New Orleans Food Tour: The Richelieu Bar @ Arnaud’s

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

Pre-dinner cocktails in an elegant bar

Arnaud’s is another classic New Orleans restaurant, dating all the way back to 1918. On a Friday night, the restaurant was impossibly busy and lively, it looked like a great place to go if what you want is an upbeat, social atmosphere.

However, the recommendations we had were to go to Arnaud for a drink before having dinner at G.W. Finn across the street. Arnaud’s main bar, French 75, has been named by Esquire Magazine one of the five best bars in the country. And that might indeed be the case – but we’ll never know, as when we arrived a little before 8 PM, the place was popping and full and we couldn’t get a table or even a seat at the bar. Instead of waiting, we were offered a table at Arnaud’s older and far smaller Richelieu Bar, and given that our time was limited, we decided to take it.

The Richelieu Bar was built in 1948 in one of the oldest parts of the restaurant, though it was recently renovated. It maintains its beautiful mahogany bar. The space is rather small and dark, and on a Friday night, it was filled with young people in girls’ and boys’ weekend trips, mostly sitting at the banquette on the back or going in and out the back door.

The bar serves both food and drinks, though given our upcoming dinner reservations we decided to go only for the former.

Mike got the French 75 (Cognac, Lemon Juice, Sugar, Moet Chandon Champagne, $15), the drink for which Arnaud’s is famous.

This cocktail was developed in the 1920’s, though champagne-based cocktails date back to the 19th century. While the older French 75 recipes used gin, later recipes substituted it with cognac, and that is Arnaud’s approach to the drink.

Unfortunately, we didn’t like it. I, of course, found it way too strong and sour for my taste. Surprisingly, so did Mike. He just didn’t think it was very tasty, and felt the alcohol in the cocktail wasn’t tempered by the added ingredients. As this was our first French 75, I think the problem was the drink itself, and not Arnaud’s rendition.

I didn’t feel like an alcoholic drink – I’m clearly not much of a drinker – so I ordered a Tropic Storm (Pineapple Juice, Honey Syrup, Pomegranate, Lime Juice – $8). The drink was tasty enough, and the presentation was beautiful, but there was barely any of it. The glass was mostly filled with ice, and I’d be surprised if there was more than 4 to 6 oz of actual juice in it. That was disappointing, but clearly a bar is not a place to order non-alcoholic drinks.

Service was good and in all, we had a nice time hanging out there. Next time we might try going to the French 75 bar and ordering other stuff.

Richelieu Bar @ Arnaud's
813 Rue Bienville
New Orleans, LA

New Orleans Food Tour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.