Category Archives: Bar

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

New Orleans Food Tour: Tropical Isle

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

Alcoholic Slushies in a Fun Venue

Bourbon Street has an endless number of bars selling both serious cocktails and fun artificial-fruit-syrupy ones. Tropical Isle falls happily in the second category. With four different locations on Bourbon Street alone, you don’t have to walk far to get your next hand grenade – their signature drink. We only visited one of the four locations, but if we were younger and liked to drink more, I’d had visited them all.

The bars are just cool. The drinks might be the grown up version of Kool-Aid, but the bars are the grown up versions of a daycare classroom, at least one decorated with flea market finds, featuring outrageous decorations that occupy your mind as it gets dumber and dumber from the alcohol.

As mentioned, their signature drink is the Hand Grenade. This is supposed to be made with “vodka, rum, gin and melon liqueur,” though the actual recipe is kept secret. In reality, it tastes like yet another super sweet Kool-Aid type drink with alcohol. It’s served either frozen, in a slushy form, or on the ice – though you can pay more to have without ice altogether. You’d have to have an extreme tolerance to sweets to go that route. The drink’s trademarked tagline is as “New Orleans most powerful drink,” though it’s unlikely that’s the case. We had the frozen Hand Grenade and it didn’t seem particularly strong, though the sweetness does a great job of hiding the alcoholic flavor. It also slows down how quickly you can drink this.

We also had the Tropical Itch, which comes in a totem-like red plastic glass. This had more of a tropical punch flavor. Again, it was too sweet and not too strong.

As much as I didn’t really liked the drinks, I did enjoy the cups and even brought them home. I also enjoyed hanging out by the window in the bar, looking at the decore.

Tropical Isle Bourbon
721 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, La
Daily 12:00 p.m. - ?

New Orleans Food Tour

New Orleans Food Tour: Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard Restaurant

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

di bartolo

Last night my friends Eddie, Katrina, Parker and I had a well-deserved Mom’s Night Out. We decided to go to Spettro’s for dinner – and a review of that restaurant will follow soon – but we didn’t want to get there too early, lest the place be full of children. If we’re out without our children, we definitely want to avoid other people’s as well.

So we decided to go to a bar instead. Katrina had one in mind, blocks and blocks away from Spettro’s, but right before we got there we went by di bartolo and it seemed like a really nice place to stop. We were concerned that it was too much of a restaurant, but they have a bar area in the back which was just perfect for us. It’s small, dark, and while it was crowded, it was quite comfortable. The front dining room is also small and dark, and I think it could be a pleasant place for a romantic evening.

di bartolo offers ten interesting mix drink concoctions ($10), products of a very creative bartender. Eddie and I went for El Rojo Obispo: Absolut ruby red, patron citronge, fresh mint, pomegrante juice and lime. It was very good, though a little bit too sweet for me – as the ice melted and the drink diluted that was less of a problem. Both Eddie and I would definitely order it again. Katrina had the grand: vanilla vodka, mission fig puree and fresh lemon, served up. It was delicious, it had a warm fussiness to it, and a caramelish taste. I’d definitely order it. The loser of the evening was Parker’s Madagascar sazerac: Maker’s mark, vanilla sugar, thyme sprig, served on the rocks. The problem was that it tasted very alcoholic, if you are the type of person who drinks your alcohol straight you might like it, but if you are a mixed-drinks type of person, you may want to stay away from it. In any case, Parker couldn’t finish it. Finally, Eddie and Parker shared a mojito. I didn’t try it but they both said they liked it.

In the middle of our drinks we figured it’d be good if we had something to eat (though we’d munched on crackers with goat cheese, nicely provided by Eddie, in the car) so we ordered their garlic fries ($5) and their mushroom pizza with caramelized onions and chevre ($14). The fries were good, though not nearly as good as the fries from A Cote, or even our neighborhood’s Joplin’s (though they were definitely more refined, thinner, than the latter). For $5 I would have expected them to be somewhat better. The same thing can be said about the pizza, it was very good with a very thin crust and a good balance of toppings (though the mushrooms were particularly good), but it was definitely too small for the prize – or too pricey for the size and lack of “awe” element. But you know me, I’m pretty jaded by food and it was a good pizza.

In all we very much enjoyed our time at di bartolo and we are planning to go there for dinner at our next mom’s night out.

di bartolo
3306 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA