La Petite Grocery
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
One of the two or three brightest lights on the brilliant Magazine Street restaurant row, the Grocery has matured into a reliable, comfortable, sophisticated bistro. Behind the illusion of French technique are first-class local groceries, and the originality and fluidity that keeps things interesting. La Petite Grocery was the last vestige of the old Peristyle dining experience, but it has moved on to establish its own style.
The menu is full of rarely-seen dishes (steak tartare and fish courtbouillon, to name two) and unusual ingredients (octopus and pork cheeks). But I think even a shy diner will find the menu very appealing. Even the cheeseburger here–which seems out of place given the rest of the dinner selections–is worth eating. While presentation takes a back seat to goodness, every dish here is an eyeful.
This building formerly housed Von Der Haar’s Grocery, one of the great gourmet food emporiums in the middle of the last century. The restaurant opened in 2004 under the management of Anton and Diane Schulte, who left in 2006 to open Bistro Daisy. Chef Justin Devillier, who has been there since the beginning, took over the kitchen in 2007. He has since bought the restaurant, insuring a bright future. His wife Mia manages the dining room.
One big room under a high, pressed-tin ceiling is subdivided by low walls into a mix of intimate spaces and one larger dining room. Banquettes are along one wall. Sidewalk tables were recently added. The best tables are those in front of the bar, separated from the rest of the place by a divider with a mirror that provides occasionally sexy moments. The service staff is well-versed and polite. And the background jazz is muted, making this a rare quiet dining venue.
Baked crabmeat, brie and chives
»Baby octopus ceviche
»Lobster beignets, spicy remoulade
»Seared sheeps’ milk cheese, pork cheeks
Tagliatelle pasta with shrimp and field peas
»Potato gnocchi, bacon, parmesan, crème fraiche
»Steak tartare, red wine mustard, quail egg
Root beer-braised beef short ribs
Pan fried crab cake, salsa verde
»Chilled roasted beets, pickled onions, crawfish
Iceberg wedge, fried oysters, bacon, crème fraiche dressing
Soup of the day
»Roast chicken, savory bread pudding, truffled mushroom gravy
»Grilled beef tenderloin, potato gratin, roasted shallot demi-glace
Shrimp and grits, shiitake mushrooms, bacon and thyme
»Hand-made spaghetti, charred tomatoes, crabmeat, saffron butter
Grilled hanger steak, roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized onions
»Risotto with rapini, Parmigiano Reggiano, soft boiled egg
»Market fish courtboullion, crab beignet, popcorn rice
»Panneed rabbit, wilted spinach, spaetzle, brown butter
»Gruyere cheeseburger, house-made pickles, onion marmalade
»Braised lamb shank, spaetzle and lemon caper brown butter
»Dark chocolate pudding
»Vanilla bean crème brulee
»Warm s’mores tart
»Caramel bread pudding
Roasted apples and caramel sauce
Goat cheese mousse
Marinated local fruit
FOR BEST RESULTS
Start at the bar. They make good drinks, including classic absinthe.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Tables along the two rows of windows are so apart from the rest of the restaurant that they feel Siberian. The single door separating the dining room from wintry blasts is not enough to do so.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +2
- Consistency +2
- Value +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Sidewalk tables
- Good for business meetings
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly