My Secret Place: The Napoleon House in New Orleans

napoleon house new orleans restaurantOK, y’all. I’m just about to disclose a secret. It’s my favorite bar and my favorite restaurant. I hesitate to do this cuz I think there are places that only locals should know about and should be reserved for them.

A couple years ago some national magazine was rating the best bars in the United States. This place took top honors.

OK. Here it is: The Napoleon House.

Fortunately, the place looks like hell on the outside, like some seedy, run-down French Quarter joint that hasn’t been painted in years so tourists walking by, unless they are in the know, think it’s just some dilapidated, dingy kind of place that decent people wouldn’t patronize. Let’s just keep it that way.

We wouldn’t want it to be discovered and overrun with tourists. (Not that there’s anything wrong with tourists, mind you.) I’ll take that back. We wouldn’t want it overrun with crass, insensitive tourists.

I love Napoleon House. I love that this 1797 house was offered by the mayor of New Orleans to the deposed great Emperor Napoleon to live out his final days. Alas, he died before he could get here.

But why do I love the Napoleon House so much? I love it’s decadence, the faded paint on the walls multicolored by decay and a generous neglect; the waiters in black and white and bow-tie; the perennial classical music playing in the background; the Pimms cups (ya gotta have a Pimms cup); the patio with the palm trees and the long elegant staircase.

There is a Caribbean-ness about it and yet and old-world feel. It exudes class, culture, history and charm. It’s the perfect place to take a date or a visiting friend or family member. The decor seems dingy yet the place is alive, open, fresh and most of all authentic. And yes you can take your kids here too.

And the food? Oh my gosh. They have some of the best red beans and rice anywhere, po-boys, gumbo, jambalaya, salads. And it’s cheap. My favorite place to sit is the patio, just to lounge out there and not be in a hurry and enjoy the ambience which this place has in spades.

Can you imagine if Napoleon had actually moved into that house and died in New Orleans? Wow! Just think of the colorful Napoleon stories that would have now been floating around New Orleans. It boggles the mind to think how his actually living here would have affected the history of this city. But unfortunately, I think we wouldn’t have the Napoleon House bar/restaurant.

My secret favorite place would now probably be a museum.

I think history turned out just perfectly.

Napoleon House Bar & Café on Urbanspoon

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A Little Gift From Hurricane Ida

hurricane ida new orleans

What’s with this weather? All this wind and cool air from Hurricane Ida. Although Ida passed us by a couple days ago we still got the trees blowin’ and cool air flowin’. Don’t get me wrong the cool air is nice and all. Just seems kinda strange to be dealing with a ‘cane this time of the year, ya know, getting ready for Thanksgiving and all. Shakes up the routine a bit.

When we heard Ida was coming this way I was thinking it would be kinda cool if we got just enough wind to blow some of the electricity off for a while. Then I could use my new Honda generator I bought at the beginning of the year. This thing will go for eight hours on one little tank enough to run the frig and a few lights and the TV, maybe even my computer. Ya know, guys and their toys.

I knew that Ida, after wreaking havoc to our neighbors way south of us, would start to dissipate once it got into the Gulf cuz the gulf at this time of the year is relatively cool and hurricanes need warm water to feed off of. Some of the coastal communities got some flooding but that’s to be expected if you live in a low-lying area. Just goes with the territory, I guess.

New Orleans got a bunch of wind, some rain. Obliterated my roses off the bush, but I took some inside before the wind started getting bad. Now got a couple vases of nice pink roses.

But today it’s a jet blue sky, appropriate for Veterans Day and my American flag is lying almost flat out in the breeze, a little gift from a hurricane called Ida. Thanks Ida. We’re thankful we hardly knew ya.

Come See What the New Orleans Saints Have Done to Me

New-Orleans-Saints-drew breesWhenever I watch a Saints game I’ve been conditioned over the years that no matter what the score the team will eventually wind up losing.

It’s just that we’ve lived with defeat so long with this team for so many years that it almost seems like we are now in some kind of parallel universe. The Saints are winning every game.

Not only do they win the game but they win it decisively not squeaking by on one or two points but ending it way out ahead. I gotta say that for someone who has not been a football fan at all I find myself now watching these Saints games jumping up and cheering, yelling at the screen, anxiously standing up by the TV when it looks like they might score. I’m even beginning to understand the game better.

In the game with Carolina last weekend I anxiously gobbled down a whole bag of microwave popcorn as I watched the “bless you boys” get creamed in the first half of the game. Seems like they’ve done this thing recently where they can’t seem to get it together in the first half and then somehow manage pull it off in the second half.

Of course, that kind of drives us all crazy. How the heck are they gonna pull out ahead of these guys when the Saints just can’t seem to get their act together?

