When chef/owners Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski opened Cochon in 2006, mere months after Hurricane Katrina and levee failures ravaged New Orleans, the restaurant received a hero’s welcome. With its burly, modern Cajun/Southern menu and lively, urbane indoor picnic vibe, one couldn’t help but cast the place as a beacon of hope in the city’s grim outlook. Opening was proof that the New Orleans’ food culture not only survived in the face of disaster, but that the ambitious chef/owners felt there was some ass-kicking to do in return.
Fortunately, Cochon wasn’t just a warm, fuzzy post-Katrina success story. It is still one of the most talked-about restaurants in New Orleans, in part because of the kitchen’s vogue interpretations of down-home Cajun and Southern foods. It’s probably the nicest joint you’ll ever eat in that serves fried hogshead cheese and luscious broccoli pecan rice casserole.
As the name suggests, the menu at Cochon pays proper homage to all things pork, from a squeal-worthy house-made boucherie list to savory, fall-apart pork shoulder with turnips, cabbage and cracklins. Country classics like melt-in-your-mouth rabbit and dumplings or ham hock with stewed shell peas and greens are right at home next to a fancied-up, Big Easy take on the BLT, served with fried oysters, smoky bacon and a lemon-y, caper-flecked tartar sauce. (New York Times food critic Sam Sifton mentioned this sandwich in a story about his favorite dishes of 2010.)
For more casual dining, head next door to Cochon’s scrappier cousin, Butcher – a casual sit-down deli that blends the traditional Cajun boucherie with the aesthetic of a boutique delicatessen and wine bar. South Louisiana staples like andouille and boudin are a little less country, a little more rock-n-roll here, and other house-made cured meats, pickles and relishes show up in sandwiches (think: decadent muffulettas or Vietnamese banh mi) and on the multi-tasking menu of small plates.
At both Cochon and Butcher, Louisiana’s humble, regional foods are at their finest, transformed by primo ingredients that have been skillfully rendered and lavished in a healthy dose of pork fat.
Cajun and Southern food is a little less country, a little more rock-n-roll at chef/owners Donald Link's and Stephen Stryjewski's upscale casual restaurant and deli.