Sometimes, a regular seat at your neighborhood bar can open 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 post-shift watering hole in the Marigny, also had a large, fully-equipped kitchen in a building attached to the bar and were looking for a chef to make use of it.
This tucked-away kitchen has proved fertile ground for a pair of eateries Smedley says he's long wanted to develop. One is now open — a late-night hot dog and sausage parlor called Borracho (2256 St. Claude Ave., 504-267-6108; www.borrachonola.com). The second will be a more conventional restaurant serving small plates. Smedley expects this second eatery to open in late fall adjacent to Kajun's Pub.
Borracho (Spanish for "drunk") is open from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily and serves in the Kajun's Pub barroom and its rear patio. The setting is very casual, but Smedley's approach in the kitchen draws from his fine-dining background. He sources extensively from local suppliers, makes his links and most of his toppings in-house and last week added house-made buns to the mix. Patrons can get a hot dog or sausage link dressed to order or pick a specialty version, like lamb sausage with mint chimichurri and preserved lemon tzatziki or the Sonoran dog, which is 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.
Renovations have begun for the unnamed restaurant next door, and some long-range food prep is already underway, including prosciutto hams now curing. The menu is still a work in progress, but Smedley says it will focus 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.
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 red wine gastrique. The chef describes another dish as an interpretation of a Nicoise salad 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.