by Ian McNulty
If you’ve visited the Milk Bar (1514 Delachaise St., 891-9361), a tiny but exceptional sandwich/soup/salad joint tucked away off St. Charles Avenue by Touro Infirmary, you may have noticed that a lot of college students flock to the place at lunch. The Milk Bar crew noticed too.
That’s why they opened a second Milk Bar (710 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-3310) in the Riverbend, within walking distance to the Loyola and Tulane campuses.
“University kids were half our business,” says Kevin Phayer, the Brit who runs the Milk Bar with his Australian-born wife Inta Phayer. “We decided to go closer to the customers who are coming to us and maybe make it easier for our customers from the hospital to get a quick lunch.”
Based on the name, some first-time customers must surely arrive expecting a Clockwork Orange theme or at least a dairy-centric operation. But a milk bar in the Australian context is a neighborhood institution somewhere between a corner deli and an old-fashioned soda fountain. That’s what the Phayers had in mind when they first opened their Milk Bar in the 1990s at a spot downtown near Charity Hospital. They sold the business and moved to Australia, though when a yen for the New Orleans lifestyle led them back a few years later they found their old address available again. They reopened the Milk Bar there in the fateful month of August 2005, just weeks before Katrina floodwaters wrecked it all. But they later resurrected the place in its Delachaise Street location, which happened to be near another hospital — this time Touro.
Both shops serve the same menu, which means a different soup daily, a few salads and an original and idiosyncratic approach to sandwiches, which are made on over-sized round loaves of ciabatta, a standing custom order from La Boulangerie. One called the “wolf me down” has roasted lamb with hummus and spinach while eggplant and the better part of a Greek salad goes into another called “I dream of aubergenie.” You can get roasted chicken with sour cream, mozzarella and a chunky, bright-red, spicy-sweet sauce called Thai chili that is a staple of Australian gastropub grub. The Milk Bar serves a basic breakfast menu or bagels and croissant sandwiches, plus milkshakes, smoothies and coffee drinks.
The new Milk Bar is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The original location keeps the same hours, but just Monday through Friday.
The Milk Bar
1514 Delachaise St., 891-9361; 710 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-3310