There’s a nascent but promising trend afoot in the French Quarter, one in which the most heavily-touristed parts of the neighborhood are starting to get casual restaurants that aren’t explicitly tourist-oriented. Instead, these new places have enough quality and class both to attract locals and to please visitors whose tastes run a just a bit higher-brow than “huge ass beers.”
One example is Sylvain, which opened within a beignet’s throw of Jackson Square in 2010. Others around the square include La Divina Gelateria and Stanley (provided you can wedge your way in to this always-busy place for boudin Benedict and soft shell crabs).
A much more recent addition is St. Lawrence, a tavern with a creative kitchen keeping very late hours, an attractive and well-stocked bar and a North Peters Street address right on the most direct route between downtown’s hotel towers and the Quarter’s riverfront attractions.
St. Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks, and it’s easy to see this place catching on as an after-work spot for French Quarter service industry types. The kitchen is led by chef Caleb Cook, who was previously at Susan Spicer’s Mondo and her flagship Bayona. His menu for St. Lawrence is an inspired take on comfort food, bar snacks and Southern flavors with lots of clever touches. Spring rolls are done Reuben style, filled with corned beef, gruyere and also chowchow, while wings get a pepper jelly glaze and goat cheese dressing. The fried chicken is brined in cider, there’s a daily curry with market vegetables, the sloppy “Joel” is vegetarian and the fried green tomato po-boy is dressed with pimento cheese and bacon.
During a recent lunch visit, I tried a huge, vividly fresh arugula salad, lightly dressed with Steen’s Cane Syrup vinaigrette and topped with a hot, grilled peach, and then the turducken burger, which was like a more-complex turkey burger with a side of very meaty, liver-streaked, crusty-edged dirty rice.
The space was formerly the Harbor, a short-lived offshoot of the Metairie burger specialist Harbor Bar & Grill (3024 17th St., Metairie, 832-4117). It’s a large, long room with patina-patterned brick walls, a mix of booths, high-top tables and bar seats, and a soundtrack of classic rock.
There’s a workable wine list, a cocktail menu (the “resurrection Sazerac” substitutes Old New Orleans Rum for whiskey) and a beer selection with a bias toward local brews. One of the draft handles here was a new one on me: Canebrake, a wheat beer from Parish Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Broussard, La. It was a little more substantial than other local wheat beers but just as refreshing.
Brendan Blouin, who opened St. Lawrence along with co-owner Jeff James, says in the future they'll introduce a two-course, 30-minute express lunch to lure the CBD crowd.
St. Lawrence is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Monday, and is closed on Tuesday.
219 N. Peters St., 525-4111