The Wild, Wild, West

Thanks in great part to one man, Algiers is New Orleans’ latest burgeoning restaurant district

Bryson Aust is hot on the future of Algiers Point.

The serial entrepreneur — who has founded or co-founded ventures that range from a tax credit company to a sake company — has become the area’s greatest booster and now has a hand in three different ventures that are transforming the picturesque neighborhood into a true restaurant district.

With a background in finance, Aust is uniquely suited to identify what he says is an untapped opportunity.

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“Looking through the possibilities with a financial lens, the risk is low, the overhead is low, and there is a tight-knit community welcoming the growth,” he explained with a smile. “I believe this is a trend which I anticipate will continue in Algiers for the next five to 10 years. At this time, I see the West Bank as literally the wild, wild West.”

Brett Jones of Barracuda Taco Stand is an Algiers believer. Aust and Jones worked together previously at the now defunct Dinner Lab and became friends. When the one-time fine-dining chef dreamed of having his own restaurant, his friend and former colleague stepped up.

“Bryson created the financing opportunities that initially helped us open the first location of Barracuda Taco on Tchoupitoulas Street in 2019,” Jones recalled.

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As Barracuda’s popularity grew, Aust pushed the idea of expansion into Algiers Point. When a historic Gulf gas station became available, the pair agreed it was an ideal place to grow the business. That second location opened in 2021 and has proved wildly popular.

“It’s just an amazing New Orleans neighborhood and the whole community embraced our concept,” Jones said. The following year, Barracuda opened on Government Street in Baton Rouge, and with Aust’s continued guidance, a fourth is slated to debut in Nashville this year.

Observing the great work culture and employee retention Jones accomplished while building the Barracuda team, Aust approached him with a new project that had nothing to do with tacos.

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“Despite the large number of full-service pizza places on the East Bank, amazingly there were barely three on the West Bank,” Aust reported. Identifying the need, he set out to correct that on Algiers Point.

Aust and Jones were great fans of pizza master Adrian Chelette, who gained fame for his craft at Uptown’s Ancora and later Margo’s in the Marigny. Chelette studiously follows the flour, water, salt and yeast rule of Italy’s Association of Vera Pizza Napoletana. Baked in a wood-fired oven, the dough yields a crispy, chewy, blistered crust providing an ideal foil for any topping. With Aust raising capital and Jones providing management assistance, the two partnered with Chelette on Nighthawk Napoletana, which opened in Algiers last fall.

Aust’s next dream for the Point was to secure a craft cocktail bar.

“There’s one in every neighborhood on the other side of the river, but none here,” he noted. He approached Byron Stithem of Proper Saké and Rice Vice with the opportunity. Back in 2016, Aust was instrumental in helping Stithem source financing for Proper Saké, which became the first saké brewery in Tennessee, complete with a tasting room. In 2022, Stithem opened a saké forward cocktail bar, Rice Vice. Originally conceived as a place to showcase his award-winning Proper Saké, its Tokyo Record Bar vibe and delicious cocktails quickly made Rice Vice a Music City hot spot. Honored by Esquire in 2023, Rice Vice was named one of the top bars in the U.S.

Just as Aust persuaded Jones to expand Barracuda Tacos to Nashville, he went to work on Stithem, urging him to export his cocktail concept to Algiers. Right next door to Nighthawk Napoletana, Rice Vice is poised to add another layer of cache to Algiers’ restaurant scene when it opens early this year. With barely 20 seats, the new sake den will be an intimate but important addition to the point.

“Both pizza and sake are packed with umami,” Aust declared. “It’s a perfect pairing.”

When you’re seeking new taste experiences, head to Algiers Point. The delicious diversity awaiting you is guaranteed to exceed your wildest expectations.

Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.

Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.


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