Our flight left Minneapolis around 5:15, but was delayed a bit. We met a couple at the gate who were headed to Jazzfest, so we talked to them about the effects of the hurricane on the city (the guy had gone to college there). When we landed in Atlanta, they asked people to let those with a short connection off the plane first, but of course that didn’t happen. We ended up rushing with the same couple to another terminal. We made it with plenty of time, and were glad to be in a row with only a pair of seats. It was such a small plane that they were checking all the roller bags at the gate.
We landed in New Orleans shortly before 11, picked up my bag, and got a cab to the Intercontinental Hotel. It’s conveniently located about 4 blocks from the French Quarter.
We quickly unpacked and then headed into the quarter, as we were hungry. Since it was late, most of the regular restaurants were closing (and they’re not great at catering to vegetarians, either). We’d made it halfway down Bourbon Street before realizing we were also way too sober for New Orleans, so we stopped at a walk-up window to get a hand grenade. We asked the guy there if he could recommend somewhere to get food quickly, and he suggested the Clover Grill. He said it’s where he always stopped at 4am after work.
The place was awesome. It’s a tiny greasy spoon right on Bourbon. We got seats at the counter and had to wait a bit to order, but it was worth it. Plus we had drinks to tide us over in the meantime.
After eating, we headed further down Bourbon Street to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It was exactly as described: candlelit and definitely haunted-looking. The bar, however, did not look like the kind of place where one could order what was described as their signature drink, the Obituary (gin, vermouth, absinthe); it appeared to be more of a Captain-Coke or shot of Jager kind of place. But when I asked the bartender for an Obituary, he didn’t blink an eye.
Holy jesus, the Obituary is something. We took our drinks to a table (one should never be allowed martini glasses in a bar that’s dark and has uneven flooring, yet somehow we managed) and watched the guy singing at the piano in the back. I was impressed that we’d been in New Orleans for less than two hours and were already drinking absinthe.
I was a little nervous about using the bathroom in a bar known to be haunted, but the toilet showed no signs of spirit activity. In fact, it was quite clean.
Around 2am, we wandered down to the Old Absinthe House at the other end of Bourbon Street. While I intended to indulge in the traditional absinthe drip and figured that was the place to get it, I was by no means going to be having two absinthe drinks after 1am on our first night there. Again, it looked to be the kind of bar where you could only order the most basic drinks, but the ancient list of cocktails on the wall suggested otherwise. To test this, I ordered a Sazerac, and was again shocked when the bartender didn’t even balk. There aren’t many cities where you can wander into an average bar and order a high-end cocktail; I’ll usually only even attempt ordering a Manhattan if the bartender looks to be over 50.
People were coming in and ordering shots of absinthe (at $15 apiece). It was impressive. As was my Sazerac… I still couldn’t get over the fact that you could order a drink like that at a regular bar!
We got go cups (another indication of a truly awesome city) and headed back to the hotel. Matt couldn’t finish his beer, so I insisted that he put it in the fridge in case he wanted it in the morning.
What? It made perfectly good sense at the time.