And as I’m sitting their on the edge of my seat, er, sofa I watch Sean Peyton and try to imagine the pressure he must be under. If I got a knot in my stomach what he’s feeling must be ten times that. But Brees is brilliant as is Colston and all the rest of the team. And somehow the team gets it all together in the second half and wins.

The games have been exciting to watch and hearing the fans cheering in the Superdome gives me goosebumps. I mean for someone who’s not really much of a football fan the Saints have got me completely engaged this season.

Maybe it’s a combination of the gods, karma, a brilliant coach and brilliant players and maybe the fans, the weird and crazy New Orleanians who’ve never given up on this team.

Great Food is In at Ye Olde College Inn — A Fine New Orleans Restaurant

ye olde college inn new orleans restaurantThe thing about being a tourist in New Orleans is that one is mainly confined to the downtown area of the city. Of course, that’s where the French Quarter is and where a lot of the night life is happening. People like it because of the history, the food and the architiecture and such.

Some of the best places to eat are in the uptown areas away from the Quarter life. On Carrollton Avenue, which would be only a few minutes by taxi from the Quarter, there is a great old restaurant that’s been around for decades that’s got new digs because the building next to it where it was originally housed had to be torn down after the flooding of Katrina.

This place is known as Ye Olde College Inn and has some of the best food in the city. It was the great stomping place for many uptown regulars, businessmen, politicians and little old blue-haired ladies. They served traditional New Orleans food on the cheap.

Before it changed hands a few years ago the quality of the food had gone down and was slowly turning into a greasy spoon type of place, almost as if the owners really didn’t care much about it any more.

But that all changed after the Blancher family, owners of the Rock & Bowl next door, took it over and moved into a much bigger building next door. A lot of the restaurant’s old favorites are gone but it still has a menu of typical New Orleans food with a lot of updates.

My favorite is the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade. This is an appetizer that’s almost enough for a meal. I sometimes have that and the gumbo, different from a lot of gumbos but still delicious. Also on the menu are great po-boys and fish and such. But one of their premiere dishes is the dessert of bread pudding. For the brave and adventurous they have even have a fried breading pudding po-boy. Yikes! Will wonders never cease.

Ye Olde College Inn has become one of my family’s favorite places to eat. The prices are decent, atmosphere is funky and very New Orleans and the service is very good. They are only open for dinner and reservations are a must on the weekends.

So take a break from the Quarter, and try Ye Olde College Inn, ya really oughta.

Ye Olde College Inn on Urbanspoon

Femme, Femme, Femme: How France Helped New Orleans in the Aftermath of Katrina

femme, femme, femme at new orleans museum of art

OK. I got a French thing going right now. Yep, kinda Jonesing for the French. After spending a whole weekend in New York with a bunch of French people at a French Affairs conference and how impressed I was by the way they pulled it off without a hitch and did it classily too, I’m all up into the French right now.

Yes, I do have a French name and all, and I do live in a Frenchified city so maybe I’m a little biased. One of the things that I am grateful to the French for is what they did for New Orleans after Katrina.

I gathered from my conversations at this thing in New York last week is that the French still feel a lot of affection for New Orleans. It being a former colony and all, they still sorta claim it for their own, les cousins louisianais.

And that’s a good thing because after Hurricane Katrina they sent millions of dollars in aid to the city and to lift our spirits they created an art exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art entitled Femme, Femme, Femme.

Only the French would think of doing something like that, only the French truly embrace the concept that art is as important to life as eating, breathing and working. So they put on this dazzling exhibition of art masterpieces around the theme of women.

From museums all over France they collected this wondrous artwork, 85 pieces in all, and brought it to New Orleans. At no time in history did such an exhibition exist of bringing together all of these extraordinary pieces. Not even in France could one go to a museum and see this collection. It was only for a few months in New Orleans that this exhibition existed.

And let me tell you what a wondrous show it was. It was probably the best art exhibition I have seen anywhere and I’ve been to the Prado in Spain, and the Louvre in France.

There was something about this showing that was so deep, so moving. Rather than just a collection of masterpieces as you’d see in any museum, this exhibition had the purpose of uplifting the spirits of a distraught and devastated people. I could tell that the pieces were selected with care and displayed in such a way as to have a positive impact.

And it did because I remember feeling good as I walked out of the building. I was filled with hope, possibility and a deep gratitude to those who had the idea to provide this beautiful addition to our city. I was deeply affected by it and I think I may have even had tears in my eyes.

For the last few days of the showing the museum was open for twenty-four hours and there was a constant line of people through the doors.

Leave it to the French who realize that, yes, it’s important to lend a hand financially but it’s equally important to contribute in a way that will lift the spirits as well. I made it a point in New York to tell any of the French I was with who had time to listen how much we in New Orleans appreciated what France has done and continues to do to play such an important part in helping to bring New Orleans back and making it better.

Please leave a comment. Tell me what you think