre, Bellegarde Bakery, Gracious Bakery and Leidenheimer Baking Co.
Surrounding the building, 10,000 square feet will be used for seating, live music, events and an "edible landscape," where herbs and vegetables will be grown.