If you made a drinking game out of “New Orleans Clichés” and had to do a shot every time someone said, “New Orleans is famous for its food,” by lunchtime you’d be more drunk than a tourist on Bourbon Street wearing Mardi Gras beads in August.
If you live in New Orleans, you can be justifiably proud of our cuisine. But there are only so many poboys, muffalettas, and plates of red beans and rice you can eat. That’s why, when people move here from other parts of the country or the world and bring with them authentic food from their home, we locals jump at it.
Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Latin, and Indian immigrants have all created restaurants that New Orleanians love. To that list you can also add German, and Connecticut.
Ok, Connecticut’s not a country, and normally nobody in New Orleans would look to the northeast for any kind of food. That is, until 2021. That’s when Joel Griffin graduated from Tulane and instead of going back home to Connecticut for a lobster roll, he brought lobster rolls to New Orleans.
From his very first pop-up at The Boot, Joel’s Lobster Rolls were a massive hit. Over the Summer of 2021 New Orleanians were lining up for an hour or more and happily parting with over $20 for one of Joel’s Lobster Rolls. My neighbor, Jane, told me, “I spent 4 hours of my 50th birthday in line for a lobster roll.”
“Joel’s Lobster Rolls” is now the name of Joel Griffin’s company, and it’s the name emblazoned on his food truck.
Sven Vorkauf, grew up in his family’s deli business in Berlin, Germany. When he got old enough to take over the business, Sven turned the single store into a chain of European style delis. Then he sold the whole lot of them, and moved to New Orleans.
In 2012, Sven started over. At the Freret Street Market he had a pop-up he called Bratz Y’all. Like Joel’s Lobster Rolls, Sven’s Bratz Y’all was an instant smash hit with New Orleanians.
Today you can find Bratz Y’all Bakery & Biergarten at its permanent home on Piety Street in the Bywater. The mostly-outdoor restaurant serves uncompromisingly authentic German fare including Bratz, schnitzel, pretzels, and decadent desserts, along with a wide selection of exclusively German wines, beers and spirits.
Over many years, the myriad influences of indigenous people – French, Spanish, Asian, Haitian, Honduran and many others who have moved here to New Orleans – have built our city on a freedom of coexistence. New Orleans embraces everyone who shares our unique perspective on life.
It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly that almost indefinable New Orleans-ness is. At the end of the day it’s not about a nationality, or an industry, or a plate of food. It’s about a person. The reason Joel’s Lobster Rolls and Bratz Y’all are businesses that are doing so well in New Orleans is partly because of lobsters and Bratz. But it’s largely because of Joel and Sven.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.