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Thu July 26, 2012
Where Y'eat: Bywater Boom and Maurepas Foods
New restaurants and cafes are opening at a furious pace throughout the Bywater, as if the long-time complaint that the neighborhood needed more food options finally fell on all the right ears all at once. One apt example is the new restaurant called Maurepas Foods.
Change has been the storyline of the Bywater for generations now. The residents, the businesses and the pace of neighborhood life, they all have shifted from the days when this was a blue collar enclave of big families and heavy industry tied closely to the rhythms and demands of a hard-working riverfront.
That pattern of change accelerated dramatically in the years since Hurricane Katrina, and in the realm of food its impact has been unmistakable. New restaurants and cafes are opening at a furious pace throughout the blocks of the Bywater. It’s as if the long-time complaint that the neighborhood needed more food options finally fell on all the right ears all at once.
One apt example is the new restaurant called Maurepas Foods. Any neighborhood in its right mind would welcome a place like this. It’s accessible, casual, artfully refurbished, creative at the bar and serious in its sourcing and cooking.
But as it happens, Maurepas Foods feels particularly at home deep in the Bywater. Theatrically bohemian here, still solidly working class there, and under rapid renovation just about everywhere, there is a lot going on in the Bywater and Maurepas Foods keeps pace with this energy and idiosyncratic style.
Mike Doyle opened the place in January after a tenure as sous chef at Dante’s Kitchen, a stand-out restaurant in the Riverbend known for its farm-to-table approach. Doyle has brought a similar aesthetic way down river to the other end of town for his own restaurant in his own neighborhood. This is why a simple plate of peaches and peppers with herb vinaigrette at Maurepas Foods can become a conversation piece, or why summer squashes with blueberries and sesame oil can get a table pondering appropriate wine pairings.
The Maurepas Foods menu is designed for quick service, and it achieves this. You’ll likely have to wait for a table, since this restaurant has been rolling from the get-go. But orders come out at the rapid clip of bar food and this makes it truly feasible to build a meal as you go. That’s a good thing, because the standard appetizer/entrée format doesn’t really work. Most of the dishes are sized somewhere between appetizers, sides or really small entrees. My advice: order three dishes for two people and take it from there.
The menu is always changing, though some mainstays include goat tacos with pickled green tomatoes and spicy Middle Eastern harissa sauce. The cheese boards and house-made pickle plates fit the concept here. And if it sounds like a sausage sandwich is out of place, well, you just have to see this sandwich. The sausage – thick, spicy, encased in a blackened shell – keeps company with tiny bits of squid in a way that seems unlikely but proves delicious between the aioli-smeared hollows of crusty bread.
Big windows around this old corner building frame Bywater streetscapes, and it seems half the Bywater is inside on any given night. It also sounds that way. Boisterous and lively if you’re in the right mood, the rather hard acoustics make Maurepas Foods perhaps the wrong choice for an intimate dinner. But really this is a very social spot. If it were in your neighborhood, you’d be here eating and chatting all the time too.
3200 Burgundy St., New Orleans, 504-267-0072