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Bayou Eats | Pour

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Eats
Jul 31st, 2023
0 Comments
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article by VANELIS RIVERA
photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK

Adjacent to U.S. Route 165, tucked by Century Village Blvd, POUR by Char 19 is offering an extensive selection of premium wines, cocktails, and dining options at an upscale venue with relaxed overtones.

TWO YEARS AGO, a beloved restaurant known for its delightful balance of comfort and design, closed after a fire completely destroyed all of the kitchen area. For a while, it seemed that the Northeast Louisiana community would be left without the satisfying menu of Char 19, known for its combination of fine dining elements and the flare of American grill classics. Those who frequented the restaurant can attest to the welcoming environment curated by Wade Wyatt and Executive Chef John E. Peters III. While the original Char 19 remains in the memory of those who relished its signature cocktails and creative dining specials, a few miles away from the original location an offshoot has sprouted. Adjacent to U.S. Route 165, tucked by Century Village Boulevard, POUR by Char 19 is offering an extensive selection of premium wines, cocktails, and dining options at an upscale venue with relaxed overtones.

The space that now boasts the exciting and breezy eatery was originally POUR Restaurant and Bar, a popular Lafayette-based chain. Unfortunately, the economic rut caused by the Covid-19 pandemic forced its closure, providing the vacant space to become an opportunity for Wyatt and Peters—the perfect opportunity to revive their favorite aspects of their former joint venture. The dynamic duo, who have always considered themselves foodies, attended River Oaks School in Monroe and at some point in their careers were involved in the food industry. In fact, the first Wendy’s established in Louisiana circa 1978 owes its presence to Wyatt’s father. Growing up in the restaurant industry carved his path, and at just eighteen years old he managed to open his first bar The Duck Blind Lounge. Though he has opened a few bars since then, he currently owns and operates TBJ’s on Roselawn Avenue. Banking on the success of their first restaurant, the two didn’t hesitate to take a chance in a smaller space that naturally called for a more relaxed and versatile menu. 

When Wyatt and Peters made the transition from the expansive dining halls of Char 19 to the cozy, open-space tavernesque feel of POUR, they found a move-in-ready establishment. Solid wood tables and modern, farmhouse wood chairs neatly line the main dining area, warmly lit by clear glass light pendants. The bar area stands out with sandy-colored wood panels and open cabinets. Stylish, tufted back bar stools match the amber-colored liquid shimmering from glass bottles. But perhaps the most intriguing area can be found at the back wall of the space where six WineStation pouring systems hold a wide range of wine bottles, each with distinct tasting notes. With the ability to preserve wine for up to sixty days, this wine dispensing technology boasts a programmable portion control where patrons can choose from three pour sizes—taste, half glass, and full glass pour. Bottoms up, to say the least. 

The current menu not only reflects the warm, intimate feel of the interior design but also considers the pristine wine list, as the restaurant often holds wine-pairing dinners. Additionally, Peters tapped into his extensive culinary experiences to further flesh out what has turned out to be a concise and multifaceted menu. He began his culinary training straight out of college and managed to sharpen his skills at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, a household name known for its refined Creole dining since 1880. Making his way back to Monroe, he worked as executive chef at Warehouse No. 1 twice, owned his own restaurant for about five years, and, of course, acted as executive chef for Char 19. Part of the construction of the menu entailed considering what the space’s kitchen could handle. “The kitchen was already here before we got moved in and it’s all electric,” says Peters, who wanted to make sure he made use of the Miracle Chef Air Fryer Oven, a multi-cook machine that lets you air fry, bake, grill, toast, and even make pizza. 

