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

Good Food at the Birthplace of The Hurricane

Pat O’Brien’s is one of New Orleans institutions. The bar has operated in one form or another since 1933 and it famed as the originator of the Hurricane, New Orleans’s signature drink. It’s also famed for its beautiful central courtyard, which you can access through both of Pat O’Brien’s locations, on St. Peter and Bourbon streets. Despite the restaurant’s name, when we went the central courtyard was reserved for people who were drinking and not eating, and was not available for anyone under 21.

We sat instead on a side patio – probably the one that came with the house on Bourbon St. – in a roofed but open area. It wasn’t as nice as the courtyard, but it had less foot traffic. The restaurant/bar has a very casual atmosphere, with plastic tablecloths.

The food menu is pretty limited and as I still wasn’t too hungry, I went with a small cup of jambalaya (chicken and sausage – $8). I was surprised that it consisted of a stew with a lump of rice in the middle. When I’ve made Creole jambalaya myself, I’ve cooked the rice in the stew. Still, I noted this method of cooking stews and rice separately show up at several restaurants we went to. I wonder if it’s just a way of saving time in the kitchen. While this jambalaya was quite flavorful, I think I prefer cooking them together.

I had heard somewhere that Pat O’Brien had a good bread pudding ($8) and they were right. It was delicious, so good that my husband liked it. The whisky sauce didn’t taste alcoholic and reminded me, instead, of toffee. The pudding was light and the pecan on top gave it the necessary crunch.

You can’t go to Pat O’Brien and not have a Hurricane ($8.50), of course, so we ordered one to share. As the story goes, O’Brien invented this drink in the 1940’s when whiskey was in short supply. Rum was plentiful, however, and O’Brien experimented until he invented a rum-based cocktail that his customers liked. The cocktail is made with passion fruit pureé, citrus juices and grenadine – or at least, it was originally. Nowadays, Pat O’Brien sells a Hurricane mix made with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, citric acid and natural and artificial flavors. Given that this was the first time we had a hurricane, I couldn’t tell if the drink we got had the real ingredients or the mix. I rather think that it was the latter, as the drink was overwhelmingly sweet and one-toned and not particularly fruity and way too red to not contain at least dye. Think tropical punch with added sugar and alcohol.

While the sweetness does a good job of hiding the alcohol, it was still pretty strong for me – at least at the beginning. While the glass is impressively large, it’s filled with ice, so there is a relatively small amount of alcohol in it – so by the time some of it melted away, the drink was mild enough for me to enjoy.

In all, we had a pretty good time at Pat O’Brien’s, and I’m glad we went. I am curious about trying a Hurricane made from real ingredients one day – I might just do that.

Pat O'Brien's
624 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA
W-Th,Su: 12 PM - 12 AM
F-Sa: 12 PM - 2 AM

New Orleans Food Tour

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