St. Roch Staple Fritai Has Opened Own Brick and Mortar Serving Their Beloved Haitian Cuisine

Photo Courtesy of Marielle Songy

Former St. Roch Market favorite, Fritai, has a new home at 1535 Basin St. The Haitian restaurant, by Chef Charly Pierre, will be serving much of the old favorites that diners have come to love, as well as some new selections. The new location also boasts a full bar and Haitian-inspired cocktails.

Pierre, a Haitian-American Boston native, who was raised in an all-Haitian area of the city, grew up cooking. In his career he’s accomplished a lot including winning Food Network’s Chopped, being honored as one of Zagat’s 2017 30 under 30, and Eater Youngunz, top 15 national.

“I’ve been cooking since I was 15,” he said. “I learned from my mother. Then I got a culinary scholarship to Southern New Hampshire University. After that, I cooked and worked as a bartender for a while.”

In 2015, Pierre made the move to New Orleans. After working around town in restaurants such as Angeline and Bayona, he decided to open up his own spot. Fritai was a hit at St. Roch Market and now Pierre is ready for that success to translate over to his brick and mortar location. 

“People have been waiting for this moment for us,” he said. “We’re happy to be here; it’s a miracle any restaurant survived the pandemic.”

As for the food, the menu is what Pierre calls a mix between traditional Haitian food and his own take on Haitian cuisine. Some of the more popular items are Espageti ($17), smoked herring, andouille sausage, fresh pasta, herbs and a soft boiled egg and Griot ($16), crispy pork with rice and beans, fried plantains, pikliz which is a spicy relish made with a mix of carrot, cabbage and pickle, and sauce Creole. There is also a selection of chicken wings with sauces such as Creole Buffalo, spicy mango, and roasted garlic, that is sure to please the palate.

Pierre said that his most popular item is the Fritai sandwich ($12). It’s made with pork, chicken, or mushroom tofu with avocado, mango sauce and pikliz served between two fried plantains. Perfect for any meal, the sandwich has become the restaurant’s signature item.

Photo Courtesy of Marielle Songy

Pierre acknowledges that the Fritai sandwich is not a traditional Haitian dish, but contains all of the flavors of Haiti and encompasses Haitian flavors.

It was a bustling Thursday night when I stopped in to dig into some of the food, myself. I had been a Fritai fan since Pierre had his booth at St. Roch Market, and I was excited to see the new space. The restaurant is beautiful with cozy earth tones and art that is a nod to the islands. 

I dug into an order of the sweet lime plantains, which are tossed in a coconut-lime powder and served with an avocado dip. The flavors were unique and I loved the soft inside with the cocoa-lime coating; the avocado dip was the perfect touch. The Fritai sandwich didn’t disappoint, and I can see why it’s so popular here. The fried plantain “buns” do a great job of soaking up all of the juice and sauces from the sandwich. You’re definitely going to need both hands for this one.

Photo Courtesy of Marielle Songy

Ian Julian, renowned New Orleans mixologist, who has mixed drinks behind the bar at Victory Bar NOLA and Dominique On Magazine, is the head of the cocktail program here at Fritai. The cocktail menu adds a modern twist to some classic cocktails and channels the spirit of Haiti. Such selections include Ti Punch made with Wray & Nephew, lime and cane syrup; Fritai Fruit Cup made with House Pimms infused with botanist and Cointreau, lime, simple syrup and soda; and Jungle Bird made with Appleton Single Estate Rum, Campari, lime, Demerara Syrup, and pineapple juice.

Throughout his journey, Pierre’s biggest goal has been to give back to the community that has made his business a success. While at St. Roch Market, he held an event to raise money for victims of Hurricane Matthew and he wants to continue giving back as his business grows. 

“I’m an equal opportunity employed, and I want to hire people who really need jobs, especially Black people and people of color” he explained. “We want to be a part of the community and we want to give back to the community.”

Fritai is open Wednesday through Monday 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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