Downtown Southern restaurant Olamaie has reopened as a temporary casual takeout shop dedicated to biscuits, starting on Thursday, July 9. Little Ola’s Biscuits is found at 1610 San Antonio Street for curbside and in-person pickups.
Owner and executive chef Michael Fojtasek originally planned on reopening the restaurant’s dining room, which has been closed since mid-March, for dine-in service this week. However, because of the rapid increase of novel coronavirus cases and deaths in the state and city, he decided not to and instead focused on takeout service instead.
On deck at Little Ola’s are those famous biscuits, as well as biscuit-based sandwiches with fillings such as fried chicken thighs with honey; tomato/egg/cheese; and pimento cheese, as well as salads, peach-vanilla jam, honey butter, and house-made chips. As for desserts from pastry chef Jules Stoddard, there are cookies, chocolate pudding, and cookie dough and biscuit-dough based cinnamon roll kits for those who want to bake at home.
Drinks-wise from beverage director Erin Ashford, there are pre-mixed cocktails ranging from frozen pina coladas, Old Fashioneds, choose-your-own High Balls, and PB&B boilermakers with a shot of peanut butter whiskey and Live Oak’s Hefeweizen beer can, along with wine and beer.
Opening a takeout restaurant focused on biscuits made sense to Fojtasek. “We have a product that we’re known for that we can do casually,” he said to Eater. “This is our best chance to stay in business.”
Fojtasek looked at what other local restaurants have done, and noticed that “familiar foods done very well and that traveled fairly are successful,” he explained. He specifically pointed to Mexican restaurant Suerte’s shift to a casual taqueria.
While the restaurant remained closed, Olamaie launched a crowdfunding campaign in mid-April for its staff, featuring merchandise such as T-shirts and koozies, and discounted gift cards. It has raised $17,000.
Fojtasek has been covering Olamaie employees’ full health insurances (as opposed to half of their insurances before the pandemic), while a member of the staff who is in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as others who don’t qualify for unemployment, have continued to get paid. “I think it’s really important that nobody gets lost in this process,” he said.
Fojtasek continued, “Not only is it the weirdest time that we’ve ever been through, it’s also this uncharted territory that nobody has been through.” He also noted that he doesn’t “judge anybody for choosing” to reopen either, as long as the restaurants are keeping both its staff and customers safe.
Though, currently, “I feel like operating a dining room right now is not safe or responsible,” Fojtasek said, for his team and himself. In order to feel safe about eventually reopening for dine-in service, he’d want to see hospital capacity and case numbers go down, and wants to feel that “society as a whole is embracing protecting one another.” He is also hoping that, “fingers crossed, we get some legislation that’s worth a damn,” in terms of the government providing substantial support for restaurants.
In the meantime, Olamaie’s forthcoming second restaurant, neighborhood diner/bakery Mignette at food hall Saint Elmo Public Market, is still on track for construction, though Fojtasek predicts it won’t open this year.
Little Ola’s hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Orders are placed online.