500 Chartres St
New Orleans, LA 70130-2110
The Napoleon House in the 1930's.
The Napoleon House is old. As the legend goes, the 200 year old building was first occupied by one Nicholas Girod, the mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. Ever the altruist, the ardently French Girod offered up his humble Louisiana dwelling to the exiled French conqueror. The potential adultation and publicity that Napoleon's entry into the Crescent City might have brought was, presumably, secondary in his mind. Girod even went so far as to commision the ship Seraphine - an integral part of a plan to rescue the Emperor from St. Helena by way of Dominique. Napoleon never showed and the plot never went through, but the Napoleon House soldiered on, becoming an iconic and never-changing bar, restaurant, and hangout for an assemblage of bums, writers, and tourists. Mostly tourists.
The place does have a faded, oldy-moldy ambience that's extremely pleasant, with dressed-up and efficient staff and a nicely considered menu. Even better? Prices are startlingly cheap, a minor miracle in the ridiculously marked Quarter. There's usually a line - goddamn vacationers, curse them and their economic- stimulating dollars! - so plan accordingly.
Pimms Cups are the Napoleon House's signature drink, a deceptively simple mixture of British gin, lemonade, a bit of Sprite, and cucumber. They're pretty things, served up in a tall glass, and are remarkably refreshing on a hot day - as last Saturday was. Hot days in November are about 95% of why I am going to school here.
My never-ending seafood gumbo quest saw its continuation with the Napoleon House's version ($6.95). I was extremely pleased. I love super-thick okra gumbo with lots of stuff in it, and this didn't disappoint, with a consistency more like a thick, unctuous, roux-thick sauce then a soup. It even came with half a gumbo crab, and gumbo crabs always fill me with love and celestial tolerance for my fellow man, which is a pretty goddamn rare thing around here. My only complaint is it coulda been a bigger portion.
We shared a large Greek salad ($6.75) with balsamic-honey dressing, marinated red peppers, sesame seed, and feta cheese, on a bed of spinach. An unorthodox salad but pretty damn tasty, and you could tell they were using nice cheese on this sucker. The salads here are quite interesting - they really seem to think them out and go beyond the usual "slap some romaine on a plate" routine". Aces.
My friend opted for the perennial favorite of a loaded baked potato. Big as yer head and covered in bacon and cheese, this was gooooddd. The British call these things "jacket potatoes". Further proof they're probably not actual humans but instead despots from Planet Zarg.
I think I'll definitely be back for a reprisal of that tasty, mighty thick gumbo. The rest of the menu sounds like primo up-scale bar snacks as well - antipasto salads, cheese plates, charcuterie boards, and a lovely looking toasted muffaletta. Conclusion? Sometimes those damn tourists know a thing or two. Come on down, order some booze, eat some food, and sit back and enjoy the Quarter.
You can even pretend to be Napoleon in a reprisal of every movie insane asylum scene ever. (Seriously, why do they do that?) They'll probably kick you out, but the choice? Baby, it is yours.