The proliferation of new restaurants in the Bywater has been an unstoppable rebel force like the never ending "Call Me Maybe" video parodies. From Filipino pop-ups to eateries paying homage to the pirate history of New Orleans, the hipster haven has seen more restaurant growth than any other New Orleans neighborhood. And none of them have been more lauded than Maurepas Foods.
Don't believe me? Ask the New York Times. Or check out this video from............. wait for it................ American Hipster!
Chef and owner Michael Doyle has created the flagship neighborhood restaurant for the stretch of city between the Press Street railroad tracks and the Industrial Canal. The renovated corner building features vaulted ceilings lined with what looks like an elegant hardwood floor laid with thin planks and a stairway leads to a small second level enclosed by a Warhol graphic of an unknown mustachioed gentleman. Both the diners and the servers are comprised of what any Treme fanatic would consider the indigenous inhabitants of the Bywater - young, bohemian, donning fedoras and/or sporting ink. Outsiders such as myself probably wonder if this scene is indicative of "true" New Orleans or post-Katrina New England transplant New Orleans.
The menu is heavy on small plates categorized as "Vegetables, Starch, and Grain" - reading like a list of the freshest produce offered by your favorite Crescent City Farmer's Market vendor. At times these plates arrive as if they had been simply pulled from the ground, washed, cut, and artfully presented on the plate. Freshness is the modus operadi at Maurepas, but at times the minimalist approach taste of shortcomings. Squashes are quartered lengthwise, lightly grilled, and dressed with shiso oil (a Japanese herb belonging to the mint family; yes, I had to look it up) and scattered with plump blueberries and green peppercorns which could neither be found nor tasted. Snap beans are tossed in a charred tomato puree which barely coated their crunchy skin and adorned with two slivers of tofu in an imaginary shrimp crust.
|Tempura and roasted sweet potatoes with maitake mushrooms.|
|Chicken leg quarter with market greens, grits, and slow-poached egg.|
Goat tacos ($8) imitate Mexico’s favorite street food but with bolder flavor and a dryer cut of meat stuffed in corn tortillas and welcoming the vibrant chimichurri and pickled green tomatoes. A rotating "meat plate" special may feature discs of silky lamb roulade served atop a ginger snap wafer and long, wide ribbons of pickled cucumber. On another night, you may be offered a slow cooked Filipino short rib lacquered with adobo and soy and place atop rice pilaf with the added crunch of pecans.
|Mint chocolate ice cream cookie sandwiches.|
The staff at Maurepas could not be more welcoming, careful to explain the menu without a trace of arrogance and willing to admit ignorance when they themselves may not have sampled a certain dish. In a city where neighborhood restaurants are often classified by their offering of veal parmesan or trout meuniere, Maurepas is one of several forerunners in a new era which should be applauded for the quality of food served in a comfortable space at affordable prices. While the originality of the menu can be intimidating to some, it's best to squeeze into your skinny jeans and dive right in.
Maurepas Foods - Birdie
3200 Burgundy Street
Thur - Tues: 11am - Midnight
All photos by renee b. photography.