I was recently discussing the subject of booze with a friend, a topic most people know at least a little about, or at the very least have an opinion on. He felt many people seem to have a negative view of booze in general. This friend, as you may have guessed, is not from New Orleans. I tried explaining to him drinking here is different. I argued that in a place like New Orleans drinking, like eating, is a special thing and does not carry the same stigma as it may elsewhere.
Needless to say the conversation got me thinking about alcohol and New Orleans foodways. There is a discernible booze focus in some areas of our fair city– Bourbon Street comes quickly to mind, as does drinking and parading which goes hand-in-hand for many Carnival attendees. But outside of that where does booze fit into our perceptions of New Orleans foodways? Does drinking in general have the same assumed negative connotation in New Orleans as it does in other parts of the country? Is the stigma (if one exists) lessened when alcohol is consumed with a meal? Does dining at a restaurant provide a positive opportunity to have a cocktail that is absent from home meals?
Many restaurants look to bar sales to improve their profitability. Some places focus on alcohol sales to the point where food seems like the compliment. WOW Café and Wingery is one such place where I believe drinking a beer at noon is acceptable because it was paired with a food that, to me, requires a crisp beverage. Another place I learned a lunchtime draft is acceptable came during our group meeting at Theo’s Pizza, where again I found the food offerings to be complete when paired with a pint.
La Taqueria Geurrero is the only restaurant I am studying that did not have hooch on hand. They will, however, hop over to The Red Door – a full service bar discussed more by our very own jyocom– to procure anything you may like. The lack of bar facilities makes them unique amongst the restaurants I am studying. Rinconcito, Fiesta Latina, Wow Café and Wingery, and The Carrollton all offer (or offered in the case of The Carrollton) full bar service.
Fiesta Latina is laid out in such a way that the bar area is elevated about 3 ½ feet above the dining area. This provides some semblance of separation between bar and restaurant, but not much. The separation in WOW Café and Wingery is nonexistent. The bar is between the dining area and a large pass-through window that exposes several hard working cooks to the awaiting customers.
This is almost the exact opposite of Rinconcito. Their bar room is large and stretches the entire length of the property front. The dining area is situated in the rear of the building, and is separated almost completely from the bar by a moderately sized room that houses the pool table. This layout almost makes it seem as though going from one room to the next is like going to a different place.
Feel free to share your own food, drink, and event pairings. We would love to know what you are eating and drinking and how they go together with whatever you enjoy doing, especially if it involves the Mid City Restaurant Row!