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Where Y’Eat: Reviving St. Roch Market Dish by Dish

St. Roch Market is a historic building brought back as a modern food hall.
Ian McNulty
St. Roch Market is a historic building brought back as a modern food hall.

The Indian food vendor Everything Spice serves a dish called dahi puri that’s built around crisp, egg-shaped lentil cups that pop with a flood of sweet, sour, savory flavors within.

Falafel freshly made the Egyptian way at another vendor, called Dolma, breaks open to reveal a vivid green interior and soft texture.

The rainbow salad from the stand Laksa NOLA brings a burst of Burmese flavor, bright with tamarind, thick with cool noodles and papaya, enlivened by chiles.

And the Creole gumbo from Genevieve’s is back-of-the-stove home cooking with a dark, iron-tasting dose of chicken gizzards in the roux.

These were some takeaways from tasting broadly around the vendors now cooking at St. Roch Market.

That’s the historic public market on St. Claude Avenue that was turned into a modern food hall, and now sits at a crossroads.

I also came away from these visits with a glint of optimism that a food hall on the brink of closing might just make the turn.

St. Roch Market had been in a nosedive, but one of its vendors has stepped up to try to change that trajectory.

Kevin Pedeaux, of CR Coffee Shop, has taken over operations and is running the food hall day to day.

He’s seen the market through its ups and downs; right now he’s trying to make sure it continues, anguished by the thought that the market could shutter again and sit empty, as it did for many years before, joining the long list of important but idled properties in this city.

I’ve been spending a good deal of time at St. Roch Market since the change. I’ve seen a perceptible increase in people coming through.

I’ve seen short-handed vendors helping each other out. And I’ve seen vendors from the past coming back around again, expressing interest in returning now that there’s new management.

There are formidable challenges to bring St. Roch Market up to what it could be, but right now, the focus is on the best of what they’ve seen the market create.

It's the energy of a public market, where people drawn for different reasons find themselves on common ground. Now that’s a classic recipe always ready for a new rendition.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.