In 2014, The New York Times published an article about New Orleans and its perceived lack of kale that spurred some backlash. Social media provocateurs dubbed it #kalegate, and it became a rallying cry for a debate linking the leafy green to gentrification in the city.
Enter The Daily Beet, a new health-focused restaurant in a rapidly developing part of the Warehouse District, a neighborhood where it's increasingly easier to spot residents in yoga pants than those toting go-cups. Say what you will about the vegetable and the controversy, but kale is found in healthy abundance at The Daily Beet, serving as the backbone for smoothies, breakfast bowls and salads. In the Summer Kale salad, thin strips of dark lacinato kale leaves are tossed with tiny zante currants and toasted sunflower seeds and showered with grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses. It's tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette, but the salad remains light and airy with a healthy crunch.
Owner Dylan Maisel's inspiration for the restaurant came from his childhood in upstate New York, where his parents operated a small vegetarian restaurant. He launched the cold-pressed juice stand JuiceNOLA at St. Roch Market before opening this stand-alone business earlier this year.
His juices and a selection of smoothies are found here, ranging from the Skinny Green, made with kale, spinach, pineapple, bananas and mango to the more filling PB &J, a thick, nutty play on the childhood sandwich featuring blueberries, strawberries, banana and raw agave.
Semolina bread from local bakery Leo's Bread provides the platform for a selection of toasts. Too often, the toast trend is represented by soggy, thin-sliced bread sagging under the weight of its toppings. Here, thick-sliced bread gives welcome heft to carry ingredients such as avocado, cherry tomatoes, chili flakes, olive oil and fat sea salt crystals. The Beet Party toast is topped with sweet, roasted beet wedges, a thick pillow of chevre, toasted pepitas, a sieved egg and tangy green harissa.
The Supreme is an over-the-top creation with Southwestern flair for those with a healthy appetite. Mashed avocados are topped with black beans, corn, cherry tomatoes, Cotija cheese, a fried egg, avocado chipotle sauce and garlicky chimichurri. The flavors are more pronounced and successful in this than in a salad dubbed the Mexicali Blues, in which similar ingredients top mixed greens, but the result is lacking in dimension.
Most salads feature a base of mixed greens with the exception of one made with shaved Brussels sprout leaves. Paired with juicy beets, chevre, almonds and arugula, the salad is tossed with a tart maple cider vinaigrette that coats the sprouts and mitigates some of the Brussels sprouts' innate bitterness.
In the Orbit bowl, wild rice provides an earthy, warming foundation for an assembly of sharper elements including carrot spears, edamame, scallions and kimchi. Those flavors are softened by creamy wedges of avocado, a fried egg and a sesame-ginger dressing.
Many of the ingredients appear in multiple items, which often happens in fast-casual concepts of a similar vein, so a meal assembled from a few dishes can seem monotonous. The Daily Beet feels better suited to a quick lunch than a longer sit-down affair.
Health-conscious eating might be better established as a West Coast or East Coast fad, but there's no denying it's part of a national trend that's found solid roots in New Orleans. Kale is here to stay.