The Red Door Lounge is described to me as having “Mid-City charm.” Online reviews, as well as the bar’s homepage, consistently use the same adjective. The bar’s bio states that it is “a cozy place for regulars and an inviting space for newcomers.” Not being overly familiar with Mid-City, I wanted to see what about the bar gave it such obvious Mid-City charm. Then I hoped to discover what Mid-City charm even meant – the term seems to be used and understood by locals with some frequency, as if there were a particular qualifying criteria for such a description.
The front door of the bar is angled in such a way that if viewed in isolation, it would appear to be a corner lot. However, it is not. It is positioned between Taqueria Guerrero and a discount mattress and futon store. Charming. Inside it is narrow, long, dark, and last night, hot; the air conditioning had gone out earlier that day. The walls are lined with a mix of (reproduction?) nostalgia, Saints stuff, some acrylic art, photos from the flood, and bar events promotion boards. There will be free food for next weekend’s Saint’s game. The Red Door also offers a variety of activities, other than drinking. One can gamble using video poker machines, play Wii, darts, pool, or watch TV. It also appears that you could have a dance party. There is a disco ball all the way in back by the pool table.
The crowd seemed almost entirely regulars and many service industry workers. This could be in part because the Red Door offers a discount for industry people. The bartender was very friendly and the drinks were extremely cheap. Though I did not order a $10 bucket of beer or a $5 pitcher, if I had it would have been served with a bag of ice floating to maintain drinking temperature.
I understand that the bar was originally opened in 1940, but after Katrina, was bought and renovated by its current owner. I have come across reviewers that long for the old Red Door, saying that the new one is “straight out of suburbia.” There are others, though, that feel it is the “perfect neighborhood bar.” One such blogger goes so far as the have specific requirements for earning this title, requirements worth reading as they paint a vivid picture of the Red Door – http://millyonair.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/new-orleans-part-iii-the-red-door/ . Despite the heat and the 90’s pop grunge playing last night (later changed to Erykah Badu, which was great) and the sports-bar-feel of the Red Door, I was charmed. There was an odd assortment of effects that did this; street car going by, holiday string lights, the fact that the bar decorum makes it seem as if they are always hosting a party, and that Restaurant Row and the Red Door Lounge have a slightly dilapidated look and feel to them. It feels like a neighborhood here, maybe that is “Mid-City charm.”.