Craving jambalaya, crawfish or, even, a bit of alligator? For a taste of New Orleans, just head to The Quarter on Salem Avenue in Downtown Roanoke.
Billed as Roanoke’s only Cajun/Creole restaurant, it has been open since April 2011 in a renovated building that is more than 100 years old. Besides the downstairs dining and bar area, it features a large outdoor courtyard and an upstairs event area.
The Quarter is the brainchild of local restaurateur Chip Moore and his two partners. Moore said the three are big fans of New Orleans and have gone down there at least once a year since 1995. When he designed the bar, he researched old bars in New Orleans and added just the right architectural elements.
Similarly, the menu items are based on New Orleans standards. He said they’ve tweaked the menu several times, but not lost the favorites – including the alligator. Moore recommends trying it blackened! “You’ve got to have crawdads and jambalaya on the menu,” he says.
On the front lines of making sure diners have a proper New Orleans experience are Jack Champagne, bar manager and Chef Evan Patterson. Champagne (yes, the guy who pours your drinks is named Champagne) brings a New Orleans background with him, having moved from there nine months ago. Patterson is a classically French-trained chef. He studied at Johnson & Wales University and worked under Chef Meghan Gill, at the former 202 Market. (Gill won a season of Hell’s Kitchen and is now the head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub at Caesar’s in Atlantic City.)
Patterson came to The Quarter about a year ago. He said his classic training helps when creating specials, but that he doesn’t want to “mess with the favorites that people expect.” He tries to play off the Cajun cuisine and tailor the specials to the season. He also coordinates with Champagne’s drink specials. In fact, the two admit to a friendly competition.
The bar manager has been working in restaurants since 1996. He came to Roanoke because of his girlfriend and started working at The Quarter two days later. He’s used his experience to make some tweaks to the recipes and how they are made. In New Orleans, he worked “off and on for ten years” at the Court of Two Sisters, a historic restaurant in the French Quarter. He said it is a misconception that all New Orleans cocktails are 32-ounce sweet drinks. Simple drinks go better with the city’s hot, humid climate.
He says New Orleans “is an entity unto itself,” adding that it is not traditionally “Southern,” so that also means no sweet tea. The restaurant business is a “professional career” in New Orleans, he says. With that in mind, he gives The Quarter high marks for service. “Our servers are great.”
The restaurant has a regular clientele, thanks to a good reputation and the Wells Fargo Tower just across the street. Champagne says some of the regulars eat there three days a week. The lunch, happy hour and dinner crowds are always greeted and treated well, he says. Now that he is settling into the job, Champagne is featuring new cocktails, including some using the legal moonshine from Franklin County. He enjoys matching the drink specials to the seasons, adding that he likes the fact that Roanoke has seasons. This summer’s watermelon mojito was such a hit that they carried over into the fall.
Patterson prides himself – and his team – on the consistency of the food. “If you come in here on a Monday and enjoy a meal, it should taste the same if you come in three weeks from now.” He challenges himself to create “upscale specials in a good price range.”
Champagne summed it up: “We want people to have a good experience.”