by Ian McNulty
One busy corner of Uptown known for its bar scene has gotten a lot more appetizing lately with the addition of a new pop-up under one roof and the expansion of a well-traveled purveyor of high-quality pub grub under another.
That pop-up is called PPX, which on Wednesday nights takes over the patio and kitchen of F&M Patio Bar. The pub grub purveyor is J’Anita’s, which is based inside the Rendon Inn in Broadmoor and as of this week has a second location open inside Grits Bar (530 Lyon St., 899-9211).
F&M has been a late-night destination for generations. Its address has hosted dances since the 1950s, and revelry of more recent vintage under its roof almost always includes dancing atop the pool tables as the early morning hours tick past. There’s been food here for a while too, mostly in the form of waffle-cut cheese fries, burgers and quesadillas.
It hasn’t been known for brucshetta, farmers market salads, hand-made chicken thigh nuggets with poached eggs in soy broth or black pepper fettuccine with shrimp. But those are some of the dishes you’ll find from PPX on Wednesday evenings, between 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Portions of the menu change each week.
The chef behind this pop-up is Matthew Elliott Kopfler, a New Orleans native who once managed F&M during his college years. He later went traveling around the country, working in restaurants in New York, on Nantucket and elsewhere, and eventually enrolling in culinary school. At every turn, though, it seemed he kept running into New Orleans culinary influences.
“Wherever I traveled I learned a lot more about where I was from,” Kopfler says.
Back home, he’s been cooking on weekends at Martinique Bistro and became curious to test the waters of the now-buzzing local pop-up scene with his own venture. He knew F&M was very quiet in the earlier evening hours, so he started PPX there about a month ago.
His partner for the pop-up is Tess Monaghan, a friend who grew up in New York and came to New Orleans to help run Build Now Nola, a Katrina recovery nonprofit her father established.
Together, Kopfler and Monaghan run a tight ship in a patio that proves surprisingly comfortable before the late-night bar crowd shows up. Enter from the Lyons Street side and order from the patio kitchen as usual. And if you really can’t visit F&M without thinking of cheese fries, PPX does some pretty tasty cheese fry sliders with tasso gravy.
Meanwhile, just up Lyons Street, the new J’Anita’s expansion is called Stihl-Moore J’Anita’s (the name is an inside joke among the J’Anita’s crew). It’s run by Jeremiah “Milo” Sherman, who worked for J’Anita’s proprietors Kimmie and Craig Giesecke at their eatery’s original incarnation on Magazine Street. J’Anita’s relocated to the kitchen inside the Avenue Pub for about a year and a half before moving to the kitchen at the Rendon Inn in 2010, and some of the lessons the Gieseckes learned along the way are being rolled into the new second location.
“Milo is free to go his own direction there because as we discovered before, what sold at one location doesn’t always sell at another,” says Craig Giesecke. “I think his crowd there will be a little more collegiate and a little more late-night.”
At Stihl-Moore J’Anita’s, look for familiar signatures like its red fish sandwich and “swamp Reuben” (made with pulled pork and brisket) and also more vegetarian-friendly items.
“It’s not necessarily lighter, there just isn’t as much pork,” Giesecke says.
Stihl-Moore J’Anita’s serves lunch, dinner and late-night Tuesday through Saturday.
4841 Tchoupitoulas St., phone n.a.
(enter F&M at 504 Lyons Street)
530 Lyon St., 899-9211