Monday, October 27, 2014

The Next Big Thing in Cocktails? Service

Everybody wants to know what’s coming next.  And like half-drunk soothsayers, many bartenders will make their predictions.  Some say it’s tiki.  Others say that fresh fruit and vegetable juices are the rising stars.  The newer cocktail markets repeat the same things that New York, Chicago, and New Orleans have been saying for years -- Mezcal, American gin, and rye whiskey.  And honestly none of them are really wrong.  But they are missing one very important item; a trend so vital and often forgotten that just implementing this program in a cocktail bar can make it one of the best in the city overnight.  It is surprising that so many service industry professionals lack the one thing that gives their job description any waft of meaning: service.

Before the advent of modern craft cocktails, most bars were judged on atmosphere and service alone.  After all, it’s not hard to get a whiskey and coke right.  But when bartenders became local and then national celebrities in the bar world for their cocktails one very strange thing happened.  They started forgetting good service.  Convinced that everyone in the bar was there to see them, they assumed selfish “me-party” attitudes that, frankly, turned these bartenders into assholes.  I remember years ago when I was training under Chris Hannah at the French 75 Bar, I decided one day that I was going to have a fancy shake.  Out of nowhere I started doing this ridiculous up and down shake that I had seen bartenders do in New York.  But almost immediately Hannah pulled me aside and told me to cut it out.  He said, “No one came here to fucking watch you shake.”  And he was right.  In that brief moment I had forgotten what I was really there to do.  And that was to serve people.

Great service by a bar staff means turning the attention to the guest as much as possible.  Sure, a guest might ask questions about the bartender, but what people really want is to talk about themselves.  It’s a bartender's job to stay out of the spotlight so that the guest’s ego is the only thing being nurtured.  Great service also means making guests any drink the bar is equipped to make, happily, and without judgement.  National brand legend Chris Morales told me once, “If you want a Pappy Van Winkle and coke, I’ll only say ‘Would you like a single or a double?’”.  After all if the guests are paying for it, they get to do whatever they want with it.  That’s the magic of a bar.  At a salad bar, the staff would never dream of telling you what dressing to use, so why do bartenders think it’s okay to do it behind a cocktail bar?

     Across the country right now great bars like Maison Premiere in New York, Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, and the French 75 Bar in New Orleans are all giving fantastic service to each and every guest that walks in the door.  That singular quality is making all the difference, and these bars deservedly getting a lot of attention for it.  Slowly other cocktail bars are noticing and are beginning to restructure how they view service.  Even the most famous bartenders in the world aren’t actually famous.  They are bar famous.  Chris Hannah is bar famous.  Brad Pitt is actually famous.  There’s a big difference.  So bartenders: the next time you think giving your guests the cold shoulder is going to launch you into superstardom, fix your attitude and serve the guests who came to your bar for a great experience.   -HK

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Best New-ish Restaurant

For years I have been going to dinner at Sylvain.  The food is fantastic, the drinks are delicious, and the staff delivers world-class service that (unfortunately) is rarely seen in this town.  But a few days ago I ventured across the street with the lovely Meagan Burke from F&B Department.  The experience we had was superb.  Doris Metropolitan has one of the most impressive menus in New Orleans right now, and that is saying a lot.   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sleeper Bars for watching Soccer

We all know the popular places to watch the World Cup. But it's likely that all those places are going to be packed.  Below are some dope sleeper bars for watching the USA v. Germany match today that might not be as packed as Finns or Cooter Browns. (List courtesy of Chris Hannah)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Where to go when it's raining... (part 1)

You could probably set your watch to the summer rain out here.  Of course hiding in your hotel room or house is an option, but not a very fun one.  Brave the rain, and the New Orleans you find - just might be better than you expected.

Some good tips for rainy weather fun:

Don't step on the manhole covers or anything made out of metal on the streets.  They are really slippery.

Don't wear flip-flops.  Your feet will end up looking like you belong in the Shire with Frodo.

Avoid wearing light colored clothing.  Unless you're into the wet t-shirt contest look.

It's just rain.  When was the last time you ran out of the shower screaming with a newspaper over your head?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

KPB  is on Fire

Kimberly Patton-Bragg: on nether regions, uptown, and how she plans on getting everyone in New Orleans full, drunk, and laid --  

