by Ian McNulty
Restaurante Telamar (2901 Tulane Ave., 553-7696) was a tiny, family-run café that came along as part of a wave of new Latin American restaurants after Hurricane Katrina. But it really stood out and won an enthusiastic following around town for its proprietors’ robust rendition of Honduran home cooking and traditional flavors centered around fried plantains, thick sauces, cool crema and puffy, hand-made tortillas.
The restaurant has called a few obscure addresses home over the years, then it quietly disappeared. But after a hiatus, Telamar is back, this time on Tulane Avenue, a block up from the criminal courthouse.
As has always been the case at Telamar, smiles come easy but a formidable language barrier awaits customers unschooled in Spanish. Without much menu description, ordering can be a crapshoot, though in my experience the result is more often pleasant surprise than regret.
My recommendations: breakfast baleadas, or folded tortillas filled with egg, beans and crema; lengua (tongue), chopped into chunks and stewed with a thin, red sauce; chuletas (pork chops) buried under ropey piles of onions and peppers; Honduran tacos, which are stuffed with chicken, rolled and fried like Mexican flautas; and pollo con tajadas (pictured above). This last dish, probably the marquee item here, is fried chicken with long, ribbon-like slices of fried plantains, all soaked down with aderezo, a mild, savory, creamy sauce. Over this goes a generous salad of fresh cabbage and carrots, tomatoes and pickled onions stained the color of beets. The chicken tastes of garlic and everything piled over it while the cabbage, the tart onion and the plantain outside all add crunchy layers.
Telamar is run by Elisabeth Olviedo and her daughter Daisy, both natives of Honduras. They moved from Texas to New Orleans early in the Katrina recovery and soon got to work preparing boxed lunches for crews of laborers from their Uptown home and serving hot food direct from their stove. This was during the period when food service options in New Orleans were slim, and this sort of bootstrap entrepreneurism was common. But as the situation in New Orleans began to normalize and the city reasserted some of its rules, officials shut down the Olviedo home business.
The mother/daughter team soon went legit, however, and opened Telamar in a former daiquiri shop on Earhart Boulevard (you’ve seen it, the one with the old Jeep staged outside). Extensive road construction there prompted a move in 2010 to a hard-to-spot storefront on Washington Avenue. The new Telamar opened over the summer in an old building that has been a number of bar-and-grill type establishments through the years.
Telamar has a full bar, and in the evenings especially it draws a crowd of men fresh from the job site and unambiguously ready to drink. Lunch is a much more mellow scene, and probably a better bet for visitors who are more squarely interested in exploring Honduran cooking.
2901 Tulane Ave., 553-7696