New Freret Street restaurant, VALS, transforms vintage gas station into new taco spot

As the restaurant industry continues to adapt during the pandemic, a new restaurant, VALS, opens on Freret Street with a modified strategy.

VALS will initially operate as a walk-up window serving a limited menu of Mexican-inspired fare with patio seating. Later this summer, the restaurant and bar plan to open for full service, pending guidance from officials.

The first new restaurant to open in the neighborhood amid COVID-19 features a menu of tacos, ceviche, salad and margaritas.

Source: VALS

“Our vision for VALS always included an approachable window offering tacos and margaritas to-go,” partner Turk Dietrich said in a release. “Once the pandemic hit, we knew that window would be essential for VALS survival. This is not the opening we planned for. We imagined seating guests in our dining room, hugging neighbors and friends on their way in and sharing a meal. However, we are grateful that we are able to open La Ventana at VALS —  in a neighborhood that has supported us for over a decade — as a limited version of what’s yet to come.”

VALS, located at 4632 Freret Street, is the latest venture from CureCo, the team behind the James Beard Award-winning bar Cure and French Quarter gem Cane and Table.

Chef-partner Alfredo Nogueira pulled from his extensive travels throughout Mexico to develop a menu of Latin-inspired dishes, with beer and cocktails crafted by partners Turk Dietrich and Neal Bodenheimer.

To start, the menu features chips with a selection of salsas, constantly rotating seasonal ceviches, salads, elotes, pickled vegetables and pit beans alongside a menu of tacos. Initial taco offerings include Crispy Beef Belly, Pork Shoulder, Green Mole Chicken, Fried Fish and Sweet Potato with Salsa Macha at $3 each.

Drink options include frozen margaritas, micheladas, beers, Mexican sodas and non-alcoholic beverages.

The existing location was once home to a vintage gas station, now reimagined as a casual space complete with outdoor patio seating. In the coming weeks, a lively bar and a laid-back indoor dining space will open to guests.

Initially, VALS opens Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Guests can place walk-up orders at the window either to-go or to enjoy while at the restaurant’s outdoor patio. The patio seats 32 guests, though full service will not be offered immediately upon launch.

In the next two weeks, full bar service and placing online advance orders will become available. Owners say indoor dining options are planning to open later this summer and will follow guidance from the CDC and local/state officials to ensure the safety of both the restaurant’s team and guests.