An "Only in New Orleans" Original
As the restaurant’s logo boasts, Dine Wine & Spirits. This place does it all and does it extremely well. Now for a caveat, it is not your typical New Orleans wine shop to be sure. In fact, you may be fearful of even entering the place if you were not familiar with it or escorted by a close friend as I was. The location, 600 Poland Avenue which is on the corner of Chartres Street is located right where the Industrial Canal meets the Mississippi River. This neighborhood is call the Bywater and although it is rather seedy looking it is a safe place to visit. In fact, it is often the scene of many show on the HBO series Treme. There is no parking but you should have no problem securing a spot nearby on the street.
The Experience of Bacchanl
When arriving at Bacchanal you are greeted by a very nondescript façade. It is a small two story brick building that reeks of it’s age and positively screams ugly. There have obviously been many attempts to repair the exterior over the years. Once inside you will be in the wine shop. Here they offer a bewildering selection of wines at half the price you would pay at a restaurant. Good luck in choosing your favorite bottle given the lighting is so dim as to be barely functional. The younger crowd seemed to fare much better than I did since their eyesight is unquestionably more acute than my own. Beer is also available and there are wine glasses for your pleasure as well as buckets and ice which is contained in a number of ice chests. This is so unusual that you may hesitate to venture further.
Going out of the back door of the wine shop takes to the patio where tables are located for your drinking and dining pleasure. There are huge umbrellas protecting most of the tables and lots of beautiful trees providing protection from the sun. This unfortunately does not help with the warm temperatures and high humidity I experienced in late May. The surface of the patio is a mixture of shells and hard packed earth which made me wonder what is was like when wet.
Once your table is secured (first come first served) you may enjoy your beverage of choice and peruse the menu. When ready to order you go to a window located where the patio meets the building and place your order. Be forewarned that although the wine shop honors credit cards (not American Express however) the restaurant portion of the establishment is cash only.
There is a bandstand in the back corner of the patio where live music is played seven days a week, weather permitting. It is not loud enough to be disruptive of one’s conversation but just right to provide that extra sparkle as you dine or enjoy an after dinner aperitif.
Yes, finally, let’s talk about the food. There were four of us in our party and each had something different so that we were able to get a good sampling of the fare. The Ceviche looked good and featured drum fish, grape tomatoes, English cucumbers and cilantro citrus for $8. Pequillo Peppers stuffed with local crabmeat, sweet corn tobiko, pickled onions and crema was also $8. There was the Whole Branzino (and I do mean whole, head and all) which was a Mediterranean sea-bass, fennel, sun dried tomatoes and oil cured olives for $24. Another table favorite was the Pork Chop. This was a huge chunk of meat with arugula, balsamic reduction, white anchovies and parmagiano regiano for $12. I enjoyed the Flat Iron Steak with fingerling potatoes, whipped feta, duck fat and strawberries for $16. I’ve had flat iron steak before but nothing to compare with this masterpiece from the chef. Bravo! Desserts consisted of Chocolate Bark and Sweet Goat Cheese which we did not partake of in deference to the size of our girth.
Perhaps you get the impression that I did not enjoy my visit to Bacchanal. I can understand why after describing the place. Let me assure you however that the experience and the food are worthwhile and lend to make your visit memorable. It's New Orleans at it's best, unpretenious, funky, fun and delicious. All said, this was a most eclectic experience which I will try again in cooler weather. I would gladly recommend it to those of you with an open mind and a sense of adventure.
All the Information you need.
Bacchanal is open every day from 11 am to midnight. It's located at 600 Poland Avenue. Phone 504.948.9111. Here's the official website.