By Hadi Ktiri
Transcribed by Meagan Burke

      It had been nearly ten minutes before I remembered to hit record on my computer. When I finally did, I caught Kim in the midst of a story about the merits of Uptown New Orleans.
Kimberly Patton-Bragg: Uptown creeps me the fuck out.  It's too quiet.  I mean, it's lovely.... but...
Napkin Local: Where would you say uptown starts?
KPB: (laughs) You know where I would! Passed the I-10.  That's fucking uptown, Hannah.  Sorry.
NL: I think it was Steve Yamada who said, "'s a direction, not a location."
KPB: I think that’s a valid point.  But he lives uptown in my eyes.  I don’t care what  side of Jackson.  It’s like how the politicians do during elections.  They just change their demographic so they can get more of their people to vote for them.
NL: So the last three of these we did, we asked if you had to pick two well-known new Orleans bartenders to be your parents, who would they be?  Everybody, so far, has said you would be their mom.
KPB: Awwwww.  That means so much to me!  Oh my god. They are all such damaged people.  That really means a lot to me.  It’s been kind of a running joke that I’ve been mama bear, and I don’t think it’s because I’m older; I think it’s because they really know that I do care about them.  They know if I’m in jail, you can call Kim.  She’s not gonna call my mom.  I wanna protect everybody because I love the community we have so much.  Not only in New Orleans, but around the country.  When we did Runamok, they said, "..we have to have mama bear here."  And it’s from doing tales...
NL: How long have you done Tales?
KPB: God. six years.  I'm now retired.  I think I’ve done enough.  And I’m grateful for everything that it’s done. And that’s what’s helped me get the mama bear status that I have.  But I don’t think I have to get up at eight in the morning and batch Sazeracs anymore.
NL: I think you've done your time.
KPB: Right. Somebody else gets to figure out how to use those orange buckets.
NL: So besides Ann Tuennerman, who has done the most for this city as a figurehead for the bar community?
KPB: I so don’t want to give this to him, but Chris Hannah in a way.  He’s the one that everyone comes down to see, and deservedly so.  And he goes around the world saying, “New Orleans is valid. Things are happening here.”  Whether he wants to be an ambassador or not, he is. And all of us consider ourselves ambassadors when we go around the country or the world. Because you have to be. Everything’s been so new york, or San Francisco, or Chicago, everyone kind of looks at us as doing classic cocktails, and that’s it.  But we’re doing some really interesting shit here.  There are people who have sick knowledge of history.  There’s Rhiannon who's walking librarian as far as history is concerned, and it’s not one of my fortes at all.  You wanna ask me how to make a weird syrup out of fennel tops, I got you.  But if you’re asking me about the first ten cocktails in the bon vivant, I have no idea.  So I would say Chris Hannah, whether he likes it or not, is definitely one those beacons.  Chris Mcmillian as well.  And I can’t wait until the museum reopens again so he can really take that leadership again.  Because he is one of the papa bears around here.  When I was new down here and I was like “oh my god, it’s Chris Mcmillian” and just open arms.  Anything I needed, and he does that with everyone.  I think our entire community does in a way.
NL:Some people have said that our group is cliquey, implying that we’re not open to outsiders.
KPB: I think it’s absolutely opposite.  It’s not true.  I think there is one stipulation and that is you conduct yourself in a way that’s becoming of a New Orleans bartender.  Really the only rule in New Orleans is just don’t fuck up, and don’t be an idiot.  But I think that people who think we’re cliquey, it’s when we’re all out together, which is so rare.  And when we're all out together, it’s a celebration.  Because we never get together because we’re always working. So I think that may be where that comes from.  We know we have Mardi Gras day off.  We know we have Christmas day off.  We’ve all sort of agreed on that.  But we never excluded anyone.  It’s like “..absolutely!  Come bring your friends!”

"I really have to say Neal Bodenheimer and Cure started everything - and he changed Freret Street for sure."

