Cellardoor ‘gastrolounge’ restores historic Swoop-Duggins House

The Times-Picayune – When Gregory Gremillion discovered the 19th century CBD building called the Swoop-Duggins House, he felt its character and soul. The Louisiana native lived for a time in London, where he worked for an art gallery. He was looking for a spot to open a “gastrolounge” that would embody some of what he experienced abroad.

“It all starts with this building,” Gremillion said. “When you walk in for the first time, you realize that it’s a special place.”

Later this summer, he will open Cellardoor in that historic space with bartender Michael Yusko and chef Jamielyn Arcega.

Gremillion bought the building, which has been vacant since Katrina, three years ago. Before 2005, it housed The Sporting House, the Velvet Room bar and the restaurant of local gourmet Christopher Blake.

The rooms have tall ceilings. The walls are exposed brick. The cypress floors date back to the 19th century.

“We wanted to strip it down and give it a real minimal aesthetic,” he said.

The space will also be filled with contemporary art, including works by Damien Hirst, from the Paul Stolper gallery, the London gallery where Gremillion worked.

Bartender Yusko will be a familiar face to patrons of Cure and Bouligny Tavern. The New Yorker, who’s also a filmmaker, has been working in New Orleans for the past seven years.

The cocktails at Cellardoor will be a mix of classics and modern creations.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Yusko said.

The initial wine list of a dozen bottles will be carefully chosen by Yusko.

“We’re going to recognize as many different countries as possible,” he said, “It will have familiar selections and a handful of ‘hipster’ wines.”

Arcega, who most recently worked as a personal chef and for a catering company, created a menu of “internationally inspired small plates.” Items on the initial menu include chicken skin ‘crack’-lins, lamb kebabs with eggplant-apricot relish and pulpo (octopus) a la plancha with celery root puree.

Initially Cellardoor will open only in the evenings for drinks and small plates. Eventually, though, Arcega will add a lunch menu.

Cellardoor: 916 Lafayette St., New Orleans (opens summer 2014)

By: Todd Price