Goodbye Coop's, Hello Bacchanal
As someone who has visited New Orleans approximately 50 times over the past 25 years (I just arrived in the city for my 26th consecutive JazzFest), I am pretty certain of two things: (1) I will never be a local, and (2) notwithstanding number (1), I know this city far better than most visitors and take pride in enjoying it like a local.
Twenty-some-odd years ago, when a local introduced me to Coop's, I fell in love. And for the past 20+ years, every time I flew into New Orleans after work on a Friday, landing close to midnight, as I've done many times, I would always head to Coop's, knowing the kitchen would be serving great food into the wee hours, and that there would be an interesting mostly-locals crowd at the bar. And even in recent years, when it seems that Coop's has found its way into every tourist's guidebook, the seating at the bar has been a safe haven, as the tourists for the most part would sit at the tables, and the locals for the most part would sit at the bar. (Apologies for the gross generalization, but that's how I'm fantasizing it's been for the last several years!) Last night, that clearly was not the case. When I showed up around 9pm, I didn't see a single face that struck me as a local. It appeared to me that the place was 100% tourists. I fled.
After a few minutes of indecision, I decided to give Bacchanal a try. Now I know that you locals are very familiar with Bacchanal. I am familiar with it only because I happened to pass it when out for a run during a visit last year. I saw this cute little wine shop during my run, and when later that day I needed to buy a bottle of wine to bring to a friend's house for dinner, I returned to Bacchanal. It was only then that I discovered the courtyard, As a non-local, it felt like a real A Ha! moment to discover this wonderful little place.
So after fleeing Coop's, I hopped in a cab over to Bacchanal. On the drive over, it started to rain lightly, and I feared I had made a bad decision. What a thrill it was to pull up to the place and discover the upstairs room! There was a jazz trio playing, and I enjoyed a wonderful meal of shaved brussels sprout salad, a bouillabaisse-like seafood soup, and a well priced and easy drinking white burgundy. And I felt like I was in New Orleans, just like I used to feel 20 years ago when I first discovered Coop's.
Coop's: you and I have had a long run. And I'm sure there will be times in the future when, in search of a late night meal, I will grace your door again.
Bacchanal: I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
Great post, thanks! I did Bacchanal religiously on Sundays after Katrina but gradually fell away, for no particular reason other than I burned myself out. But more and more lately I her about the terrific changes they've made. Time to get back over there! Enjoy your visit, be safe.
Great post. I look forward to a cocktail at Bacchanal when I come down in early June. I assume the kitchen is open late? I actually discovered Bacchanal before going to Coop's. But it was before they added the bar upstairs. I love the place. Great charm. Good food. Good crowd. I sat at the bar at Coop's on a visit last year and met a couple of cool young women from San Francisco who didn't know NOLA well. But then I got to act like a real local by telling them where to eat and what bands to see. I'm sure locals experience that all the time.
Just an aside: I'm in a similar boat to you, having visited New Orleans often enough to experience it in a way that is not touristy, if not truly local. I love Jazz Fest, but I don't tend to go for the big festivals, because I enjoy the City more when it isn't so crowded. I love being able to pop into any concert venue in town at the spur of the moment, unlike New York where I have to plan everything in advance. While I do hope to one day be a local, that's for another day.
I agree that the city is far more enjoyable outside of festivals and special events, but with 26 consecutive years of JazzFest under my belt, I can hardly break my streak now!
And while I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Coop's was packed with tourists during JazzFest, the night I went was the Wednesday before fest, which historically has been ahead of the Fest crowds. (Long before I gave up on Coop's altogether, I gave up on Coop's during Fest.)
Coops had been over for me for years...and I can walk there from home. I feel like we have been on lockdown since the superbowl craziness.