Five years after opening one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Kelly English is preparing to open The Second Line, a more casual restaurant next door to his original eatery, Restaurant Iris.
English is expecting to open The Second Line this month. The new restaurant will seat about 20 percent more people inside than Restaurant Iris – which is English’s French-Creole restaurant near Overton Square – and will have a large patio in the backyard. The menu will include typical New Orleans fare, and in one example of the difference between its older sister restaurant, Restaurant Iris has a bar that seats two people, whereas The Second Line will have a bar that seats 17.
“We’re trying to make The Second Line everything that Restaurant Iris is not,” said English, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at the top of his class, studied in Spain and France and has worked in some of New Orleans’ most celebrated restaurants.
“We won’t take reservations. We took out all the walls, so that it’s one big room. We’re focusing a lot on reusing materials as much as we can. In fact, one table in the back is made out of part of an old bowling alley floor – we may use it as community seating. And we’re going to have a great cocktail program.”
The name harkens back to English’s childhood in the Big Easy.
“I grew up in New Orleans, and the Second Line is a celebration that traditionally was a parade that followed a parade,” English said. “It was a less organized parade that followed a more organized parade.”
The symbolism there is found in the fact that The Second Line will have a more casual atmosphere compared to its upscale next-door neighbor, which only has 13 tables of seating.
The new restaurant – which will seat 60 inside and another 40 or so outside – will focus on the foods English said he grew up with. That means items like po boys on the menu – “lots of stuff that I think is really typical of what people actually eat in New Orleans.”
Other menu items will include seafood plates and roasted meats. The Second Line also will continue English’s commitment to using fresh and local ingredients whenever possible.
“I am as excited about The Second Line as I was when we were opening Iris,” English said. “Iris is a special little place. It’s exactly what I want it to be, but there’s only so many people we can fit in there in a night.
“And there’s a whole other side to the food I grew up eating that we’re not touching on (at Iris). I didn’t grow up eating out, eating fancy food every night. We couldn’t afford that, but we had the stuff we’re going to serve at The Second Line, so I want to show people what it is the locals actually eat.”
Restaurant Iris currently employs about 20 people, and English is expecting to bring on around 35 for The Second Line.
“This is the fun part, creating jobs and livelihoods – that’s one of the fun parts of this business,” English said. “We’re going to have specials every day. And the great thing about the two restaurants is they really complement each other.”