A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

The Muffulettas are as good as you heard.

Napoleon House is one of those “must go to” restaurants when you visit the French Quarter. Not only is it famous for its muffulettas – a sandwich invented in New Orleans, albeit at an Italian deli, not here -, but it’s located in a beautiful, historical home that convenes in one place the whole spirit of the French Quarter, itself a magical place.

As the story goes, the house was originally built in 1797 and enlarged in 1814 for Nicholas Girod, then mayor of New Orleans. A large three story brick building with plaster covered walls, the house reflects French architectural influences with its hipped roof , dormers and French doors and Spanish ones, as shown in its internal patio and wrought iron balconies. In 1821, Girod seems to have devised a plan to rescue Napoleon, who was then on exile in the island of St. Helena after his defeat at Waterloo, and bring him to live in this home. While Napoleon died before Girod could undertake this scheme, the house inherited Napoleon’s name. In 1914, Italian immigrant Joe Impastato turned it into a bar and the business slowly evolved into the restaurant it is today.

And a beautiful restaurant it is. The smallish, dark dining rooms still display those discolored stucco plastered walls, evoking a long ago feeling. They are decorated with old pictures and Napoleon memorabilia, and you can imagine yourself plotting up a secret mission or a pirate raid on its tables. The patio, where we didn’t eat, is more conventionally beautiful and relaxing, though it still conveys an old world feeling.

Napoleon House is a casual place with a casual menu. It serves salads and sandwiches, with a few ubiquitous appetizers and sides. Like most restaurants in New Orleans, it offers beers and wines as well as local cocktails. They are particularly known for their Pimm’s No.1 drinks, though I didn’t realize that until later, so we didn’t try them.

What I did have was the muffuletta – or at least a quarter of one ($8.5). It wasn’t until we got to the restaurant that we realized we weren’t that hungry after all, and we wanted a light dinner. A quarter of a muffuletta seemed perfect – in particular, because I was very apprehensive about them. A muffuletta is a sandwich of deli meats and cheeses typically covered with a thick layer of olive salad. Neither Mike nor I are fans of olives, so we were afraid we wouldn’t like it. Watching the videos of how they’re made at Central Grocery & Deli, the place where they were invented, I still think that’s likely to be the case there, but the one at Napoleon House was just perfect. It had enough olives to give the sandwich a kick, but not enough to actually taste them individually. At Napoleon House, the muffulettas are served hot and the melted cheese deliciously brought the whole sandwich together. In all, it was a delicious sandwich and just the right size for my light hunger. I’d definitely have it again.

Mike ordered the Boudin sausage ($8) which was served with bread and mustard. I was surprised that it wasn’t a blood sausage – I usually think of that when I hear “boudin” – but in Louisiana, a “boudin” sausage typically refers to one made of pork and rice. This gives the sausage a disconcerting soft texture, but it had a pretty good flavor. Mike liked it though he wasn’t awed by it.

For dessert, I tried a New Orleans classic: chocolate Doberge Cake ($8). This consists of a multi layer chocolate cake with chocolate pudding filling. I wasn’t thrilled with it. It just tasted like your typical, overly dry chocolate cake. Warming it up and adding ice cream might have helped, but as it was, it was a waste of carbs.

As we didn’t know about the Primm’s, Mike ordered a Sazerac with absinthe ($13), another traditional New Orleans cocktail. Alas, he didn’t really enjoy it, and it was too strong and bitter for me to do anything more than taste it. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great Sazerac, but it was enough to make it our first and last experience with the drink.

We had no complaints about service, and we didn’t feel any pressure to leave even though I think we stayed until closing time. In all, I’d recommend Napoleon House to anyone visiting the French Quarter.

Napoleon House
500 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA
(504) 524-9752
Su-Th 11am-10pm
F-Sa: 11am-11pm

New Orleans Food Tour

Please follow and like us: