A Restaurant Flurry on Freret

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Things seem to be looking up on Freret Street these days.

The Uptown commercial corridor has long played a very quiet second fiddle to the proliferation of local businesses angling for spots along Magazine Street, but boosters have steadfastly maintained that the once-bustling retail stretch of Freret between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues is ripe for rebirth.

Lately, the street has been bearing more fruit, especially on the restaurant front.

At the Uptown end of the stretch, a former bank branch has been revamped as Village Coffee and Tea Co. (5335 Freret St., 861-1909). In addition to coffee shop fare and light lunches (soups, salads, sandwiches), look for a counter dishing up cones and cups of the flavors from New Orleans Ice Cream Co.

A few blocks down the street, the new Sarita's Grill (4520 Freret St., 324-3562) bills itself as a Latin fusion café. It took over a storefront that has been a succession of more conventional Latin American restaurants, most recently Las Penitas. As Sarita's, it remains a very casual, inexpensive place with menu highlights like tacos, Cuban sandwiches and "Sarita's bowls," filled with yellow rice and topped with a selection of meats and vegetables.

Meanwhile, Troy Rhodes plans to soon open Freret Street Po-Boys (4701 Freret St., 904-9636). Rhodes is in the air conditioning business, but he says he practically grew up in his family's sandwich shop as a kid, and he's getting back to those roots with this new venture. He plans to open early in September serving sandwiches, Creole-style plate lunches (such as paneed pork chops) and basic breakfasts, plus donuts made in-house.

This latest batch of new Freret businesses joins recent additions like Cure, the upscale cocktail bar, and Beaucoup NOLA Juice, which makes sno-balls using pureed fruits rather than the normal sugary syrups (not that there's anything wrong with sugary syrups, mind you).

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