Bayona’s sign hanging out front. Photo provided by American Cuisine.
Started by renowned chef Susan Spicer in the spring of 1990, Bayona has become one of the city’s quintessential dining experiences, drawing in both tourist and local clientele. Many food critics say Bayona is some of the best food [New Orleans] has to offer (“Great New Orleans Restaurants.” The Gumbo Pages: Make Levees, Not War). Its menu is described as contemporary with Asian, French, and Mediterranean influences (http://www.frommers.com/destinations/neworleans/D41406.html). The restaurant itself lies in a two-century-old French Quarter cottage with three tastefully decorated dining rooms and a beautiful outdoor patio, creating an intimate, romantic atmosphere.
Susan Spicer’s New Orleans cooking debut was in 1979 at the Louis XVI Restaurant, where she was an apprentice to the acclaimed Chef Daniel Bonnot. In 1982, she opened her first restaurant, a bistro named Savoir Faire in the St. Charles Hotel, before opening another bistro four years later in the Hotel Maison deVille (“Star Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona, Herbsaint & Cobalt – New Orleans, LA on Star Chefs.” StarChefs.com – Chef Recipes, Restaurant Jobs, Food Photos, Chefs Congress, Rising Stars, Culinary Schools. Web). In the spring of 1990, she formed a partnership with Regina Keever, and the two opened Bayona in the spring of 1990 in the New Orleans French Quarter. It was not long before Bayona earned local and worldwide acclaim, making appearances in publications such as Saveur Magazine and The New York Times. After her success with Bayona, Spicer began other projects similarly successful including Spice, Inc., a specialty food market, and Herbsaint, a bistro-style restaurant in the Warehouse District. Her first book, Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans, was released in October of 2007 (Disbrowe, Paula. “Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans”).
Despite Bayona’s success, it, like other New Orleans restaurants, has had its helping of challenges, as well. Hurricane Katrina (Konigsmark, Anne Rochell. “USATODAY.com – A Year Later, Hearts Still Heavy in New Orleans.” USATODAY.com. USA Today, 29 Aug. 2006. Web. 30 Oct. 2011) and the BP oil spill were two hurdles Chef Spicer actively overcame over the past decade (Severson, Kim. “New Orleans Chef on Her Lawsuit Against BP: ‘I Am Just Angry.'” NYTimes.com, 28 June 2010. Web.). In fact, as a local culinary celebrity, Spicer was described as the poster child of the restaurant rebellion against BP. She became the center of controversy and she filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the oil company, bringing national attention to her New Orleans restaurants (“Chef Susan Spicer Sues BP, Others over Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico”).
All courses are testament to Chef Spicer’s culinary genius. Bayona offers two menus–one consisting of dinner specials that changes nightly and one consisting of the restaurant’s signature dishes. The signature dishes never change and include sautéed pacific salmon with choucroute and gewrztraminer sauce, veal sweetbreads with sherry mustard or lemon caper butter, grilled duck breast with pepper jelly sauce and wild rice, and peppered lamb loin with goat cheese and zinfandel sauce (Bayona Dinner Menu).
Lunch and dinner are both served. However, lunch is not served on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the restaurant is closed on Sundays. On Saturdays, a light lunch is offered for $25.00 and includes three small plates.
The wine list is extensive. According to Bayona’s official website, it has been described as “one of the most interesting, eclectic, and diverse wine collections in North America” (“Bayona- Susan Spicer | New Orleans Restaurant” Food. Bayona- Susan Spicer | New Orleans Restaurant. Web). The wine steward, Shannon Fristoe, is available to assist with table-side selection. The list includes wines from “rare, small production, handcrafted boutique wineries to the most renowned reserve production, first growth, premier cru and grand cru bottlings in the world” (“Bayona- Susan Spicer | New Orleans Restaurant ” Wine.” Bayona- Susan Spicer | New Orleans Restaurant. Web). However, there are other notable cocktails, as well. Saveur Magazine features Bayona’s cocktails, including its famous, violet-colored Stormy Morning, based on a St. Germain elderflower liqueur (“Stormy Morning Recipe – Saveur.com.” SAVEUR.com – Authentic Recipes, Food, Drinks and Travel. Web).
Bayona is considered a standout not only with its food but also with its service. A friendly, well versed, and helpful wait staff contribute to Bayona’s quality dining experience. Extremely attentive and assisting, the waitstaff is genuinely interested in the guests’ experience (“Dave and Susie’s Guide to New Orleans – Great Places to Eat Dinner.” Savuer). It is encouraged to ask the wait staff for highly knowledgeable recommendations for pairing food and wine.
Bayona requests guests wear business casual or “casually elegant” attire (http://www.forbestravelguide.com/new-orleans-louisiana/restaurants/bayona/what-is-the-dress-code-at-bayona#!). However, unlike many other upscale New Orleans restaurants, Bayona does not require coats or ties.