Care for a Drink

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!

10 thoughts on “Care for a Drink

  1. The more I talk to people, the more I realize that video poker does more to shape the atmosphere and uses a bar than anything else. Before video poker, I’m told, neighborhood bars use to be kid friendly hang out. They were much more like Irish pubs.

    Maybe a little off topic.

  2. Good Point! Several of the places I am studying do indeed have poker machines tucked away in tiny crowded rooms. The only exception is Taqueria Guerrero. They are much more of a family friendly focused place it seems. The large projector screen has, on many of my visits, been dedicated to the Disney Channel when soccer games could not be found.
    WOW, Rinconcito, and Fiesta Latina all have them. Oddly enough though in all my interviews the video poker machines never got mentioned. The machines seemed to hide in the background just enough to elude notice. Rinconcito has their video poker in the front bar room out of restaurant customer view, and Fiesta Latina has theirs in the elevated bar area. WOW Café and Wingery is the only place where the machines are more centrally located (though still hidden behind ¾ length saloon style doors). And though it has been five years since I was in the Carrollton, as I recall they do not have video poker at all.
    It is almost as though the sequestering of the machines would serve to maintain the open, all ages welcome, environment, but it may very well be that the opposite effect has happened.

  3. Video poker is a huge source of revenue, particularly for bars. Many bars are propped up by the revenue.

    It’s also the reason most New Orleans bars are so crappy. Sure, there are cool places to hang out, but look at how dreadful the selection of beer and liquor is at most bars. That’s because bars don’t have to work hard to draw in customers when video poker gives them a cushion.

  4. I am now curious how the video poker effects the restaurant + bar type of establishments. Does it generate the same revenue boost when food service is involved? If the establishment serves only booze and beer then the video poker could be seen as the entertainment center of the bar, especially those without live music. But when food service and the “going out for a bite” is the central entertainment factor does video poker provide a degree of revenue security?

  5. P.S. I’m curious about the cultural consequences of what seem like purely economic decisions. I’m sure bars saw video poker as a great extra source of revenue (or were strongly “encouraged” to add the machines). I doubt they realized it would be the death of family friendly bars.

    That was before my time, so it’s hard to imagine what the neighborhood bars were like with kids in them. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that Domilise’s on a Saturday gives you a sense of what was lost.

    • I recommend a trip to the UK. They have pubs there that are kid friendly. Although kids are not allowed in the actual bar area, I have visited a few pubs with playground outside. You take your pint outside, sit, relax, drink and the kids run around and have fun. Brilliant way to while away a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with family and friends and good beer.

  6. It is also interesting that the video poker areas are often sequestered in small tightly packed spaces. The swinging doors covering them do little to obscure the activities going on inside. As if the “Have a gambling problem? Call …” signs plastered all over the exterior weren’t enough, the loud chimes certainly do make them hard to ignore. All of this seems as though it were intended to be a type of protective measure for society from the deviant behaviors of some of it’s members.

    Could this be seen as another example (broadly speaking) of the cultural differences between the conservative ideology(s) of the United States and the more liberal ideologies of Europe? Of course, these presumed differences are by no means all inclusive. I am only guessing (as I have yet to travel to Europe) that gambling (i.e. video poker, etc.) would be more readily accepted there. Could that be part of the reason New Orleans seems to be more accepting of gambling and/or drinking (not to mention the particular attention New Orleanians put into their food stuffs)? That is of course assuming that New Orleans can actually be framed as one of the US’s more European-esque cities.

  7. I will be looking into the video poker this week. Thank you for raising some interesting points and questions! I’ll see what I can dig up and will post my findings later this week.

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