by Ian McNulty
Telling some prospective apartment renters or homebuyers that a breakfast joint is within walking distance of a particular property is as powerful a sales hook as proximity to parade routes, Jazz Fest or even a swimming pool for others. That's part of the reason why Huevos, the new café responsible for this eggs and tamale dish (left) and reviewed in this week's issue, is where it is.
A slew of restaurants have tried to make a go of it in a space directly across the street from Huevos and faced difficulties from the location on a dead-end street with little through-traffic. Huevos faces the same challenge, but its location was no random choice.
Owners Jeff Baron and Bart Bell hooked up with the Domain Companies, the local real estate development firm behind a series of large apartment complexes in the neighborhood, including the newly opened, 183-unit Preserve just a few blocks away.
The Domain Companies seems to be doing its part to help lift the heavily-damaged surrounding neighborhood along the way, from buying and renovating individual houses nearby to helping fund the revitalization of St. Patrick Park, now home to softball and kickball leagues.
The company also wanted more restaurants within walking distance for its tenants at the Preserve. Enter Baron and Bell and their original business plan to open a restaurant called Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. somewhere in Mid-City. They leased the building at the corner of Banks and South Alexander streets from Domain, along with the small adjacent building they planned to sublease to a coffee shop operator.
When Hurricane Gustav blew the structure down, Plan B saw Baron and Bell setting up shop in that smaller building themselves and breakfast at Huevos was served.
The squat, squared building with its stucco walls and barred windows gives the exterior a stolid, fortified appearance, which is perhaps comforting for two young entrepreneurs who saw their previous project dashed to splinters by tropical winds. But despite the outward appearance, the café feels homey and hip all at once, thanks to the combination of local art, tables hewn from vintage cypress lumber and a clientele that on any given day can look like the casting call for a diversity day ad.
Plans for Crescent Pie & Sausage are progressing as a new building rises on the original site so eventually this neighborhood, including its newest residents at the Preserve, will have a whole corner full of dining options.