Just in case you needed one more reason to take a break from New Orleans and cross the 24-mile causeway across Lake Pontchartrain, Ox Lot 9 in the suave Southern Hotel in Covington is open for business.
Across the street from the excellent Italian Ristorante del Porto, Ox Lot 9 debuted a few months after the $8 million hotel opened its doors. The love child of Chef/Co-owner Jeffrey Hansell and his wife, Co-owner and General Manager Amy Hansell, Ox Lot 9 makes a sprightly addition to the eclectic Northshore dining scene.
Chef Jeffrey Hansell and his crew turn out deceptively simple Southern cuisine at Ox Lot 9 — Photo courtesy of Renee Kientz / Louisiana's Northshore
Covington is one of a handful of walkable quaint downtown districts across the lake that beg exploring. While much of the Northshore seems devoted to gated communities and shopping sprawl, towns like Covington, Mandeville and Abita Springs are wonderful excursions that offer family-friendly attractions and outdoorsy activities an easy day trip from New Orleans.
Jeffrey brings an informed vision of all kinds of Southern cuisine to the menu. He worked at Commander's Palace when it reopened after Katrina, cooked at John Besh's Lüke and served as top toque at Veranda on Highland in Birmingham. When the couple sought their own place, a drive by the then-under-construction Southern Hotel seemed like the perfect location.
This simply sophisticated Southern bistro spotlights Chef Hansell's deft homage to Gulf Coast ingredients and time-tested Southern comfort dishes.
Jeffrey, whose resume also includes working at a resort outside of Aspen, adds his own Southern twist to dishes like bouillabaise, with the addition of okra, local red fish and shrimp. He also presents stuffed rabbit with tasso and housemade mozzarella and poached oysters in pernod and cream that's tucked into puffed pastry so good it should be against the law.
A few other bits not to miss include crisp fried frog legs with creamy buttermilk dressing and pickled carrots; chicken tamale with lime crème fraîche; spiced duck breast and leg confit with carrot soufflé; and roasted mangrove snapper with okra and chili vinaigrette. The housemade charcuterie platter is not to be missed.
A mindfully curated wine list and brilliant array of craft cocktails add allure to this destination restaurant. Feeling lucky? Give the bartender a few hints, and he or she will concoct something just for your palate.
By the way, the restaurant's name comes from Covington's original planning scheme, which allotted space for farmers to tie up their oxen. These lots were part of the original layout drawn up by town founder John Wharton Collins more than 200 years.