by Ian McNulty
After running afoul of city permitting this summer, Bacchanal is starting to get back to its old rhythm. Beginning tonight, chef Joaquin Rodas will be cooking at the Bywater wine shop again, albeit in a somewhat different format.
For now, he’s cooking his wide-ranging cuisine from the Brazilian BBQ truck, one of the mobile vendors that have lately been filling the food void here since Bacchanal had to shut down an outdoor kitchen that wasn’t up to code standards.
Bacchanal proprietor Chris Rudge says he’s essentially borrowing the Brazilian BBQ truck’s licensed, street legal kitchen and parking it outside the shop for Rodas to prepare his own nightly menus. He’ll be serving there Wednesdays through Sundays, beginning around 6:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Rudge expects to begin work next week on a new indoor kitchen intended to meet city code requirements and to allow Bacchanal to get back to regular food service.
“Once that’s ready (Rodas) will have his menu here seven nights a week,” Rudge says.
In business since 2002, Bacchanal had evolved from a neighborhood wine shop into a wine shop with inventive menus prepared and served outdoors in its lush backyard. The shop also developed a regular music calendar, with local bands performing amid Christmas lights and patio furniture in a scene that felt in sync with the offbeat aesthetic of its neighborhood. But permits and licensing had not kept up with the shop’s evolving identity and in late August city officials shut the place down.
Rudge quickly reopened the wine shop, though without music and without food beyond cheese plates. In the meantime, Bacchanal invited food trucks, including Brazilian BBQ and the Burrito Juke Joint crew, to serve at the shop some nights, and on other nights he encouraged his patrons to get take-out from nearby restaurants, like the Joint and Sugar Park.
The incident had some complaining of an assault on New Orleans culture, linking it to other recent dust-ups between authorities and street musicians, music clubs and ad hoc Carnival processions. An online petition began circulating in September asking City Hall to lighten up.
Now, Rudge reports progress on restoring music to the Bacchanal equation too.
“We’ve been meeting with (City Councilwoman) Kristin Palmer’s office and it feels like they’re on our side,” he says. “They want music and they want it to be legal.”
Bacchanal’s property is zoned light industrial, and while Rudge says that designation already permits live music they are now working with Palmer’s office on a potential change to specifically address outdoor music of the sort Bacchanal previously hosted. With such a change, Rudge is hopeful music could return to Bacchanal as soon as November.
“We’ll have to abide by the noise ordinance, but we can do that. It means getting back to the basics of what we do,” he says.
In the meantime, here’s the menu Rodas will serve at Bacchanal tonight:
Grapes, shaved red onions, grilled asparagus
Creole tomatoes, cantaloupe, cucumber, peppers
Grilled summer corn, crema, queso seco, “Tapatio” hot sauce
Braised Pork Shoulder
Onions, cilantro, hominy, iceberg lettuce, salsa verde
Grilled Flat Iron Steak
Roasted peppers, frites
Extra virgin olive oil, marcona almonds, sea salt
600 Poland Ave., 948-9111