by Ian McNulty
Sometimes, a regular seat at your neighborhood bar can open new doors. That’s what happened to Chris Smedley. He was chef at Rambla until that CBD Spanish restaurant closed last year, but he wasn’t idle for long. He soon discovered that the owners of Kajun’s Pub, his usual after-shift watering hole in the Marigny, had a large and fully-equipped kitchen in a building attached to the bar and happened to be looking for a chef to make a go of it.
This tucked-away kitchen has proven fertile ground for a pair of eatery concepts Smedley says he’s long hoped to develop. One is now open — a late-night, chef driven hot dog and sausage parlor called Borracho. The second, and yet-to-be-named, will be a more conventional restaurant serving small plates in a modern Southern style. Smedley expects this second eatery to open in the fall adjacent to Kajun’s Pub, in a long-vacant building that was formerly a tax prep office.
Borracho (Spanish for “drunk”) is open from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily and serves in the Kajun’s Pub barroom and in its rear patio. The setting is casual in the extreme, but Smedley’s approach in the kitchen still draws from his fine-dining background. He sources extensively from local suppliers, makes his links and most of his topping in-house and, as of this week, is adding house-made buns to the mix. You can get a link dressed to order or pick specialty versions, like lamb sausage with mint chimichurri and preserved lemon tsatziki or the Sonoran dog, dressed with bacon, pineapple-chili relish and escabeche. A burger, fried chicken livers, pimento cheese and hand-cut chips with melted leek dip round out the pub fare.
Meanwhile, renovations have begun for the unnamed restaurant next door, and some long-range food prep is already underway (like prosciutto hams now set up to cure). While the menu is still a work in progress, Smedley say it will zero in on local flavors in a small plates format.
“We’re starting out with Southern ideas and Southern ingredients and expanding on it from there,” he says.
For instance, one dish he knows he’ll serve is a “sweet tea pork chop,” smoked with a mix of tea and sugar and finished with sweet corn succotash, grilled peaches and a red wine gastrique. The chef describes another dish as a reinterpretation of a salade Niçoise crossed with a bloody Mary, with pickled vegetables and quail eggs.
The restaurant will have table service and Smedley plans to have a full bar.
2256 St. Claude Ave., (504) 267-6108