At Revel (133 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-309-6122), the new craft cocktail bar and restaurant from bartender Chris McMillian, it's all about family. His son-in-law, Jose Ayala, is running the kitchen. McMillian's wife, Laura, is running the front of the house, and McMillian, of course, is tending bar.
It's the first solo venture for the McMillians, who are veterans of the local hospitality scene and co-founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail. McMillian, considered one of the nation's most revered bartenders, ran the bar program at French Quarter restaurant Kingfish before leaving in October to focus on the new concept.
"We're two bartenders who have worked in bars and hotels our whole lives," McMillian says. "To go from bartenders to business owners... I think that's the thing that separates us — that we know why we're here. We want to provide people with genuine care and comfort."
Revel opened quietly over Carnival weekend and is now open for lunch and dinner daily. Eventually, the restaurant will serve brunch on weekends. The two-level space consists of a front dining room with windows overlooking Carrollton Avenue and an upper level bar area outfitted with a long mahogany bar brought in from Kentucky and seating for 15 to 20 people.
In the kitchen, Ayala — formally the pastry chef at La Boulangerie — will bake bread daily out of a Spanish deck oven. The menu, described as "casual and family-friendly," includes soups, sandwiches and salads.
Appetizers include brioche pretzel bites with mustard sauce, tempura-battered shrimp with chili sauce and pickled vegetables, garlic and ginger chicken wings, and smoked pork nachos.
Salads and main dishes include Gulf shrimp with avocado, feta, sweet onions and tomatoes and lime vinaigrette, a crawfish grilled cheese sandwich on brioche, and a grilled Gulf fish sandwich.
Revel's hours of operation are still being finalized, but for now, the bar and restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.