- Photo by Cheryl Gerber
- Greg Surrey opened a second cafe Uptown.
When independent restaurateurs want to expand in the same market, they tend to diversify. Yet when Greg Surrey decided it was time to grow, he essentially duplicated his casual breakfast and lunch joint, Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar, in a new location just 3 miles up the road. He wasn't worried it might siphon his own customers from the original — in fact, that was the point.
Surrey's is a popular brunch spot, and getting a table during the weekend almost always requires a wait. When the second Surrey's opened in August in the former Fuel coffee shop, servers at the original gave patrons the option of waiting or just moving down the street. These days, however, both locations routinely have crowds outside their doors by mid-morning. Le Bon Temps Roule, the late-night bar next door to the new location, now often stays open into the morning to serve Bloody Marys to those on Surrey's weekend waiting list.
A self-styled juice bar where customers also sling morning cocktails is Surrey's all over. It's decidedly carnivorous yet ready to serve vegans too, a place with wheatgrass for detox but also boudin for breakfast.
The two Surrey's locations have nearly identical menus now and, despite some predictable growing pains, things have settled into an admirable consistency. The new location doesn't have everything offered at the original, but representative dishes like pain perdu or migas from either kitchen are essentially indistinguishable.
There are no eggs in sight on the tofu breakfast platter, which features blocks of ginger-tinged tofu and sauteed vegetables over brown rice. Contrast that with a dish that starts from the assumption that traditional corned beef hash somehow isn't meaty enough, and remedies the matter with crumbled andouille and bits of boudin.
The list of specials usually includes a different take on the basics — like French toast stuffed with caramelized apples — and at least one dish seemingly designed to test the limits of indulgence. A recent variation on eggs Benedict was bolstered by sheets of hog's head cheese resting on a scone flecked with bacon.
Salmon appears across the menu, making its best impression in a traditional role atop the kitchen's chewy, crusty bagels. The same salmon shows the palate-cluttering limitations of fusion, however, when it's added — along with capers and goat cheese — to otherwise fine huevos rancheros. Seafood sourced from nearby Lafitte brings the most to the menu though. The crab melt has fresh, firm white lumps of meat big enough to grace the pompano at Galatoire's, and the stuff also is lavished on any number of brunch dishes.
The second Surrey's opened less than a year after Greg Surrey introduced a spinoff called Surrey's La Playa in Central City, which functions as a coffee shop with sandwiches and an array of soups ranging from vegan chili to boar sausage gumbo. More is in the works, including a pair of food trailers to work local festivals and a small network of urban farms intended to supply his kitchens while feeding on their compost. Once that happens, the family of Surrey's locations will be even more closely related than their addresses reveal.