Bayou Bakery, chef David Guas’s New Orleans-style restaurant in Courthouse, reopens today, bolstering a menu full of muffulettas, roast beef po’ boys, and crawfish mac and cheese with a new frozen daiquiri machine churning out rum-packed hurricanes.
The decade-old Arlington standby is starting out with limited hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily) for takeout and patio service at 1515 North Courthouse Road. Guas took advantage of a months-long hiatus by renovating the restaurant and his menu, asking regulars on social media what they craved most while waiting out the COVID-19 crisis.
“We used peoples’ comments as a template to reopening,” he says.
A customizable buttermilk biscuits “by you” section includes turkey sausage, Benton’s bacon, and famed pimiento cheese add-ons. A new “provisions” menu lets diners stock up on favorites for home. There are 12-ounce containers of pepper jelly with cream cheese and triscuits, bags of candied spiced pecans, and cups or pints of pimiento cheese or roasted chicken salad (Duke’s mayo, creole mustard, celery seed, cayenne, salt and pepper, green onion). Delivery is coming soon.
Guas is capitalizing on an ability to sell to-go cocktails by pouching and bottling Hurricanes (in slushy or traditional form). For those imbibing at home in pajamas, Big Lebowski style, Bayou Bakery sends out “The Dude” (white Russian) cocktails with the option to add extra shots of Kahlua and vodka.
Guas also took the down time to gut the kitchen and retile the floors — “things that needed to be done to survive 10 more years,” he says.
He says his landlord offered tenant improvement dollars to make essential changes, along with rent help.
“They were amazing, considering what I’m hearing from other chefs and owners having pushback issues,” he says.
Sanitary additions included carbon fiber hands-free handles, sensor-enabled faucets, and a commercial fan in the back of the kitchen. The $5,000 fan’s sole job is to purify and circulate air in a space up to 3,000 square feet (Bayou is 2,400 square feet).
While the restaurant was closed, Guas also started a nonprofit that’s still going strong. When Arlington County public schools had to close in March, Guas kickstarted a meal distribution program with Real Food For Kids. More than 80,000 meals have been served to the community via Called Chefs Feeding Families (restaurants like Silver Diner and Pizza Paradiso are also on board).
“I pitched my idea to [Real Food for Kids], saying I don’t know what these kids are going to do when school is closed,” he says, adding some of his kitchen staff’s kids were affected by the sudden shutter.
His on-site meal program ballooned to 500 meals a day. He got chef Tim Ma at the Eaton hotel to pick up all of his Arlington distributions locations in mid-June while Bayou Bakery underwent renovations.
“We have not skipped a beat or single day — that was a sigh of relief he could fill my shoes,” Guas says. “Once you start something you can’t just stop in the middle.”
The meal prep program returns to Bayou today, sending out weekday items like red beans and rice and braised collards to kids in need.
Guas opened a second Bayou Bakery in Capitol Hill in 2015 but later handed off the site to what is now Michelin-rated Little Pearl. He then debuted a cafe called Lil’B at the foot of Scott Circle’s Darcy hotel, but it closed after two years, in early 2019.