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Mosquito Supper Club: Intimate Dinners in an Old House in New Orleans

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Mosquito Supper Club: Intimate Dinners in an Old House in New Orleans

July 16, 2018

In a 19th-century house in New Orleans is a small restaurant that feels as though you’re dining in someone’s front parlor. The chef, Melissa M. Martin, grew up in Terrebonne Parish on Bayou Petit Caillou in Chauvin, Louisiana, and her Cajun, family-style Mosquito Supper Club pays tribute to the local seafood recipes of her childhood with dishes such as crawfish boulettes, shrimp okra gumbo, and fried soft shell crabs. After a few years in the French Quarter, Martin moved her restaurant to the Milan neighborhood in Uptown New Orleans.

The house at 3824 Dryades St., where the restaurant lives now, was built in 1898 and was previously home to a friend of Martin’s, who had to be cajoled into letting Martin set up shop there. The historic building now welcomes Mosquito Supper Club diners on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings; on Saturday and Sunday mornings, people line up around the block for pastries and breads from Levee Baking Co., an artisan bakery pop-up that also operates in the space. Seasoned, a curated, vintage cookware store, occupies another part of the house. “It’s a collaborative for three female-run businesses,” says Martin. “We all learn from each other and help each other out.”

Martin designed the space herself, keeping much of the house’s original layout. Take a look.

Photography by Jillian Greenberg, courtesy of Mosquito Supper Club.

When Martin took over the 98 house, she worked with architect Ariana Rinderknecht. “She helped me permit the space as a restaurant without cutting one hole in the exterior of the home,” Martin says. “We had to build walls and cover windows, change doors, make an ADA-accessible bathroom, and install a handicap lift, and put in a commercial hood among many other things, but we didn’t have to change much of the building, so its age is kept intact.”
Above: When Martin took over the 1898 house, she worked with architect Ariana Rinderknecht. “She helped me permit the space as a restaurant without cutting one hole in the exterior of the home,” Martin says. “We had to build walls and cover windows, change doors, make an ADA-accessible bathroom, and install a handicap lift, and put in a commercial hood among many other things, but we didn’t have to change much of the building, so its age is kept intact.”
The farmhouse benches and tables were handcrafted by Matthew Holdren, a New Orleans furniture designer, based on vintage pieces Martin loved. Sacks of flour by the window aren’t just for decoration: Levee Baking Co. uses it for baking each week.
Above: The farmhouse benches and tables were handcrafted by Matthew Holdren, a New Orleans furniture designer, based on vintage pieces Martin loved. Sacks of flour by the window aren’t just for decoration: Levee Baking Co. uses it for baking each week.
The small tables were refurbished from an original Mosquito Supper Club table that Martin built: Misha Heil, a friend and member of the Mosquito team, used all the original wood and turned a -by-3-foot table into smaller, easier-to-move tables.
Above: The small tables were refurbished from an original Mosquito Supper Club table that Martin built: Misha Heil, a friend and member of the Mosquito team, used all the original wood and turned a 10-by-3-foot table into smaller, easier-to-move tables.
“There are two mantles and I call them our shrines,” says Martin. “Mosquito Supper Club has one and Levee has one. My shrine is full of old Cajun spiral-bound cookbooks that Ellen  collects, and other things we love.&#8
Above: “There are two mantles and I call them our shrines,” says Martin. “Mosquito Supper Club has one and Levee has one. My shrine is full of old Cajun spiral-bound cookbooks that Ellen [Durand, the third member of the Mosquito team] collects, and other things we love.”
The cloth napkins are Ikea&#8
Above: The cloth napkins are Ikea’s red-striped Tekla Dish Towels.
All artwork (except for the large woodblock print in the back) is by Leslie Martin, Martin’s jazz pianist brother; his southern-Louisiana-inspired oil paintings are available for sale. The large woodblock print is by Pippin-Frisbie Calder.
Above: All artwork (except for the large woodblock print in the back) is by Leslie Martin, Martin’s jazz pianist brother; his southern-Louisiana-inspired oil paintings are available for sale. The large woodblock print is by Pippin-Frisbie Calder.
Above L: Bar offerings are listed on the chalkboard. Above R: Christina Balzebre, the main baker behind Levee Baking Co., uses local produce from Crescent City Farmers’ Market for her pies.
“At Mosquito Supper Club, we always want you to feel like you are coming into our home. I think leaving the layout of the house was key,” says Martin.
Above: “At Mosquito Supper Club, we always want you to feel like you are coming into our home. I think leaving the layout of the house was key,” says Martin.
Many New Orleans homes have original fireplaces that are no longer working; on the Levee mantel in the back room, Balzebre has her in-house cookbook collection.
Above: Many New Orleans homes have original fireplaces that are no longer working; on the Levee mantel in the back room, Balzebre has her in-house cookbook collection.
“The chairs have been collected throughout the last couple of years,&#8
Above: “The chairs have been collected throughout the last couple of years,” says Martin. “Betsy at Seasoned visits estate sales a lot and helps me find the style I like, which is forever primitive modern.” The flatware was collected over the years, from Seasoned and from eBay. Some of the silverware came via Heil, when his aunt passed away and left behind her collection.
A vignette on a side table. Leslie Martin, the artist, may spend up to a year on a single painting like this one.
Above: A vignette on a side table. Leslie Martin, the artist, may spend up to a year on a single painting like this one.
Above: “The records are my and Ellen’s collection,” says Martin. “We have records that are specifically for service, like Dr. John, Leon Bridges, and Lost Bayou Ramblers, and then ones we play while prepping and working like Beyoncé, Lucius, and Courtney Barnett.”
Martin’s friend, who previously lived in the house, had already renovated the exterior, but Martin continues to keep up and add to the gardens in the front and beside the house.
Above: Martin’s friend, who previously lived in the house, had already renovated the exterior, but Martin continues to keep up and add to the gardens in the front and beside the house.

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