For Fry and Pie owners Nick and Kristin Gile, taking fresh-cut french fries and loading them with creative flavors mined from 20 years of traveling together is nothing short of love on a plate. That love story — their own, the love for their adopted city, their customers and their staff — has been tested this year, well beyond the rigors of moving from the Hi-Ho Lounge on St. Claude Avenue to 7007 St. Claude Ave. in Arabi in the middle of a pandemic.
Besides coping with the pandemic, Nick is battling cancer, but they’ve persevered to get the new place open.
“As much as the pandemic sucks, cancer sucks more,” says Kristin, who often speaks on Nick’s behalf because his voice has suffered during treatment. After it initially had gone into remission two years ago, he’s currently fighting it with immunotherapy.
“He says, ‘If I can’t eat or be a smart-ass, I’m not doing it,’” Kristen says. “We are hoping for the best. People might question why we push forward with the restaurant after three cancer diagnoses, but when you’re passionate about something, you figure out a way, without regrets. This is our dream.”
They’ve been together 20 years, a romance fueled by a shared love of food and travel. Nick’s background is in fine dining. He’s classically trained in French and Italian cuisines and was the executive chef at The Bombay Club for years. Originally from Portland, Maine, he came to New Orleans in the mid ’90s. Kristin, an artist by trade, arrived from Chicago in 2000. The pair met when she bartended at a spot across from The Bombay Club.
From their home base in Holy Cross, the couple started Fry and Pie at the Hi-Ho Lounge in 2015. The chef had the idea to make upgraded, globally accented comfort food using classic techniques in a way that would be accessible and fun. “French fries are popular everywhere you go,” she says. “We figured the potato is so versatile, why not make it more of a meal?”
Fry and Pie proved very popular from the beginning. The menu includes the best-selling Backyard Boil, which tops Cajun-spiced fries with crawfish tails, andouille sausage, melted mozzarella and crawfish cream sauce. Turkey Time features elements of a traditional turkey dinner.
Although cream sauce, melted cheese and potatoes aren’t for everyone, the Giles aren’t trying to feed everyone. “It’s a splurge food,” Nick says.
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Many dishes get inspiration from places the couple has visited. The Thai Fighter has Thai-spiced chicken and peanut sauce under mozzarella, and the Seoul Train features Korean-style barbecued beef and kimchi.
“We traveled together for at least three weeks every summer at the height of hurricane season to places like Korea, Iceland and Thailand,” Kristin says. “Everywhere we went, we’d go to markets and eat street food. It became so clear that wonderful food is wonderful whether it’s served on fine porcelain or on a paper plate at a street-food stand.”
Fry and Pie portions are large and most items are priced around $11. The creative menu also features many vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. The chef’s five dipping sauces include spicy chipotle ketchup and herb aioli made with herbs grown behind the restaurant.
Nick’s individual pie servings also have been a hit. Priced at $5, a rotating seasonal menu might include the Burnt Out Elvis, with peanut butter cream crowned with bruleed bananas and fresh whipped cream on a graham cracker and ginger snap crust. Eve’s Apple combines spiced Granny Smith and Fiji apples with salted caramel and brown sugar butter in a traditional crust, topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
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The new space is an eye-popping homage to Nick’s love of sci-fi and corny horror flicks. The walls are bright with color and local art, all curated by Kristin, who also created the restaurant’s funky logo.
While they miss the late-night customers fueling up after catching a music or burlesque show in the Marigny, their new location broadens the access and appeal to locals and families. “We wanted to do both (spaces), but between the pandemic and Nick’s treatment, it just wasn’t feasible,” Kritin says.
Even during aggressive treatment, Nick continued making the pies and doing prep work for the savory menu by day, but he’s stayed away from the public because of the risk of Covid. Kristin and a dedicated staff, including sous chef Aubin Leroy, have kept the restaurant going. Their neighbors Kitchen Table Cafe close Sunday and Monday, so the two businesses coordinated to keep dining options open for the locals.
“Owning this business has taught us the true meaning of service at its core,” Kristin says. “We feel like we make a safe place for people to create loving memories with their friends and loved ones while enjoying delicious food. Providing that is a powerful thing for us and we’re grateful.”
The plan has always been to open another location, cater festivals and have a food truck.
“For now, we’re just taking things one day at a time,” Kristin says.
7007 St. Claude Ave., Arabi, (504) 766-0076
5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Monday
Takeout, delivery, dine-in and outdoor seating available