Louisiana Purchase's Collaboration with Broadway San Diego's The Wiz a Delicious Success
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, Jan. 6, 2024
The ambiance is immediate, a warmth spilling out on the corner of University and Louisiana Street. A cut steel sign over the host stand establishes the name of the venue, framed by roaring heat lamps. Nearby, a waiting area provides respite from the cold and a peek into a classy cocktail lounge with marble, raw wood, and iron seating options and lush velvet curtains. Louisiana Purchase, an intimate cocktail restaurant in North Park emanates with the energy of New Orleans.
I was invited to visit Louisiana Purchase to sample the offerings for their collaboration with Broadway San Diego's The Wiz; the touring production arrives in town this week, where it will play to San Diego audiences through January 14 before easing down the Yellow Brick Road toward the Great White Way. This partnership, which is designed to celebrate "the convergence of rich diversity and representation in both the culinary and performing arts realms" is a clever and delicious one.
For this collaboration, I had the opportunity to taste an array of Louisiana Purchase menu items including the Oz-inspired Cowardly Lion skillet and Wicked Witch of the West cocktail (plus a few stolen sips of two other libations) during my visit.
I started off with the seasonal Oxtail Dumplings, listed in the specialty section of the menu this month, which were served in a hand-thrown clay bowl. Seated in a red wine sauce with an andouille crumble, the 5 purse-shaped dumplings were filled with tender oxtail and garnished with a slice of jalapeño. Beware: the pepper packs quite a kick! That said, the dumplings were delicious with or without, especially paired with their slightly sweet sauce.
As we finished up our first selection, we moved on to the savory Uptown Kitchen Sink Gumbo, an aromatic smoky offering made with a blonde roux. I admittedly ordered this based on the photo from the online menu and, while mine differed in some ways (recognizable crawfish, shrimp, crab, and celery were not to be found, presumably due to seasonal availability), the roasted shredded chicken, rice, and andouille sausage were filling and the texture and scent alike were delightful. This would be a great option for someone looking for a comforting bowl of warmth to beat the winter chill, especially those who crave something salty and complex for their palate.
The main attraction for the meal was the Creole-inspired Cowardly Lion platter, designed by culinary director Chef Quinnton Austin (referred to by the venue as Chef Q). This meal, served in a matte black stoneware skillet, featured an ample serving of mac and cheese as the base for an airline chicken breast tossed in spicy buffalo sauce and cornbread garnished in truffle and andouille dust. The three textures, while very different from one another, were each well executed and complemented one another. The smoked gouda mac and cheese was rich, creamy, and complex... something to be enjoyed slowly. Its depth paired nicely with the spicy airline chicken as well as the sweet, golden brown cornbread. Chef Q's expertise clearly encapsulates fried chicken because not only were the breading and exterior crispy, but each bite of the meat inside was also flavorful, juicy, and tender.
Master mixologist and beverage director Rob McShea also had a hand in our themed evening out. I personally ordered the Wicked Witch of the West cocktail, which our server Abraham assured me reminded him of Mary J. Blige's glamorous iteration of the antagonist from The Wiz Live!. Either way, it is a fitting nod to the villainous Evillene, as it is wickedly delicious! This cocktail features butterfly pea-infused tequila, strawberries, and lime, and comes garnished with a blackberry, black dahlia, and a black salt rim. This might have been the most perfectly balanced and delicious specialty libation I've ever enjoyed; the floral notes flirted with the freshness of the lime and it was moody, gorgeous, and very Instagrammable. It would be a crime not to have this drink on the regular menu.
Likewise, I can recommend the smooth and sweet Praline Old Fashioned, crafted with bourbon, pecan orgeat, orange bitters, and chicory bitters, and the fruity and botanical sparkling Let The Good Times Roll, made with tequila, blackberry, agave, rosemary, lemon, orange bitters, and Topo Chico. Both beverages were well mixed, easy sippers. I noticed that the Hurricane Pop was also popular during our visit and enjoyed watching fellow diners enjoy sips paired with Pop Boom candy, served as a twist clipped to the front of the traditional rum beverage.
Beyond the food and beverage experience, the mood at Louisiana Purchase is unique. I was seated in the outdoor patio space alongside a live tree rooted below the building and stretching up through a gap in the clear, corrugated roof panels. While the patio has privacy curtains along the street, it would have been uncomfortably cold but for the many heat lamps, so patrons should plan ahead with warm apparel when attending on a winter's evening. Reservations for the venue are handled via Open Table and I understand from speaking with a host that they enjoyed a very busy holiday season. The restaurant was likewise bustling during our visit and, while this led to a more leisurely meal, it certainly was an enjoyable space to experience it.
With Broadway-bound The Wiz in town this week from Tuesday through Sunday, it would be a shame to miss the collaborative options (and especially that delicious Wicked Witch of the West cocktail!) before heading to the theatre; I left Louisiana Purchase with a full belly and a smile on my face and will be sure to return soon.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend with a guest to participate in a media tasting at the restaurant for this limited time collaboration. As such, this meal was provided for free. However, my opinions as stated are not sponsored and/or influenced by the venue or anyone affiliated with it and are based exclusively on my own experiences.