After two years as a pop-up, Filipino restaurant Milkfish (125 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-327-0635; www.milkfishnola.com) is open in Mid-City. Chef/owner Cristina Quackenbush already has a built-in fan base and a menu refined by public response.
When Milkfish was a pop-up at Who Dat Coffee Cafe and then La Boca, "so many different types of people walked in that I was able to have constant feedback," Quackenbush says.
She responded with vegetarian and vegan options and explored different regions of the Philippines, a nation made up of thousands of islands.
Much from her previous menus carries over into the new space, including customer favorites like kare-kare (oxtail stewed with peanut butter and fermented shrimp paste) and sisig (poached pig face in citrusy-sour calamansi juice). Quackenbush will offer daily specials, too.
"Filipino cuisine hasn't caught on in the U.S.," she says. "I hope to help make it more mainstream by using fresh ingredients and highlighting its [distinct] flavors."
When we spoke, Quackenbush had just returned from Hong Kong Food Market with green mangos, jackfruit and dragon fruit. Those ingredients will make their way onto the menu, as well as the drinks list.
Bar manager Lindsay Allday eventually will serve cocktails she created for Quackenbush last year, but Milkfish has not yet secured a liquor license. Quackenbush hopes to have it within a few weeks, and until then, it's BYOB with no corkage fee.
In the meantime, Allday will craft her nonalcoholic teas and sodas, including a pineapple-cilantro-calamansi soda (Allday recommends adding amber rum) and jackfruit-coconut cream soda (if you have your own Batavia arrack, bring it).
And in a nod to her own pop-up roots, Quackenbush plans to host up-and-coming chefs in the Milkfish kitchen on Wednesdays. "I know how hard it is to find a spot, share your cuisine and test your concept," she says. "But it's the best way to go."
Milkfish is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday. Sundays are service industry nights, featuring $7 plates and drink specials. Milkfish also offers delivery.