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Thu August 18, 2011
Restaurants Pop Up to Serve You
By Ian McNulty
New Orleans, La. –
There's been quite a buzz about Pizza Delicious, a pop-up restaurant in the Bywater serving thin-crust, New York-style pizzas. The format is take-out only, they're only available two nights a week, and yet the place caught on so fast there's often a line out the door.
But these days, Pizza Delicious isn't the only pop-up serving underground eats in the Bywater. In fact, it isn't even the only one on its block. Just a few doors up the street from Pizza Delicious, you'll find Rosalie Alley, a driveway-sized corridor in the middle of the 3300 block of North Rampart Street, evocatively situated smack between Piety and Desire. . .Piety and Desire streets, that is.
On Sunday afternoons in August, this is also where to find chef Ian Schnoebelen and his partner Laurie Casebonne slinging burritos and tacos from a makeshift stand behind their Creole cottage home. They call it Rosalita's Taqueria.
The pair are co-owners of Iris, the upscale, stylish new American restaurant they created in the months after Hurricane Katrina and now operate inside a French Quarter hotel. So the al fresco, alleyway format at Rosalita's Taqueria is a tad different from their normal workplace. Their short menu has fat veggie burritos, pork tacos and fish tacos, and a recent special was a basket of breathtakingly spicy padrone peppers, which Schnoebelen roasted and piped full of goat cheese mascarpone from a pastry bag. Hey, the guy might be cooking in his backyard, but he's still a chef.
In fact, the big time publication Food & Wine magazine named Schnoebelen to its list of America's best new chefs back in 2007. It's not every day you'll get a chef of this caliber to cook cheap Mexican food for you. And in fact, the days are numbered for Rosalita's Taqueria. The stand continues for just two more Sundays through the end of August, after which these diehard Saints fans say they'll devote their day off to football.
But that's just part of the deal with pop-up restaurants, a dining trend now raging in cities all across the country. The basic idea is to open for limited stints inside some unconventional location - a vacant storefront, say, or even another restaurant on a day it's normally closed. This pop-up trend quickly captured the interest of local diners, who seem to turn up wherever these unorthodox ventures emerge. Pizza Delicious might be the best-known example. They started selling phone-order pizzas from a commissary kitchen on Sunday nights, yet before a year was out the Pizza Delicious crew found themselves expanding to Thursdays, fielding frequent media calls and even serving a pie to the mayor.
These days, social media networks are dotted with announcements for other ad hoc, pop-up food happenings, sometimes held inside restaurants, sometimes as casual as backyard cookouts with a cash box. These pop-ups can happen anywhere, of course, but it's not surprising that the Marigny and Bywater should be a hotbed. These neighborhoods have been redeveloping rapidly, and there's a strong do-it-yourself aesthetic at work here. Can't find a pizza parlor making your favorite sort of crust? Unhappy with the vegetarian options around town? Curious to fire up the grill and see what you can do with cantina favorites? For some enterprising locals, the answer is to set up shop and see what sort of interest pops up.