When our website visited the city of New Orleans back in May 2011, we were charmed, of course, and we had a wonderful time, but there wasn't much in the way of a specialty coffee scene. We visited Velvet, an early pioneer for specialty in New Orleans with roots in the Hollywood film industry; we stuffed our faces at Cafe Du Monde, which is still one of the greatest coffee experiences one can have, specialty or not; and we tried to sum up the promise for New Orleans specialty coffee by looking at things in a wider context. Back then we wrote the following: “This place is a powderkeg, like a goldrush before anyone else has heard the cry “eureka!”, just begging and pleading for growth, new influences and new ingredients.”
Well, at some time in the last two years, that powderkeg went kablooey, because there's a full-on specialty coffee moment happening in New Orleans right now, with great new cafes open in the French Quarter, Central City, Upper 9th Ward, and especially on a small strip of Magazine Street that boasts two excellent cafes – HiVolt Coffee and Cherry Coffee – with a third new spot set to open this weekend. Here's the world's first look inside that new spot, called District Donuts.Sliders.Brew.
District is the work of Chris Audler, Aaron Vogel, and Stephen Cali. Mssrs. Audler and Vogel are both veterans of New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co.; along with Mr. Cali, the three are childhood friends. The coffee served here on opening day comes from 1000 Faces, a Good Food Awards winning roaster based in Athens, Georgia. Coffee service happens via a Mazzer Robur-E grinder and La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine – for the less coffee technical out there, this is a state of the art and not inexpensive coupling of coffee brewing gear.
They'll also be serving cold brew on tap, a coffee service preparation that's popular in places like Portland and Los Angeles, but has yet to catch on in New Orleans. This is the first large scale version of cold brew on tap to be offered in this city. It will be popular, and the hand-built gooseneck tap it's served out of is really something.
But the fun doesn't stop there. As you'd expect from their name – Donuts.Sliders.Brew. – the menu milieu at District includes a variety of donuts baked in house, plus frankly delicious mini-burgers (made from a Creek Stone Farms blend of short rib, brisket, and shoulder) and tiny fried chicken sandwiches. If you need to combine the two menu items, well, that's 100% on the docket at District, where they offer a “Croquenut”, like a croque monsieur but with burgers or fried chicken, and uh, more calories. This is New Orleans! You'll find a lot of great places to eat; you won't find a lot of gyms.
Also on the menu are tasty stuff like kolaches, Maine Root soda on tap, white AND chocolate milk on tap, soft serve (including Dole Whip!), waffle fries, a BYOB auto-chiller and nary a corkage fee, and a rotating list of seasonal sliders – for opening weekend, it's fried oysters. Oh, and the soft serve means that District is able to create that which we've never before experienced: cold brew ice cream floats. Yes, it was amazing. Here's a picture.
District is located in the Lower Garden District, on Magazine Street, directly next door to Stein's Deli and just down the block from a treasured New Orleans crawfish boil spot called Big Fisherman. Like we said to open this piece, two years ago there was very, very little in the way of great coffee in New Orleans. Today the city is enjoying a specialty coffee moment, and District is yet more proof.