Sazerac Bar

Before I took this trip, my sister asked me if New Orleans had a signature drink and I told her it was the Hurricane. This might have been true several years ago but Hurricanes seem to have fallen out of favor since Katrina, for obvious reasons.

I didn’t know anything about the Sazerac.

The Sazerac is one of the oldest known American cocktails and it’s basically a whiskey cocktail (originally made with Sazerac brand whiskey) with a secret ingredient. Absinthe.

Absinthe has a magical haze around it, what with references like this one from Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Plus the reports of it driving people mad and the almost world-wide ban on account of it being potentially poisonous, a ban that stood for almost 100 years before it was again made legal in the US a couple of years ago.

That’s a lot of drama over a liquor. Or rather, a spirit. Anything with that kind of history is going to acquire mythical status whether or not it rightly deserves it.

The Sazerac has absinthe in it, along with whiskey and bitters, and since it’s the official drink of New Orleans, I had to try it. I wanted to drink the best one in town and where better place than the Sazerac bar in the Roosevelt Hotel?

Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

The Sazerac bar is a gorgeous old-school gentlemen’s club type of place with lots of leather and wood, deep armchairs and a feeling of entitlement. Not cheap and not my normal thing but sort of delicious.

However, compared to the surroundings, I found the Sazerac underwhelming

Sazerac Bar

And I like whiskey.

I might have liked the Sazerac better on the rocks, or colder, or perhaps with a touch more absinthe. It tasted mostly like whiskey, which meant I could have just ordered whiskey and gotten something I liked better. Or perhaps a different whiskey cocktail like this Old Fashioned that Ryan ordered…

Sazerac Bar

But that said, I would go back and do it all over again because I love the story-telling symmetry of finishing my trip to New Orleans by drinking the official city cocktail in a beautiful old namesake bar.

Even if you don’t like whiskey (or alcohol), make a stop at the Sazerac bar. Rest your feet, order something cold and revel in the dim cool quiet of all that New Orleans history. It’s a great place to while away the hot afternoon and by the time you leave, you’ll be ready for dinner.

Tomorrow, a few last bits and pieces of my far-too-short trip to NOLA.

Three Muses in the Marigny

We all got into New Orleans in the late afternoon and found our way to the house we’d rented only to discover that a house in the Arabi is about as far from the French Quarter/heart of NOLA as you can get and still be within the boundaries of the city. By the time we’d settled in, walked around the neighborhood looking for a grocery store (nope) or convenience store (nope) and caught a taxi into the Marigny, it was 10pm. At 10pm after traveling all day, you don’t choose a dinner place so much as walk into the first place that’s open and still serving food.

Ergo and voila

New Orleans, LA

I’d call this visit a happy accident rather than a focused attempt at finding a quality dinner location.

That said, I’d go back and choose this place for dinner because it’s a tiny place with live music and outstanding food. What more do you want for your first night in New Orleans?

This picture is at least 75% less impressive than the food tasted

New Orleans, LA

That’s beet and spinach bruschetta, mac and cheese, and the remains of what I think was sweet potato gnocchi.

The mac and cheese was so good, we ordered it twice

New Orleans, LA

We also tried the lamb sliders (good) and the feta fries, which were also great so we ordered those twice too.

Traveling makes us hungry.

We finished with ice cream made in house

New Orleans, LA

Don’t ask me the flavors… something sweet and creamy, I’m guessing…

Long travel day, a rental house far away from everything, great food and music found by accident and terrible pictures taken as an afterthought.

Hey, welcome to vacation!

Bennachin for Vegetarians

New Orleans, LA

It should be pretty clear by this point that New Orleans isn’t a vegetarian friendly city. Creole/Cajun food in general isn’t vegetarian. Pescatarian… yes, but not vegetarian. I would recommend Bennachin primarily to those vegetarians who want to eat something besides salad and another version of mac-n-cheese when they visit NOLA.

Creole food has a lot of African influences so Bennachin fits into the New Orleans food scene quite nicely with a lot of shared ingredients like beans, rice, coconut and sweet potatoes. It’s a busy place, which led to the purchase ‘”walking around beers” while we waited for a table.

New Orleans, LA

And a beverage buffet complete with BYOB wine in styrofoam cups at dinner, cuz we just classy like that.

Bennachin

These plantains reminded me of South American cooking, which makes (some) locational sense given that this is West African cuisine.

Bennachin

I didn’t love my lamb dish because the meat was SO tough

New Orleans, LA

But Corey’s beef was excellent.

New Orleans, LA

And for some reason I didn’t get pictures of whatever Ryan ordered but he loved it (whatever it was) and I do know that it was the first place in a week where he could fold the menu and say “I’m a vegetarian. Just have the chef make me something.” It was worth the whole dinner just for that.

Bennachin food is good and cheap and there’s lots of it. It’s a tiny place and busy; so, like every restaurant in New Orleans, it’s better not to be in a hurry. Bring a bottle of wine and settle in. There are a lot of yummy sounding entrees on the menu.

And just for fun, here’s a picture of the Louis Armstrong arch.

New Orleans, LA

Pretty, right? It’s walking distance from the restaurant so go visit after you eat.

I’ll have a few more NOLA food picks for you next week. Have a good weekend!

Antoine’s in the French Quarter

Café Du Monde is a classic because they make good food. Antoine’s is a classic because of longevity.

Antoine’s first opened in 1840 and they’re America’s oldest family run restaurant. They have a bunch of dining rooms (we ate at their Hermes bar) tons of Mardi Gras memorabilia and bragging rights to a long list of celebrity clientele.

However, a restaurant is only as good as its food and I thought the food was ok but it didn’t bowl me over. They say they invented Oysters Rockefeller so we ordered them.

New Orleans, LA

Nice old school picture, don’t you think?

I’ve had Oysters Rockefeller before and liked them better elsewhere. This thick bready topping overwhelmed the oysters. It didn’t have much flavor and I don’t love the piping because it reminds me of a twice-baked potato in the grocery store frozen food section.

I also got the Oyster po boy, which was also ok but under seasoned with an unbalanced ratio of bread to oysters to sauce. Too much bread, not enough sauce.

New Orleans, LA

The boys got sandwiches that were ok but nothing to write about.

Overall, I shrug and say “Meh. It’s ok.”

I know that we were at their bar instead of the white tablecloth shi-shi restaurant next door, but the food quality shouldn’t suffer because we’re drinking from beer bottles.

Antoine’s might be a long-standing restaurant with a glorious history but there’s much better food in the French Quarter.

Go elsewhere.