Despite the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans is back on its feet and thriving in the entrepreneurial sector.
Innovative new businesses are popping up all over NOLA. There’s an app that tracks employee happiness, a company that creates soil-less urban farms inside recycled shipping containers, and a boutique that sells hand-crafted bikes for women.
We scoured the Big Easy to find the coolest small businesses that opened in the last five years or so.
Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments.
What it is: A Mediterranean restaurant inspired by a food truck.
Why it's cool: Fans of the Fat Falafel food truck, a New Orleans favourite, can now enjoy the truck's signature dishes year-round at 1000 Figs, the brick-and-mortar version of the popular moving restaurant. The newly opened eatery offers simple, yet flavorful Mediterranean dishes and is considered by locals to be the best falafel in the city, bar none.
What it is: A cocktail discovery platform and community for cocktail professionals.
Why it's cool: This app not only brings creativity and innovation back to the cocktail scene, but makes it a social experience at the same time. Users can find new recipes and hot spots in their hometown, as well as share photos and ideas of their own. 'Drinking is inherently a social activity,' says co-founder Peter Bodenheimer. 'We want to build on that through events, cocktail kits, and continuing to build the BarNotes lifestyle brand.'
It's a useful app for anyone from the casual drinker to the experienced mixologist, as long as you're focused on real, handcrafted cocktails. Prepackaged knockoffs aren't welcome here.
What it is: A startup aiming to redefine energy drinks.
Why it's cool: With their signature drink, Iconic, Be Well Nutrition aims to build a better meal-replacement drink. Instead of loading up on sugar for an energy boost, Iconic is made with natural ingredients. Though the company is still young, it has garnered some serious attention, winning several local business competitions.
What it is: A startup that turns recylced shipping containers into soil-less urban farms.
Why it's cool: At Bloom Box, it's all about thinking inside the box. This startup transforms old shipping containers into soil-free farms, creating a sustainable source of local produce. By recycling the containers, Bloom Box uses 90% less water and 90% less land than traditional farming. The best part? These farms can be planted anywhere, making the potential to expand boundless.
What it is: A shop that sells only handmade, local goods.
Why it's cool: When Amy Knoll and William Walker noticed their neighbourhood was void of unique, quirky retail options, they opened Bon Castor as a way to showcase local artisans. The store now sells goods exclusively from local vendors -- 70% of the inventory was made in the shop's neighbourhood itself -- featuring everything from handmade furniture to repurposed clothing.
More than just a store, it's a place to hang out and relax -- there's even a spa in the back.
What it is: A fabrication company that builds custom furniture.
Why it's cool: Whether you're moving into a new office or updating your living room, the professionals at Construct will design and build the perfect item for your space. Each piece of furniture is made-to-order based on the client's style and vision, and handcrafted by Construct's team of wood and metalworking experts. You can check out their handiwork all over the city as well -- they helped design the interiors of Pizza Domenica (pictured) and Johnny Sanchez.
What it is: A modern bicycle boutique powered by women, for women.
Why it's cool: Inside of Arrow Cafe sits Dashing, a bike shop that offers a wide selection of fashionable, handcrafted bicycles catered specifically toward women. In addition to providing women with stylish bikes and gear, the boutique aims to make biking safe and accessible to everyone in New Orleans, regardless of age or background. 'We are focused on being a shop that everyone feels comfortable frequenting no matter how much money you make,' says owner Marin Tockman.
What it is: A restaurant that serves up decked-out hot dogs with New Orleans spirit.
Why it's cool: What started as a simple hot dog stand is now a NOLA institution, with three brick-and-mortar locations throughout the city. And with choices like alligator sausage, crawfish sausage, and Louisiana smoked sausage, Dat Dog is far from an ordinary hot dog joint. It evokes the flavours and culture of New Orleans with its creative offerings, complete with eclectic toppings ranging from wasabi to sauerkraut to andouille sauce.
What it is: A company that connects up-and-coming chefs with adventurous foodies, allowing them to experiment with ingredients and technique.
