There is something new and great happening for all of you food-loving New Orleans adventurers. Recently, without filling them in on many of the details, I invited two of my best friends to try a new and magical dining experience with me.
Walking down a quiet, unassuming street in the Treme, blocks from Armstrong Park off Rampart Street, there was little hint as to the treat that we were in for on a Wednesday evening. If there was one tell, it was the red lantern perched by the front door. A nod to the storied history of Prohibition era New Orleans, the red light marked our destination: The PDR NOLA, a food speakeasy hosted by Chef Rita Bernhardt-Eggers and her partner, William Barial.
It’s no huge surprise to anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting or working with Chef Rita that her culinary journey led to the creation of The PDR NOLA. Rita, who honed her culinary skills through attending school at Western Culinary Institute in Portland, OR and throughout NOLA restaurant kitchens at Domenica, Restaurant August and Bacchanal, is jointly creative and talented.
Rita’s classic training coupled with her experience beyond that of a traditional restaurant kitchen has translated to a truly special dining experience. Notably, Rita assisted with food styling for the HBO show, Treme, which she says “was a blast!” in addition to partnering on several occasions with DinnerLab. It was DinnerLab that that opened her eyes to a different way of dining. The result was The PDR NOLA, which I was fortunate enough to have front row seats for at the soft opening in Early May
In a recent conversation, Bernhardt-Eggers reminisced about her love for food while growing up and finding her passion, explaining that she “grew up in a large family [in which] getting together and cooking was just an integral part of life.” It was in the kitchen with her grandmother where she first learned to make pasta and bread from scratch (simultaneously developing a sweet tooth from sampling her amazing desserts).
Complementing Rita’s culinary prowess is front-of-the-house master, partner and host extraordinaire, William Barial. The sound of his deep hearty laugh could be heard through the wood when we approached the door, and, coupled with the delectable smells that accompanied our other senses, we knew we were in for something remarkable.
Before the meal, a spread of charcuterie, cheese and homemade accompaniments were offered on large platters as pre-dinner snacks, while the host opened and poured diners’ BYObeverages. Following the hors d’oeuvres, we enjoyed 5 drool-inducing courses (priced at $50 per person; inclusive of water and an assortment of Coca Cola products) –each of which, I proclaimed “the best thing I’d ever eaten” while chasing crumbs with my fork. Although each of the five courses was satisfying and well-executed, the third course : a mushroom raviolo with a runny egg yolk and pork belly broth, was the star of the dinner.
As far as ambience, everyone dines at a single long hardwood table adorned with fresh flowers that give the table setting an inviting and homey feel. You never know who might sit next to you at The PDR, precisely part of the adventure’s allure. But you’ll likely leave the meal with a new foodie friend or two, as the intimate setting encourages dialogue among fellow diners.
Dinners are offered each Wednesday at 8PM as well as the first and third Sundays of the month, also at 8 PM. You might just spot me there; I’ll be the blond girl with a glass (ahem bottle) of rosé, licking my plate.