Just three blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the area busy thoroughfare and into the residential side lies a a quietness, a peacefulness that is otherworldly from what lies a stone’s throw away. Birds chirping, and casual footsteps along the sidewalks awaited me as I approached Grace Lutheran and Christian’s successor, Redemption. What I noticed immediately is how they repurposed the info booth outside the church to house the menus, and the restaurant’s mission statement. As I approached the glass enclosed marquee entrance I already felt out of place and under-dressed. I know they say you can come to church as you are, but this ain’t a church no more! As I was in nothing more than the equivalent of gym clothes I almost turned around and left. However when I went in hostess might as well been an usher because she was very welcoming. As I stepped in , it almost felt magical. It felt like somewhere I’ve been before even though I never stepped in here. Despite the high ceilings, the space felt warm and romantic with a rose on every table and a local painting on every wall. Servers, of course were a far cry from those at Juicy Lucy, with their all black ensemble, clean shaven faces and non-visible tattoos. Also to mention there were no cigarette butts lining the sidewalks. As for Juicy Lucy, staff smoke out in front while waiting for customers. I’m sure Redemption has a designated area in the back for that.
After my first visit, I would then later on return ( in my sunday best, no pun intended) to interview Greg Picola, the Executive chef and General Manager of Redemption. For a leading chef in New Orleans that works 85-90 hours a week, and to what many say is the main reason people have been attracted to Redemption, he came off as very modest, warm and familiar to talk to. I felt as though I was talking to longtime friend of my mom’s. He even offered me something to drink, at no charge. He has been working for Redemption for 6 months, before that he was renowned for his culinary expertise at The Bistro at Maison de Ville for over 20 years. Before I interviewed him, both Samantha and I talked to Denise, who is Mike Juan’s “Gateway,” as she puts it; She has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years also, working at such venues in Fort Walton Beach in Florida, California, and 11 years at Houston’s on St. Charles as a manager. She wrote employee manuals and was lead manager during her career. The interviews had their similarities and stark differences.
Both felt that Mid City Market and Lafitte Greenway Project will attract more people to the area, that it can only get better for Mid-city/Carrollton altogether. However as far as the area itself, Denise feels that it is very competitive, she made that very apparent while trying to reassert the strength in that area: ” We sell over 900 hamburgers a week…. there are people that come over the Bonne Carrie Spillway just to come here.” She would also probably feels this way due to the oncoming of a Five Guys burger joint that will open in the market. On the other hand, Greg Picolo does not believe in external competition, but rather a community of restaurants that work to serve the neighborhood. He fells that “…Just as long as people are doing their own thing and not stealing from anyone, it’s alright” he has a concept of internal competition, by you doing your very best and working hard in whatever you’re doing. He did address a issue of the neighborhood that Beriss mentioned in class: the amount of fine dining establishments that have crept up in the area such as Redemption, Cafe Minh, Rue 127, Canal St. Bistro and the like, “It feels these place are more for people who are coming here from other places rather than those who have actually been living here…places like Palmer and there was this place you can get plate of red beans, sausage, and rice for under 10 dollars, all that gone.” As for the future of both places, Juicy Lucy has expanded to Metairie on Houma Blvd which long-housed the Texas Barbeque Company. As for Redemption, they are going to stay at their current location and really work on building up their name and distinguishability. In all I encourage everyone to go to both places and think of New Orleans in terms of both places. If you want to know more, checkout:
Juicy Lucy currently does not have a website , but you can “fan” them on Facebook, or stop in and tell’em Stephanie sent ya!
One Last Note: I hope this project continues and the the next class or group will keep up with this also, at least until the new area developments are up and running. Peace!