Chef Ryan Trahan’s new concept, Vestal, is opening in the old Antler’s space on Jefferson Street come April. The restaurant will focus on simple Southern fare, seafood and hearth-cooked dishes.
Trahan is best known for having operated the former Dark Roux, a contemporary, upscale restaurant on Kaliste Saloom. He notes Vestal will be a far cry from his previous restaurant, with a more casual atmosphere and approachable menu. “We aren’t trying to make a fuss,” Trahan tells me. “Come as you are. Just be respectful to others and laissez les bons temps rouler!”
The menu will consist of Gulf seafood and turf entrées locally sourced, live-fired dishes from a wood-burning hearth, a raw bar featuring the region’s fresh-shucked oysters and a variety of vegetable plates. Trahan describes his style as “new American” and pairs modern with traditional to create a unique and welcoming atmosphere. Guests can expect dishes like Hearth Roasted Chicken and Grilled Gulf Whole Fish.
Trahan hopes to provide an open, homey dining experience, similar to what families experience when dining at someone’s home: eating near where the food is prepared. The oyster bar is situated in front of the cocktail bar, and the wood-burning hearth is behind the kitchen counter, still in the eye-shot of diners.
Trahan took the interior of the space very seriously. The original building had iconic design elements, and Trahan put a great deal and effort into being respectful to the past décor and architecture.
“Our design team have worked tirelessly to take the history we have at our disposal and add our own modern touch to it,” says Trahan. He admits he loved the location but wasn’t aware of the work needed behind the curtain. “The driving factor of this location is knowing how great this could be if people were able to enjoy the space again. So many possible tenants had gone in and out over the past few years, and no one was willing to dive in and take the leap,” says Trahan. “Unfortunately, the interior required a complete renovation for me to be comfortable with operating as a food service establishment. Once we identified the obstacles, there was really no other option for us.”
The interior of Vestal plays off the building’s long-established roots in Lafayette, along with details that pay homage to the contemporary yet classic theme of the menu: herringbone floors, antique brass and a hand-painted, sky-lit ceiling are a few of the new features.
“The décor will be unique to our concept, but in turn will be very respectful to the Art Deco décor that people have grown to love about the building,” Trahan says. The original Antlers sign is in the hands of the previous owner and is currently being restored.
Located at 555 Jefferson St., Vestal will be open from Tuesday through Sunday beginning at 3 p.m. for happy hour with dinner starting at 5:15 p.m.
With Vestal, Downtown will gain a new brunch spot on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 9 a.m., along with Friday-only lunch and $1 martinis all day on Fridays. The restaurant will have a full-service cocktail and wine program, with cocktails taking inspiration from the food menu.
According to Paige Tate Hanson, Vestal’s bar manager, the wine list will feature natural wine, old-world classics, and a few new, funky bottles. How does a cocktail gain its inspiration from a wood-burning hearth? Hanson says each drink will take one element from fire, whether it’s a smoked syrup or woodsy garnish. “We’ll also be doing ‘fat-washed’ spirits, such as a pork fat-washed vodka for Bloody Marys,” notes Hanson.