by Ian McNulty
The Munch Factory raised the bar for restaurants in its Gentilly neighborhood when it opened last year with a menu combining New Orleans traditions (Creole gumbo, roast beef po-boys) and more classical traditions (the fines herbes chicken, one of my favorite examples of roasted chicken around town).
This week, the Munch Factory moved to a new location that’s not far from its original address but brings a lot more visibility and more options.
After a brief hiatus for the move, proprietors Alexis and Jordan Ruiz reopened the Munch Factory at a spot just outside the University of New Orleans campus, which had previously been a location of Nacho Mama’s Mexican Grill.
The Munch Factory will initially keep its same schedule, serving dinner Tuesday through Saturday and lunch on Fridays only. But by October, Alexis Ruiz says, they plan to add more days for lunch. This new Munch Factory is significantly larger than the original location, both in the dining room and in the kitchen.
“Before, the kitchen was the size of a bedroom, now it’s like a living room,” says Ruiz. “We made it work, but it was really difficult.”
The larger kitchen will allow Jordan, the chef of the couple, to expand his menu and to serve on a regular basis some dishes that had previously been available only as specials.
One of those is that fines herbes chicken, which is first sautéed, then roasted and finished with a creamy sauce of fines herbes, a textbook French culinary bouquet of tarragon, chives, parsley and chervil. Panko-crusted potato croquettes with smoked gouda and tasso and a bushel of fresh green beans with bacon finish the plate. At the new space, they also plan to expand the menu with more salads, gourmet pizzas and other dishes intended to appeal to UNO students and faculty looking for quick meal options.
While the menu is set to grow in the new location, the Munch Factory’s strong suit has been familiar comfort food addled by both culinary school tweaks and a strong dose of Creole flavor. That plays out in dishes like beef short ribs, braised and practically glazed with a deep, rich jus, or the bright, spicy shrimp remoulade over green tomato slices, but also makes room for Cuban sandwiches, cheese fries and Buffalo shrimp.
Both Alexis and Jordan Ruiz are New Orleans natives who left for school but felt the urge to come home after Hurricane Katrina and be part of their city’s rebirth. They started in business for themselves by renting a commissary kitchen in Mid-City to begin delivering weekday hot lunches, initially just to family and friends and eventually to regular customers around town. The response was so encouraging that they decided to roll the dice on their own restaurant and initially opened Munch Factory on Franklin Avenue deep in Gentilly in April 2011.
At their new location, they may add a bicycle delivery service catering to the UNO campus and a full bar is in the works pending a liquor license.
The Munch Factory
6325 Elysian Fields Ave., 324-5372