Last night we stopped in at the new Junior’s on Harrison to see what they were doing. This hub of life in Lakeview is a wonderful few blocks filled with retail and restaurants. But lately there has been a change to the dining scene. The grandaddy of dining in Lakeview, The Steak Knife, remains a constant, while Elle-J’s has replaced Mondo across the street, and Junior’s occupies the space that was once Cava. Danny Millen has moved into new construction digs on Harrison at West End-a sports bar named Azul.
As Danny tells it, a woman came into Cava one night and said she thought the place was so beautiful and wonderful he told her she should buy it. A week or two later, she came back and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Based on that story, I was surprised by how long it took Junior’s to open. Now I know why. They redid everything. Better. In fact, they made two restaurants out of one. The upstairs at Junior’s is kidless, which is an interesting choice in Lakeview, a place whose very identity is centered around kids.
So when owner Nick Hufft told us that upstairs was over 21 only, I had to climb the daunting staircase to see what that meant. The decor is completely different. Everything is dark and sultry, if such a thing could ever be ascribed to Lakeview. There is another bar, This would be a nice date place for Lakeview parents escaping the kids for the evening. Since the outside balcony tables can be accessed from this space only, one would have to conclude no kids on the upstairs balcony. Smart.
Downstairs is a glamorous casual Lakeview spot, with kids at nearly every table. It is white and bright but still very friendly. What has always caught my attention in this restaurant is how small it actually is. The upstairs is only half as large in footprint as downstairs, and a lot of downstairs that could be seating is taken up with the massive staircase. We sat downstairs at a four-top with very nice tables made of ash. We love ash.
The menu is limited, which I have come to realize is the mark of an experienced and smart restaurateur. They start simply till the kitchen gets their moves down, and gradually expand the offerings. Nick owns Curbside in Baton Rouge, which had partnered with Barcadia, so a great hamburger was an expectation, and it was there in two sizes. Nick campaigned with the lady who owns Duong Phuong to specially make his buns. She finally agreed after he bought all the pans for doing it. It is a superior hamburger bun. Loaded with sesame seeds on top, it is light but still holds up to the burger. I still miss Kaiser rolls.
What is most interesting about this menu is the starter section, offering fried cheese curds with ranch dipping sauce, onion rings that are first pickled, and a spicy cornbread that is first fried. (A lot of fried here.) The actual fries are of course really actually being done back in the kitchen, and tend to be large in width. All of this was great, though the onion rings had sort of a hard shell around them with a sauce I didn’t understand.
ML got the Cowboy Club, which she seemed puzzled by. We are big fans of the club anything, except this one. It was pretty, and came with fried tortilla strips on top. All she could taste was the open flame that cooked the chicken. Cowboys cooking on an open flame? With a dressing either missing or too mild in taste, her impression was smoke. This needs reworking.
Tom had the most interesting thing of the evening. It was a steak and frites for $19. This was quite the bargain. It was (pictured) a seared skirt steak with a pile of housemade fries and a beautiful arugula salad with a light vinaigrette dressing, flanked by two sauces.
We didn’t see any desserts on the menu, which was surprising because Hufft and business partner Lon Marchand also own the Gail’s Ice Cream truck circa 2019, which was parked outside.
Junior’s On Harrison
789 Harrison Ave Lakeview
Mon-Sat 11-10 after 11/25 till then 5:30-10