Succeeding as a small, local business has always been brutally difficult. These days? With a labor shortage, inflation, and a pandemic that can’t figure out that it’s time to leave? Woof. Our New Orleans business owners need all the help they can get, so now is as good of a time as any to share three of them that are as good as it gets.
This place is spectacular, delicious, beautiful, and not open to the public yet. (I’m told that will happen truly any day now.) The location, at 801 Frenchman Street in the Marigny, is wonderful. Washington Square, across the street, acts as a peaceful buffer from the Frenchman mayhem, but still lets some of that energy flow through. And the baked goods? Good gravy.
I was lucky enough to be at Ayu Bakery’s sneak preview, and it was nearly impossible to stop eating. My faves were the Muffaletta Breadstick and Boudin Boy, which has boudin and egg tucked inside a ridiculous croissant-like pastry. The Kayu Bun is one of the best sweet things I’ve had in this city. There’s a proper espresso/coffee bar, as well.
To top it all off, Ayu Bakehouse is owned by great people who offer their employees sick pay, vacation, and a health insurance stipend. Check out their site to see the menu and find out when they’re open. You want to go. Trust me.
Parleaux Beer Lab
Parleaux just celebrated their fifth anniversary, and considering what 2/5 of those years have been like, they should have taken more than one day to celebrate. During the lockdown, I’d happily walk the four blocks to Lesseps and Royal to get their delicious beer to go, and would not be able to make it back home without sampling one.
Parleaux has everything great about a local, neighborhood brewery, without any of the pretentious “beer expert” vibe you can get some places. (There’s not much of that in New Orleans, thankfully.) The beer garden feels like you’re in a friend’s suh-weet backyard, with a nice variety of people and dogs to share it with.
Their beer is all about balance, and I love them for that. Parleaux’s pale ales are great, and they thankfully know when to say when with the hops. My favorites are the pilsners and lagers, which seem like an afterthought at some other breweries. Oh, and their brown ales! Can you tell I like this place? There’s always something funky and fun on tap, too. Congrats. Parleaux Beer Lab. Here’s to five more.
I’m not much of a “stuff” guy. New Orleans homes are notoriously short on storage space, so that’s a good thing. However, there is one material possession I cherish, and that’s my Fender P-bass. It’s almost as old as I am, but it’s been refinished and the bridge isn’t original, so this is not a collector’s item. That’s fine with me. I just love the way it plays and how it sounds.
For the first time in many years, I ditched my solo gig and joined a band. That meant having to get this bass some badly needed attention. Heck, the strings on it were 28 years old. Sam, the guitar player in our band, suggested I take it to Strange Guitarworks. I checked them out online, saw photos of some of their customers – Leo Nocentelli, Reggie Scanlan, George Gekas, Samantha Fish, among them – and was intimidated. I shouldn’t have been.
The guys at Strange Guitarworks are kind and laid back, but they’re also absolute masters at their craft. They refretted my P-bass, replaced the nut and set it all back up. It plays better than it ever has before, which was a very high bar to clear. If you have a guitar or bass that needs some love, I can’t recommend Strange Guitarworks enough. They’re uptown, on Dublin, just off of Oak Street.