The bar at the Hotel Monteleone is now on my list of favorites. Itʼs famous for its Carousel Bar, which is good because every historic hotel should have a bit of history. But I prefer the adjacent area, instead.
The carousel is right at the barʼs entrance, which means that the spectacle and tourist book hype ensnares the chavs and attention-seekers before they can go any farther. This allows the rest of the establishment to be a more mellow, convivial place. The carousel area is for bros and the selfie-absorbed to watch sportsball and make a spectacle of themselves. The remainder, at least during the day, is a place where you can hide in a wingback chair and tuck into your newly purchased William Faulkner book. The adult beverages wonʼt help you understand the first three chapters, but at least you can enjoy the confusion knowing that this is the proper place to do this most proper of things.
U.S. chess master Jude Acers
Play the living legend
Itʼs nice to see that sidewalk chess is still a thing. I havenʼt seen it since I lived in Chicago. It makes one feel better about the neighborhood and the city to know that things that are both smart and random can happen in public.
Perhaps not so random, as there was a chess bar across the street from this scene. But still — New Orleans has a chess bar. What is this, Tyrol?
I am sad to report that time, economy, and pandemic have not been kind to the place. It seems to have lowered its standards in order to bring in more foot traffic.
There are dinner specials. The wait staff is spread thin. Tourists are allowed in all dining rooms not only without a jacket, but in T-shirts and sockless. Any of this would have been absolutely unthinkable not that many years ago.
The food remains solid, if smaller. On the plus side, the baked Alaska remains among the best I've tried, even if it's been tarted up for the Instygram age.
Then again, when Iʼm 182 years old, I will probably make some concessions, too.
What you see above is the result is my inability to clearly communicate what I wanted. I wanted an iced coffee in a paper cup. The reason was simple: Mr. Wolfʼs cold drink cups are boring unadorned plastic, and lack the cool wolf logo. I wanted the dapper wolf on my drink.
The baristas were nice enough, but perhaps it was heat stroke that prevented me from explaining what I wanted.
In the end, we compromised on the pictured frankendrink: Iced coffee poured in a plastic cup, and the plastic cup jammed in a paper cup. Close enough. Still good.
PJʼs Coffee is one of New Orleansʼ hometown brews. Itʼs basic, but has the virtues of being consistent, pleasant, and ubiquitous. Food offerings seem to vary widely from store to store, but a bit of hyper-local flavor is a good thing.
A lot of people compare it to Starbucks, but itʼs a different animal. Itʼs more akin to Peetʼs Coffee, or a better grade of Dunkinʼ Donuts.
PJʼs is also one of the very few coffee companies that sells beans specifically for cold brew. It has the virtues of being consistent, pleasant, and in my refrigerator.
I find that wandering the streets at dawn is a good way to get to know a city.
New York wakes up to a sudden swarm of delivery trucks, bringing the day's supplies into the metropolis for consumption by its populace.
Seattle wakes up more slowly, to the sounds of ferries and grinding beans, and crusty-eyed baristas bracing for the morning onslaught.
Chicago wakes up to the march of civil servants — transit workers, garbage men, traffic aides — putting things in order for those who will follow.
New Orleans… New Orleans wakes up with a hangover.
Other cities tidy their rooms before they go to bed. New Orleans wakes up weighed down by heavy air, drifts of garbage, and the slow-moving rivulets of other peopleʼs bodily expulsions.
From west to east comes a brawl of cleaners — both human and mechanical — to shift the debris, sweep the horizontal, and hose down everything that will take a wet. Within 90 minutes, even the hygiene abomination of Canal Street exhales in relief, ready for another assault from the next shift of tourists.