It was a mere five minutes after we’d situated ourselves in the leafy backyard of Bacchanal, a wine bar in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, when we started to see smoke: A cigarette butt had fallen into a center hole of a makeshift table and had started to smolder. A few people came over to give it a look and began pouring wine down the crevice before my pal, National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Andrew Nelson (pictured, left), came back with a wine glass filled with water. He dumped it in the hole, the smoke ceased, and we grabbed the table ourselves and ordered a cheese plate. You have to roll with the punches when you come to New Orleans.
Bacchanal is one of the few new places I got to try on my first trip back to the city since I reported on Mardi Gras last year for the January/February issue of Traveler. And, just as one Yelp reviewer noted, it’s exactly “like hanging out in a really cool friend’s backyard with a really kickin’ wine selection.” It’s a rather hidden locale: Not far from the section of the train tracks where Jack Kerouac hopped off to explore New Orleans, it’s sure to be getting more attention soon, as the new HBO series Treme has been shooting scenes in its backyard. More importantly, it’s completely away from the crowds of the French Quarter.
Pick up a bottle of wine from their extensive selection, then pair it with one of their cheese plates or a gourmet deli sandwich. Chef Joaquin Rodas is on duty Tuesday through Saturday; on Sundays guest chefs come in with their own menus, which this past weekend included lamb flatbreads, poached shrimp, and tuna sliders. A jazz band jammed in the corner and people began to show up bringing their own lawn chairs. It was a complete scene, and we were having a blast until a huge clap of thunder echoed above us, and the heavens opened with a torrential downpour. But people picked up their plates and glasses and proceeded to move all the fun indoors.
We’d finished our glasses, so we moved on to check out the new guerrilla pizza joint that was operating a few blocks over. It’s basically a few friends sharing a commercial kitchen, and who under the name Pizza Delicious make takeout pies on Sunday evenings. We managed to get there and snag one of the 90 pie slots they had that night without getting completely soaked. The menu changes each week; we went for the margherita and it was delicious, with a thin crust, spicy sauce, and delicious dough. Call ahead if you’re looking to get one yourself: +1 504 676 8482.
A selection of artisanal meats and cheese are made right on the premises, a fact which becomes obvious whey you spy the sausage links as thick as your arm that are on display behind their glass counters. I was with a group of friends, which meant I was able to sample a variety of sandwiches they had on offer: Cuban, Gambino, bahn mi, etc. and each one was better than the last, particulary when topped with their sweet potato hot sauce or BBQ vinegar. Both restaurants (Cochon Butcher is around the corner from its namesake) are in the Warehouse District of the city, a section of red brick buildings that I increasingly want to explore.
[Bacchanal 600 Poland Avenue, New Orleans; +1 504 948 9111]
[Pizza Delicious +1 504 676 8482]
[Cochon Butcher 930 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans; +1 504 588 PORK]
Photos: Above, Andrew Nelson raises a glass to his swift moves in the face of fire; Below, the fennel sausage, a special on offer at Cochon Butcher this past weekend. By Janelle Nanos