Henry Batiste opened his first eatery in New Orleans in 1985, but has been out of the restaurant game for many years. For the past decade he's been a liquor rep for Beverage Distributors in Denver, but he recently got the itch to jump back into restaurant ownership. After months of scouting for a good location, the perfect spot opened up in a shopping center at the corner of York Street and Bruce Randolph Avenue, just a few blocks from his Clayton neighborhood home. Batiste's new coffee shop and bar, the NOLA Voodoo Tavern and Perks, opened in late January with a full bar, Abita beers from Louisiana on tap and in bottles and a coffee bar serving a full range of espresso drinks as well as New Orleans market-style chicory coffee. He's also in the process of building out a permanent kitchen so that he can add a full menu of etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya and other Louisiana favorites — including breakfast beignets.
Recipes come from Bastiste's mom, Vivian — who he affectionately calls Vivian Batiste, LLC, because cooking is her business — and his new kitchen, which he hopes to have up and running in about three weeks, will be set up with an order counter that will mimic a food truck, complete with Vivian's name prominently featured. The bar and cafe already has a lived-in feel, with exposed brick walls, high windows and a long bar emblazoned with a fleur-de-lis motif. Batiste refinished the bar top himself, making sure to include phone charging stations on top and wall plugs and purse hooks below. "It's a lagniappe," he says, referring to the Louisiana concept of a little something extra thrown in at no charge for customers.
Batiste says he's already received a warm response from neighbors and that people come in just to tell him they're from New Orleans too. "The neighborhood needs it," he adds, mentioning that there aren't many gathering places for coffee or drinks. "I am blessed," Batiste adds. "I couldn't have done this without blessings from God."
The cafe opens at 8 a.m. every day but Monday and will stay open until at least 7 p.m., or later (he's stretched the hours to 9 or 10 p.m. on weekends and was serving until 1 a.m. on Mardi Gras) if customers linger. In addition to draft and bottled beer, the bar has a full range of spirits, and Batiste will be mixing Hurricanes and Sazeracs — his recipe for the classic New Orleans cocktail includes an anisette wash, Hudson or High West rye whiskey and bitters. Batiste adds that there's parking at the back of the shopping center and that if you've had one too many, he'll pay for a cab ride home if you live within five miles.