Cochon Restaurant in New Orleans is winning well-deserved recognition for many things these days. Their devotion to Cajun and Southern food traditions is being noticed by critics and food writers such as Frank Bruni, Michael Ruhlman and Gourmet Magazine, the Times-Picayune and many more. As of March 14, Cochon is number three on the list and O ya is in contention for the number one or two spot!
Good, Upscale Cajun and Southern Comfort Food
From catfish to wood-fired oysters, boudin to pickled mirliton; anyone with an affinity for Southern food will feel right at home here. Cornbread, hoppin’ john, grits and gumbo – all present and accounted for.
Cochon also reaches out, just enough, to the adventurous foodies with things like heritage breed pork dishes, sophisticated cocktails and small plates so popular right now. They serve this diverse range of guests in a setting that manages to feel both upscale and at-home.
There’s plenty of laughter in the background noise at Cochon, a happy find in any restaurant. On a recent Wednesday night the room was full of smiling diners, laughing customers, entertaining and attentive staff. Looking over the menu one is struck by simple yet intriguing descriptions and combinations. Pickled pork tongue and crispy pig ear salad. Wood-fired oyster roast. Fried chicken livers with pepper jelly toast.
Local, Fresh, Ingredients and Traditional Cooking
Chef and co-owners Donald Link and Stephen Stryljewski have a mission to stay true to locally sourced ingredients and authentically prepared Southern and Cajun cuisine. How many restaurants include an in-house Boucherie (butchery)? That means boudin, andouille and bacon made by Stryljewski in Cochon’s kitchen. Pickling their in-season produce by the gallon from the start, they’re finding it a challenge to pickle enough each year. A good problem to have, to be sure.
They source shrimp from one local shrimper who supplies them with fine, fresh Louisiana shrimp; no seafood is sourced beyond the gulf. Even their specialty pork originates from a nearby legend – RM Holliday. His herd now is owned by Maveric Farm in South Dakota, whose mission includes trying to save heritage breeds from extinction and catalog existing hogs to monitor the breed.
Moonshine and Mint Juleps
5 Rootbeers, over 15 Bourbons, and Moonshine smoother than you imagined possible, are offered on the cocktail list. One can select special drinks like the local favorite Sazerac or homemade Lemonade. They offer small-batch, artisanal Bourbons virtually unknown elsewhere. Added bonus: Audrey Rodriguez (Assistant GM) is knowledgeable as well as gracious with her time (and her pour.)
The New Orleans’ Warehouse District is still described as “up and coming,” yet Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant just two blocks away, opened in 1990. The Ugly Dog Saloon across the street appears to be a well-established BBQ pit slash sports bar. Many extended stay business hotels dot the streets awaiting their business travelers’ return and some of the old warehouses appear to house loft condos.
Cochon’s dedication to New Orleans accounts for The Golden Clog Award and viewers of Travel Channel’s No Reservations show might remember the segment featuring Cochon’s crew, returning to New Orleans a little “early” technically, to clean out the restaurant’s walk-ins, get things going, collect staff and serve people. They also hosted a pig roast – perhaps the easiest way to Bourdain’s heart.
Cochon is a quick cab ride from the French Quarter. The food alone makes this a destination restaurant. The Bourbon and Moonshine help cast a warm glow over the memory of the evening.
Wood-fired oysters (might be re-named “vanishing wood-fired oysters”)
House made Boudin balls and pickled onions (think Cajun arancini, y’all)
Pickled pork tongue and crispy pig ear salad (bitter greens on a bed of smooth pickled tongue, crunchy strips of pig ear top off this well-rounded salad – fantastic)
Iceberg wedge style ranch dressing, bacon and radishes
Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage and cracklins
Chef Stryljewski also recommends:
Fried alligator with chili-garlic aioli (only tenderloin is used so it’s tender, not chewy)
- Fried chicken livers with pepper jelly toast