Why it's cool: Just as aspiring chefs appreciate constructive feedback, bold foodies love trying new, inventive dishes. And with Dinner Lab, both of those goals are achieved simultaneously. The service connects fledgling chefs with eager eaters, giving them the chance to experiment and refine their techniques while providing diners with a tasty night out. Bonus: Dinner Lab just started delivering, making it easier than ever to get a handcrafted, gourmet meal delivered straight to your door.
What it is: A cafe that serves craft doughnuts, gourmet sliders, and micro-roasted coffee.
Why it's cool: The combination of quality food (and coffee) and unusual flavours elevate District from a run-of-the-mill coffee shop to a morning experience. In addition to its artisanal doughnuts -- think flavours like mint-cucumber and salted caramel -- the shop also offers kolaches, biscuits, and micro-roast coffee. More than enough to get you out of bed in the morning.
What it is: A haberdashery that focuses on empowering customers.
Why it's cool: At Fracques -- pronounced 'frock' -- the focus isn't just on well-made, sophisticated clothing. Rather, it's all about helping men craft their individual style through their sartorial choices. The shop specialises in men's clothing and accessories, but also includes a carefully curated selection of international art, as well as books on travel and design.
What it is: A hybrid art gallery and concert venue aimed at highlighting local talent.
Why it's cool: At Gasa Gasa -- named after the Japanese term for someone who is unfocused and rough -- local artists and performers showcase work of all genres. 'We constantly dedicate ourselves to creating an atmosphere that reflects the evolving personality of our community,' says co-founder Mike Twillmann, noting that the space doesn't focus on one particular act or type of music, but strives for quality of sound and performance. 'The long-term plan for Gasa Gasa is to continue with our vision of creating a venue accessible to all forms of expression,' he adds.
What it is: A graphic design business that specialises in one-of-a-kind laser cut art.
Why it's cool: Josephine, helmed by artist Ali Becnel Solino and husband Adam Solino, takes graphic design to a whole other level -- literally. In addition to creating wedding invitations, advertisements, and brochures, customers can also order custom laser-cut art across all mediums, from wood to glass. And with products ranging from wreaths to clocks, customers are sure to find unique gifts for all occasions.
What it is: A cheesesteak shop that brings the taste of Philly to New Orleans.
Why it's cool: Despite its prominence as a food-centric town, until 2012 New Orleans was missing one thing -- a proper cheesesteak joint. So owners Michael Casey and Joe Seremet opened Liberty Cheesesteaks to fill the gap, introducing the Big Easy to the crown jewel of Philadelphia. Branded as 'Philly grown, NOLA home,' the restaurant serves up traditional Philly cheesesteaks with southern twists, such as Cajun seasoning.
What it is: An Italian restaurant in a refurbished rice mill.
Why it's cool: At James Beard Award-winning chef Ian Schnoebelen's second NOLA eatery, guests are treated to decadent Italian flavours in a rustic, laid-back setting, formerly a rice mill. The restaurant conjures a delicate balance between comfort food and fine dining with dishes such as duck confit, braised lamb belly, and black linguine with shrimp and crab.
What it is: A network of self-service kiosks that allow customers to charge their devices on the go.
Why it's cool: It's a panic we all know: Your battery's down to 10% and you need a charger -- now. Just track down a MobileQubes stand and you'll never face that problem again.
MobileQubes' automated kiosks allow customers to rent high capacity battery packs, known as 'qubes,' to charge their devices in places such as airports and hotels. 'We have been able to create a platform that brings a convenient and low cost solution to a problem experienced by hundreds of millions of Americans every day,' says founder Sean Carrigan. No charger? No problem.
What it is: The first-ever online store where customers can create customised protein powders.
Why it's cool: Not all protein powders are created equal, and no one understands this better than the folks behind myMix Nutrition. Husband and wife team Crutcher and Sarah Kirkwood Reiss found themselves tired of prepackaged nutritional supplements that didn't fit their individual needs, so they created a platform where anyone could create a custom mix.
The pair works with a team of doctors and nutritionists to ensure that each powder contains only high-quality ingredients, and aim to be as transparent as possible with consumers about their products. However, more than just providing a quality product, myMix also strives to connect with customers and educate them about health and wellness.
