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Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020

Are You Hungry?

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Downtown’s food scene grows … and grows some more

In the last several weeks, downtown Shreveport has announced the opening of four new restaurants and the re-opening of a favorite that had briefly closed. What gives? The restrictions of COVID-19 have been hard on eateries. First came mandates for curbside and delivery only, extensive PPE requirements and limited dine-in occupancy. Though restrictions have relaxed, restaurants are still not at full capacity, hours are limited, and the concern about coronavirus outbreaks still lingers, with restaurants often at front and center. It takes a brave and dedicated person to launch a restaurant right now, but luckily, downtown Shreveport has folks like that to spare, and all want customers to eat, enjoy and return for more.

Mandy Smith was the first to take the leap of food faith. Mandy and her husband, Mike, moved their ShaBaby’s Cajun Cooking into 605 Texas St. during the grimmest days of the Covid closures when things were quiet and dark on downtown’s main drag. Office buildings, Government Plaza, the Caddo Courthouse, Robinson Film Center and multiple other businesses were shuttered as they moved in. Mandy, who had closed her Cajun restaurant in Bernice, La., to come to Shreveport, was happy to be back in the kitchen. Mike, who agreed to let his wife open a new restaurant but never believed she would find the turnkey space, was concerned. If it was going to be all about the food, Mandy knew that her recipes for sauce picante, mirliton and shrimp soup, jambalaya, alligator, and seafood of all types shared by Cajun ladies in south Louisiana who taught her to cook, would be a hit. The restaurant, which is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 10 p.m., is gaining followers who have had nothing but rave reviews.

When Cobb’s BBQ closed their iconic Bossier City restaurant in early 2020, Shawn Feaster was out of a job he had held for 30 years. Shawn, the pitmaster at Cobb’s for its last 10 years, knew his customers, and Retro Down Town Café owner Kristi Tift knew Shawn. Kristi wanted him downtown and had a perfect location for him: 500 Texas St., in the middle of it all. A perfect union was formed, and Shawn is now in charge of Retro Downtown BBQ, a place where the heaping portions of Cobb’s BBQ beef, ribs, chicken, pork and hot links are available again in plates or sandwiches.

The famous meat grinder that was part of Cobb’s has made the trip with Shawn across the river, and his myriad kitchen skills, which include being able to peel a box of potatoes in about five minutes, serve him well. Retro BBQ is open starting at 10:30 a.m. most days; closing times vary. Tip: Get a side of potato salad, some of the best I have ever eaten.

Parish Taceaux at 708 Texas St. has been a part of the downtown food scene for four years, serving up plates of food they liked to say are “not your mamma’s taceaux.” They are right. The only thing similar is the wrapping. The taceaux “innards” – Korean steak, spicy hot fried chicken, fried catfish and spicy shrimp – along with their fried avocado spears, wildly creative adult beverages and delicious desserts, became a go-to for the downtown crowd. When several members of the investor group decided to get out of the restaurant business, for a short, sad moment, it appeared that Parish Taceaux was no more. Enter investor William O’Brien, who harbored a desire to save this happy eatery and help downtown while doing it. O’Brien will tell you that his knowledge centers on oil and gas, but he has surrounded himself with people who know the restaurant business well. After a couple weeks’ closure, they have brought back menu favorites, retained favorite waitstaff, created daily specials and events, reached out to partner with other downtown businesses, set up special parking for customers, and continue to look for ways to engage people with their restaurant and downtown. Parish Taceaux is open Tuesday- Thursday 11 a.m.- 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. https://www.restaurantji.com/la/shreveport/parish-taceaux-/

Is there anyone who has driven past the old Sportran Bus Terminal at 400 Crockett and NOT thought it would make a great food truck court? Edgar Guzman and his wife, Deshea, believed so, too, but took their dreams a step farther. They engaged Norman Cone at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center to see if such a concept could make money, reached out to owners of restaurants and food trucks, looked at how a commissary kitchen business was working in East Texas. When they had the answers they needed, they contacted the owner of the old terminal, who agreed to allow a test, and The Lot Downtown was born. The Lot plans to host its first weekend event filled with food trucks, vendors and live music on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21. The giant tent soaring over The Lot will be protection from the weather, the food trucks representing a smorgasbord of food types will line one lane of the old terminal, live music will be playing. It is going to be a festive gathering. More events will follow, and if things go as planned, The Lot could become a permanent location for foodies of all types.

Did someone say comfort food? For years, Teketia Pipkins has loved to cook. She learned at the elbows of her mom, grandmom and great-grandmother, who cooked cakes and pies from scratch and whose kitchen skills were legendary. For a number of years, Teketia has used what she learned working in restaurants, but when T’s Comfort Foods at 830 Louisiana Ave. opens its doors on Tuesday, Dec. 1, she’ll be not only working, but running the show. She is already ahead of the curve with a menu heavy on Southern soul deliciousness: fried pork chops, smothered blackened chicken, baked chicken and dressing. Her sides will include homemade macaroni and cheese, yams, green beans and potatoes, purple hull peas, mixed mustard and turnip greens. The desserts she learned to bake will be there, too: Momma Beverly’s Sweet Potato Pie, honey bun cake, pound cake. T’s plans to open Dec. 1; hours are Monday-Friday 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. and Sunday, noon- 5 p.m.

These four new and one returning restaurant join a wide variety of eating establishments – Abby Singer’s Bistro, Noble Savage Tavern, The Blind Tiger and others that people know and love. Even more are in the pipeline to open, including a new restaurant in the Red River District. Are you hungry? No reason to be, downtown! – Liz Swaine


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