Velveteen Lounge opens as Bayou Road’s new affordable neighborhood spot
By Marielle Songy, Mid-City Messenger
Velveteen Lounge & Restaurant opened in May as a new anchor for the Bayou Road corridor in the former home of Pirogue’s, the popular neighborhood bar and restaurant that shut its doors in 2020.
The restaurant and bar at Bayou Road and North Broad Street is the brainchild of Brendan Gordon, Amber Rowley and Mina Seck. Gordon was a customer at Pirogue’s, where he met Rowley, a bartender there. Rowley knew chef Mina Seck from her time at Carmo, and the trio joined forces to open an affordable neighborhood spot.
The restaurant is a worker cooperative, owned and managed by the employees. “Cooperativism is focused on building community, giving back to the community, being responsible for the community and embodying those values within the business model,” Gordon said. “The profits of the business go back to the people who are working, rather than a hierarchy of ownership where one person profits.”
The restaurant has three primary owners, and other employees are on what Gordon called a pathway to ownership.
Gordon, Rowley, and Seck also want to keep the menu’s prices fair so that neighbors can afford to eat there.
“We don’t have $15 or $20 items on our menu. We have $3 beer and offer two for $5 for locals,” Gordon said. “We have happy hour where you can get well drinks for $3. We have something for everyone who comes in, regardless of how much money they may have.”
Chef Seck has been running her own catering business, BeetsnThyme, for three years. She has curated the menu here with a diverse food selection that will satisfy any mood. The produce she uses in her dishes is local, and the bread comes from Leo’s Bread, a bakery just down the street from the restaurant.
Highlights that Seck recommends are jerk chicken tacos ($9) made with pulled jerk chicken, pickled peppers and mango slaw, served in a corn tortilla with jerk crema on the side; a burger ($9) with caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato and cheddar; the veggie quesadilla made with a daily selection of roasted veggies and cheese in a flour tortilla, served with pico and crema ($8) and a Cuban sandwich ($12) made with roasted pork shoulder, ham, Swiss cheese, house dill pickles and grainy mustard.
Seck calls it bar food with flavor that’s a little healthier than something you might find in a typical dive.
As for the bar menu, the keyword is “balance.” The owners want to focus on products that aren’t just corporate-owned. As a result, Velveteen Lounge boasts an extensive selection of craft beers, mainly from the Gulf Coast region. Offerings include Pontoon New Wave Blonde Ale, Bells Official Hazy IPA, Three Card Stout and Spindletap Heavy Hands Double IPA, to name a few. Craft beers are affordably priced between $6 and $9.
There’s a growing wine list as well as specialty cocktails such as a Mai Tai ($10), a Margarita ($5), and a Negroni ($9) — and Rowley is especially proud of the Lounge’s zero-proof menu, a cocktail selection that doesn’t contain alcohol.
“The cocktails without alcohol are crafted with just as much complexity as those that do have alcohol in them,” she said. “We wanted to offer zero proof cocktails, so that if you’re not a heavy drinker or if you don’t drink at all you still feel welcome.”
Velveteen Lounge & Restaurant is open Thursday through Monday, 4 p.m. to midnight. The kitchen remains open until the bar closes.