NL: What bars are you excited about right now?
KPB: I still love that Sylvain’s doing it.  I wish they were getting a little more press than they’re getting.  I love that Luci’s getting press, but I think Darrin Ylisto deserves some.  They’re crushing it.  I’m excited about Oxalis.  That’s Sonali and Ed.  I really want them to succeed because I think they’re really great people. Mopho I’m really excited about too.  I think it’s really interesting and exciting that someone from August decided to separate and do a pho bar.  That’s pretty ballsy.
NL: Pho is really popular in New Orleans.
KPB: Everywhere in the world there is a hangover soup, and this is the hangover capital of the world.  I’m glad to see that Root’s doing well, and I’m interested to see how Square Root does.  Oh, and Cane and Table.  I really think they’re knocking it out of the park.  Nick Deitrich was the right person to manage and run that.  I love Nick.  They have the right people.  Braden is amazing.  Matt is amazing.  I love that Adam Biderman’s involved, and I’m glad they took over that space.
NL: People say New Orleans is so far behind that we’re ahead.  Why do you think that is?
KPB: It’s like the Cherry Bounce.  I would love to see that on someone’s menu. That’s a very New Orleans thing.  It’s cherries macerated with sugar in high-proof alcohol.  You could look up the cherry bounce and see five million family recipes.  We take those backbones and skeletons of what we have, and we create something amazing.  Cure does amazing things.  Cane and Table does amazing things.  I like that we’re pushing those envelopes.  And I think we’re just as valid as any of the other major markets.  And there are smaller markets coming up too; Kansas City is doing great things.  And we’ve got Jamie and Ted Kilgore in St. Louis doing some cool shit.  But none of it would have happened if New Orleans hadn’t started bringing this culture back.
NL: Who do you think has led the charge in New Orleans?
KPB: I really have to say Neal Bodenheimer and Cure started everything.  And he changed Freret Street for sure. And they’ve got incredible bartenders — Ryan Gannon.  I fucking love that cat.  Nick Jarrett - Jesus Christ.  He’s a liver-killer.
NL: I think that everybody's worst night is with Nick Jarrett.
KPB: ...and you think you’re on the same level as him, but you’re not because he seems completely in control.  You think, if he’s in control, then I’m in control.  No. I’m not.  I’m dying.  I probably have alcohol poisoning.
NL: What can people expect to see you doing in the next few months?
KPBI am working on opening up my own place.  I think there needs to be a place that’s really specific on authentic Mexican street food and tequilas and mezcals.  It’s going to be typical Kim-sexy and fun. It's having a sense of humor and having a good time. That's what I'm looking forward to.  I want to create a very controlled circus where everyone can feel safe and get full, drunk, and laid.
NL: Now on to my favorite question.  What is your favorite Chris Hannah-ism?
KPB: Two of the texts I’ve gotten from him, and one was from Runamok, was how his first tingling in the nether regions were due to the Land-O-Lakes girl.  And I didn’t know about the folding it and making the knees into boobs thing.
NL: Land-O-Lakes boob thing?
KPB: Trust me, I asked my husband, and he was like “Yeah, absolutely.”  And I said, “Why did I never know about this?!”  Well, apparently, that was his first love. And the second one was, “You know that bird Siri who you birds keep talking to?  You might want to leave her alone for ten minutes because I’m under the desk fondling her.”  And I’m like, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning.  Why am I getting this?!
I love that he always joins me for Thanksgiving to watch Dean Martin.  I know that during that day at some point, he’s going to go around the corner, and it’s the second pole to the right on Chartres St, and he’s going to take a nap there.  He’s a fascinating dude.  And he’s one of my best friends.  They don’t make 'em like that anymore.  He is New Orleans.     --NL

Sunday, June 1, 2014

french quarter courtyards

While enjoying a mid-afternoon drink, we sat in our French Quarter courtyard to enjoy the beautiful weather and write our next big interview.  In the meantime we hope you enjoy the ambience as much as we did.  

quote of the week

Monday, May 19, 2014

Best Coffee in the French Quarter

May 19, 2014

Dearest Readers,

        We realize that there are quite a few really good places to get a good cup of coffee in this town, but our friend Jane and her astounding coffee house on Rampart have effectively blown the doors clean off.  Magical, wave-shattering, and fucking unbelievable, are all words that come to mind when describing this place.  

I don't often give myself a heart attack, but when I do, it's with Arrow Cafe pour-over coffee.

Love always,

-- NL

(Now if it's after 3pm and Arrow is closed I suggest heading to Spitfire Coffee which is right up the street.  They do a bang up job and are counted among the best espresso shops in the city.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Best spots to drink/dine Solo

Sometimes it can be quite nice.  A night to yourself, just you and your thoughts.  Below are some of our favorite places for getting some great food and drink without a date.  We picked four amazing places, all in completely different neighborhoods.  They all have bars, and you can eat at all of them, no reservation required.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Quote of the Week

"The earth laughs in flowers."  
              - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Taking Requests

Have some ideas for new topics we should cover? Please share them with us in the comment box below.  Thanks!

Friday, May 2, 2014

i love when you talk derby to me

If you are out and about today and tomorrow for the Kentucky Derby, we've found you some amazing spots to drink your mint julep's.  Drink them slowly, drink them well, and drink them 'till your hearts swell.  

Our good friend Abigail Gullo of SoBou bar on Chartres St. was kind enough to share her tradition for Derby Day:  

"Let us stretch out the most exciting 2 minutes in sport with some goodwill to your fellow Nola Bar keeps stuck behind the stick for Jazz Fest. 

Last year, dressed in my derby finest, I made a Julep and then ran it to the French 75 Bar who in turn made another Julep for me to run to someone else. And so on until my break was over...with a frosty Julep from Chris McMillan, the Julep master.

This year I would like to get a gang together to run juleps all over town. Lets start around 3pm at SoBou, just in time to fuel up with some Happier Hour Derby Gator Dogs and then it’s off to the Races! 4pm to watch the Race and then Run Those Juleps!

Oh and please dress the part my lovely southern Ladies and Gentlemen! Seersucker and big hats abound!"