The end result is a menu divided into five categories: First Flight, Boards, Flatbreads, Paninis, and Desserts. Customers will find some familiar items that have been given inventive twists. Take the Baked Goat Cheese & Olives w/ Honey Glaze—fresh goat cheese and kalamata olive mix baked and laced with local honey served with toasted flatbread. Or the Deviled Eggs—Char 19 homemade deviled eggs topped with “cowboy candy” jalapeño. Their charcuterie boards come in two sizes and feature fresh meats such as ham, pepperoni, and smoked salmon, as well as savory complementary cheeses, fruit, and toasted flatbread. Speaking of, their flatbreads are a must-have! If you have a soft spot for melted cheese, warm bread, and delicious toppings, you’ll want to take advantage of their Flight Night. On these nights, customers can pair selected wines with four flatbread selections. On the lighter side, try the Shrimp Scampi or Alfredo Smoked Salmon & Goat cheese paired with a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Meat lovers will want to try the Mufaletta or the Swine Time (pepperoni, sausage, ham, mozzarella, cheese, cheddar cheese, and marinara) alongside a pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon. Of course, feel free to venture wine pairings with any item on the menu.

While the current menu is sure to satisfy just about any dinner craving, POUR by Char 19 offers weekly specials that further enliven the dining experience. Popular specials include the grilled Char 19 pork chop served with chimichurri sauce or fresh fish with herb compound butter served with jambalaya, ambrosia melon/Oak Grove tomato slaw, and Char 19 French bread. More specific dinner specials occur by way of their incredibly well-attended restaurant tribute nights. A crowd favorite is Chateau Night, which honors The Chateau, a once local mainstay for fine dining. On Chateau Night, expect appetizers like Artichoke Desiard, Marinated Crab Claws, and Meatballs with Red Sauce. Choose from entrées like Snapper Tony (fresh Gulf snapper topped with lump crab meat and clarified butter) or a six-ounce filet topped with lump crab meat and bearnaise sauce. In the same vein, Char 19 Night seeks to revive the very best of the former restaurant. This includes appetizers like Loaded Potato Gratin and Fried Brussels with Honey Glaze. On the entrée list: Char 19 Shrimp Pasta, Char 19 Grilled Chicken, and fresh grouper. If you are a fan of theme nights, their newest Caribbean Night will feature unique flavors of the tropics. 

Such a distinct menu is enhanced only by the drink menu, and that menu is predominantly wine. For many, wine selection can be intimidating because the drink has typically been associated with ritzy and elitist culture; however, the POUR by Char 19 team wants to demystify this popular opinion by hosting Wine Dinners. Their most recent gathering featured wines by Don Surh, owner of Surh Cellars based in Napa Valley since 1999. Each wine of the evening was paired with specially prepared dishes. For instance, the 2018 Pampelemouse Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California), noted for its aromas of citrus, grass melon, and grapefruit was paired with fresh seared gulf shrimp farmers market ceviche and fried tortilla hay. The 2018 Frontline Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, California) shows stewed Bing cherry, kirsch, strawberry, rose petal, and forest floor tasting notes with a subtle hint of vanilla and light toast flavors. Complimenting the complexity of this wine was cane syrup rosemary New Zealand lollipop lamb chops served with green onion mash. Even if you can’t make it to one of these occasional tastings, each wine bottle featured in the pouring stations presents a detailed description of flavor notes in order to better assist all levels of wine-curious folks. From pinot noirs, and red blends, to their whites selection, you are sure to find the blend that suits your mood or your dinner plate.

If you can’t make it to dinner, you definitely won’t want to miss their Sunday brunches. Though each brunch is different, they have been known for house-made biscuits, “real” Eggs Benedict, Waffle Benedict, and Strawberry Mini Biscuits with Lemon Glaze. You may even run into POUR by Char 19 by way of their latest food truck, which has served some classic homemade dishes like Mac and Cheese Bowls with Fried Chicken Bits at a few local events, proving that good food can be eaten anywhere.

Considering the upscale elements of POUR by Char 19, it is easy to dismiss the restaurant as “too fancy,” but Wyatt and Peters want to make sure that the Northeast Louisiana community knows that they are all about casual and comfort. In fact, the restaurant prioritizes the enjoyment of food and drink over what its patrons are wearing. “We’re the place to go for great wine and great food,” emphasizes Peters who hopes to not only peak the cravings of more Epicureans but also to entice the curiosity of those who are just looking for a place that serves enjoyment.