A building that has sat empty for years on a busy New Orleans intersection will soon find new life as a food hall.
The Elysian Market is slowly taking shape at 1101 Elysian Fields Avenue, at the corner of Saint-Claude Avenue. The building was a Beauty Plus store for two decades before that business closed in 2019.
The project has been years in the making and is now awaiting inspections, with an opening tentatively scheduled for after Mardi Gras.
It’s just four blocks from the city’s last food hall, Marché Saint-Roch, which is undergoing its own renovation since its near-closure last summer.
A look inside
At the Elysée market, a brightly colored mural now adorns the exterior. The interior has a surprise in store. Through the sliding doors you enter to find a bright space lined with individual food stalls flanking the room, with a bar in the center.
Elysian Market will house a total of nine concepts, each independently managed under the same roof. A variety of dishes will be offered, with an emphasis on Asian flavors (see more below).
These stands are like stand-alone counter-service restaurants, each built with its own kitchen and walk-in cooler, and some with ovens, stoves and fryers as needed for the type of food served.
They are finished with faux marble panels and video screens on each will display menus and photos of dishes. The names on the signs now marking individual booths are placeholders that will likely change once vendors move in.
Elysian Market is the creation of local businesswoman Ngo Vu. She owns the property and when Beauty Plus closed, she began looking for new ideas. She and her family run the Crystal Palace event venues in New Orleans East and Harvey, and she has experience in the food industry, having previously managed the Capt. Seafood Markets. Sal.
What is cooking
Some vendors are still being finalized, but Vu said the common thread among them is people with experience working in restaurants who want to open their own business, but don’t necessarily have conventional restaurants.
These are not famous leaders, and they are not extensions of other existing concepts, with one exception. Zoe’s Bakery in Covington and will have a stand at Elysian Market for her cakes and pastries.
“These are people who don’t have the capital to open a restaurant, but they can come here,” Vu said. “We give them kitchens, and that’s where you make money.” You don’t make money wiping tables or cleaning toilets. They can focus on the areas where they make money.
The room will offer a variety of Asian cuisine stalls, particularly Vietnamese. This includes one for pho and vermicelli bowls, another for banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese-style desserts, as well as a sushi and poke bowl bar.
Other stalls will be devoted to burgers and wings, Mexican cuisine and, most likely, Indian cuisine, in addition to Zoe’s pastries.
A juice and salad bar will offer freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, and the full bar will be run by another vendor.
Vu will operate a stand herself. It’s called The Market, and it will operate as a deli with ready-to-go meals including sandwich and cheese platters and fresh produce, as well as boiled seafood.
The bar and sushi bar will have seating along their counters, while other vendors will share a common seating area.
Rebound in food halls?
New Orleans food hall concepts have been difficult to navigate during the pandemic.
The Pythian Market and the Auction House Market, both in the city centre, closed in 2022 (as did The Hall on Mag, a new, very short-lived concept in the old Auction House which did not lasted only a few months).
The Saint-Roch market almost closed its doors in August, but was saved from that fate when one of the sellers took over. The Saint-Roch market has since restarted with a changing mix of vendors.
Vu believes one difference for Elysian Market is the makeup of its offerings. Another key, she said, is building booths, which offer operators their own full restaurant kitchens.
“They just have to bring their skills and their knives,” Vu said.
1101 Elysian Fields Avenue, opening planned for spring 2024
Note: Elysian Market murals are by People for Public Art, Monica Rose Kelly, Gabrielle Tolliver, Sasha Kopfler, Lillian Aguinaga, Tyla Maiden, Journey Allen and artists from Arts New Orleans’ Young Artist Movement.