What it is: An app that tracks employees' moods to help managers stay in touch with their team.
Why it's cool: When employees record their moods throughout the day on Niko Niko's iPhone app -- simply by choosing the corresponding emoji -- it's translated into easy-to-read analytics for their manager. The company says this not only allows team leaders to understand their employees better, but helps them retain valuable workers, improve office culture, and track performance. It's designed to be a win-win at the office, keeping employees both happy and productive.
What it is: A furniture shop focused on building spaces that tell a story.
Why it's cool: At NOLA Drift, every item is hand-picked. Founders Kimberly and Jordan Pollard dig through flea markets, garage sales, and storage lockers to find pieces that are not only aesthetically appealing, but also one-of-a-kind. 'Jordan and I have an eye for different things, so between us, we spot and scoop up a wide variety of beautiful things for our shops,' Kimberly says. The pair aims to make every item both useful and visually striking, a goal that shows through their carefully curated collection.
What it is: A company that brings solar-powered energy to low-income homeowners.
Why it's cool: PosiGen installs solar panels onto the homes of those who need it most -- namely, low-to-moderate income families -- helping to reduce future energy costs. By replacing traditional energy sources with sustainable solar-powered systems, PosiGen's mission isn't only environmentally friendly, but also creates financial stability for homeowners.
What it is: A quirky bar that strives for drinks that are as good as the entertainment.
Why it's cool: At Publiq House, there's a belief that a space can feel like an authentic homegrown dive while still offering craft beer and specialty cocktails. Located in a Freret Street warehouse that has been home to several past local favourites, this venue aims to provide guests with a healthy dose of local flavour through music and entertainers, as well as top-notch drinks.
What it is: A restaurant introducing the tastes of the Middle East to New Orleans.
Why it's cool: Chef Alon Shaya, known for his popular Domenica and Pizza Domenica restaurants, is opening a new spot in New Orleans. Like his pizza joints, a wood-fire oven is the cornerstone of the menu, allowing Shaya to serve fresh, made-to-order pita, along with other Mediterranean favourites, such as falafel, kebabs, and tabbouleh.
What it is: An online platform that makes training for restaurant staff members fun and effective.
Why it's cool: Even the most delicious meal can be ruined by bad service. But through Sidework, restaurant owners can virtually train and support staff members, helping to improve their attitude and performance. The online platform breaks down the menu, goes over health and safety procedures, and quizzes employees to help them retain information. It not only makes training fun, but ensures that employees are actually learning, not just leafing through a hefty manual.
What it is: An underground record store.
Why it's cool: While the name may conjure images of praying nuns and quiet churches, Sisters In Christ is anything but. Just inside Gasa Gasa on Freret Street, this underground record store is New Orleans' newest go-to spot for vinyl of all kinds, from from indie to punk to hardcore. Owners Bryan Funck and Michael Moises have a soft spot for local artists as well, and make sure to always carry records from New Orleans natives.
What it is: A restaurant for diners who want to try something out of the ordinary.
Why it's cool: Perfect for the diner looking for a unique experience, Square Root offers ambitious food that highlights the techniques of molecular gastronomy. It's the city's first and only restaurant where the only option is a tasting menu, ensuring that guests experience all the weird and delicious concoctions chef Phillip Lopez has to offer, from buttermilk-horseradish 'snow' to lobster mole. And with a menu that changes daily, no two visits are the same.
What it is: An eclectic vintage shop.
Why it's cool: A destination for offbeat finds, The Revival Outpost is home to an eccentric collection of vintage clothing, full of floral print tops, sequin dresses, and billowy skirts. 'American Horror Story' fans might also recognise the shop from an Instagram Emma Roberts posted while visiting New Orleans on location for the show, where she touted it as the 'best vintage store in NOLA.'
What it is: A guided tour of New Orleans' most haunted places.
Why it's cool: With a history steeped in hauntings and voodoo, New Orleans is no stranger to the supernatural. Witches Brew Tours invites guests to explore the city's metaphysical underbelly, offering excursions through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and the dark side of the French Quarter. They can guarantee a good time, but make no promises that you won't be cursed.
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