Frog legs and absinthe: Long Beach restaurateurs bring Bar Envie to the Zaferia district
Long Beach residents Geoff and Karna Rau were instantly enamored with New Orleans when they first set foot there in 1998. Over several trips in 20 years, they were taken by its culture, its hearty Creole cuisine, deep jazz roots and of course, the cocktails.
The couple—owners of Selva, Panxa and Roundin’ 3rd—were so enchanted by the city that they bought a house there in 2022 to split their time with Long Beach. And in late February, the restaurateurs, along with Selva chef Carlos Jurado, opened their own take on a New Orleans-style lounge in the Zaferia district: Bar Envie.
On Wednesday, the Raus spoke to the Long Beach Business Journal over the phone while sipping cocktails in New Orleans’ 84-degree weather—a sharp contrast to Long Beach’s 52-degree drizzle.
“It’s super eclectic here,” Geoff said. “There’s every race and color and creed, sexuality…it’s a very inclusive community, a lot like Long Beach.”
Their NOLA-inspired lounge opened three weeks ago on the corner of Anaheim Street and Termino Avenue within the short-lived Tennessee Jacks. Its official sign went up this week.
“There’s nothing like it in Long Beach,” Geoff said. “Heck, we’re doing a crawfish boil this weekend, which you don’t see in Long Beach ever, unless there’s like a Cajun festival or something.”
Bar Envie offers a roster of Cajun comfort food and Creole classics—from jambalaya to the hot catfish po’ boy—in a menu carefully crafted by Jurado, the Long Beach chef who has garnered high praise for the culinary mastery of Selva’s menu through his Colombian roots.
Together, Jurado and the Raus took to the streets of NOLA to come up with their own twist on the city’s cuisine and unique spectrum of flavorful cocktails.
“Shockingly,” the spicy frog legs have been one of the best selling items on Bar Envie’s food menu so far, Geoff said.
“It’s as authentic as we can be in California,” Geoff said, adding that many products, including the bread (and rolls for the po’ boy sando of course) are sourced from New Orleans.
Although the Raus are proud of the menu Jurado was able to curate, Geoff affirmed that the trio want Bar Envie to be a “a cocktail lounge that has great food, rather than a restaurant with great cocktails.”
“If you know New Orleans and you see our cocktail menu, you will go ‘wow’—absinthe service, rhubarb fizz…we also just want to be a place where you walk in and feel really comfortable,” Geoff told the Journal while enjoying a NOLA staple, an iced Irish coffee.
The space offers a colorful palate of jewel tones in its couches and chairs. Board games and cards are within reach at the couches. There’s even some “old school” Nintendo consoles connected to some of the TVs.
“We just want people to be comfortable, relaxed and have a place, a neighborhood bar, with some great food,” Geoff said.
Eventually, the Raus said Bar Envie will host live music, from French jazz to African blues to contemporary rock, within the Zaferia district. The neighborhood’s few bars have been gaining momentum for the subculture and musicians it attracts. Walking distance to Bar Envie, there’s Bamboo Club, and from there, you can now walk around the corner on Loma Avenue and find Buvons Wine Bar + Shop, which opened about a year ago.
“If you count Roundin’ 3rd and Sevla, Port City, Envie, Alex’s (Bar) and Bamboo (Club)—it’s starting to get that little corridor feeling that we’d love,” Geoff said. “We’re getting closer all the time.”
Long Beach residents (and now New Orleans part-timers) Geoff and Karna met 24 years ago when they were both working as servers at Claim Jumper. They now own seven restaurants across Southern California, with three in Long Beach.
“If we could get one more spot in there,” Geoff said of the Zaferia district, with a chuckle. “Although, I think we might be done owning restaurants.”
Bar Envie, located on 4000 E. Anaheim St., is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Eventually, the Raus will likely extend its closing time to 2 a.m., after live music is implemented.
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