If you're at home watching the races, here is a super dope Julep recipe courtesy of Jared Schubert of the Monkey Wrench bar in Louisville, KY:

Minimalist Julep

2 oz old Grand-dad bonded

1/2 oz simple syrup
5 mint sprigs
One large piece of ice

Place all ingredients into a mixing glass, allow to sit for one minute, add a few pieces of ice and stir to just under diluted, pour into double old fashion with large piece of ice.

Photo by Hadi Ktiri

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Quote of the Week

Photo by Hadi Ktiri

"there was something about that city, though it didn't let me feel guilty that I had no feeling for the things so many others needed, it let me alone.” ― Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dope restaurants for afternoon delights

Because the IRS is a sneaky bugger, our posts will be put on hold whilst we right the wrongs of the 2010 tax season.  Stay with us.  We haven't forgotten about you.  We're just short on time and money, but aren't we all? So for those times when you're short on those things, go here:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Everybody wants 
a piece of


R’evolution’s newest addition to the bar talks to us about cucumbers, fighting, and Clint Eastwood.

JONATHAN NUÑEZ IS QUITE THE CHARMER at his bar. I’ve seen him juggle three sets of cougars at once - this while pointing at me in an obvious 'what do you want' gesture.  He’s hilarious, sharp, and one of the nicest barkeeps in the business.  What keeps him cool? Napkin Local called him up one evening to find out what makes the man behind the beard go.

Jonathan Nuñez: What’s up brother?
Napkin Local: Hey what’s happening man?
JN: I’m sitting at the house watching an old Clint Eastwood movie.
NL: Which one?
NL: Is it good?  I haven’t seen it.
JN: Surprisingly yeah.  I mean the acting is horrible, but it’s good for getting in the times.  Good storyline…
NL: Word.
JN: Well let’s do this then.
NL: So a group walks in to your bar at 11pm and orders 7 Ramos Gin Fizzes.  What’s your first thought, and what is the first thing you say?
JN: First thought is “fuck my life”.  If some asshole comes in at 11 and orders 7 fucking Ramos Gin Fizzes, my first word would be, “really?” Because at my bar you have to put the brakes on.  But it would be something in that fashion.  “Seriously?  That’s really what you want?”  Otherwise, I would be so angry that I would want to cut off my own arm and beat him with it.
NL: Are there any dead politicians you would fight in an MMA match?
JN: Theodore Roosevelt.  That’s a badass dude. I would want to fight him.  I would train like in Rocky III.  That’s what it would take for Theodore Roosevelt.
NL: Do you think you’d win?
JN: No. (laughing) it would be a blood match.
NL: If you had to pick 2 well-known New Orleans bartenders to be your parents, who would you choose?
JN: Historical well known or do you mean the cats that are working right now?
NL: Current
JN: As a bartender parent I would say Murf Reeves, or maybe in a broken family kind of way, a certain older gentleman that works at the Monteleone. 
NL: I’d ask who, but you shouldn’t say.
JN: (laughs)
NL: Who would you say is your favorite bartender right now?
JN: As a customer, I would have to say Jonathan over at Bar Tonique.  He works and you can tell the dude is very passionate like an artist making a painting.  Like he doesn’t want anybody fucking with his painting.
NL: Are there any rare or interesting bottles of wine or spirits on your home bar?
JN: Well first off, nothing lasts in my home.  If it’s in my house it’s getting drank.  …a bottle that I would run into a burning building for -- Gran Marnier 100 year.  Not 150.  I would let that bitch burn.  Besides that, I would say my grandfather’s micro-bottle of mid-1920’s Bacardi Gold.
NL: Where do you derive your bartending style?
JN: I enjoy learning, so the craft thing is fun.  But I don’t see myself as a mixologist per se.  I see myself more as a studier of people within the bar, and how I notice how culture changes drinks.  I think that is why I have more of an affinity for classic cocktails.
NL: Any least favorite requests?
JN: “What do you like making? What’s good here? Or what should I drink?” I don’t fucking know. I love making Aviations, Last Words, and Boulevardiers, but I know you’re not going to like them because you have fake breasts and the IQ of a grapefruit. You will probably like something with a cucumber and St. Germain and then tell me “..not too sweet.”
NL: What would be and ideal order then?
JN: “Can I have an Aviation? Can I have an old-school pre-rye Cognac Sazerac? Can I have a proper 2:1 or even 1:1 Martini?” Or a Vesper with Ransom Old Tom gin. Boom.
NL: Do you shake or stir your Vespers?
JN: Oh, stir all day. And I like to strain it through rice. Fantastic.
NL: Speaking of rice, how many pounds of crawfish can you eat?
JN: An infinite amount because I never get full on crawfish.  To me, the amount of energy required to open the crawfish is equal to the amount of energy received from the crawfish tail.
NL: Is it the same for raw oysters?
JN: No.  I’ve never tried to Man vs.Food the raw oyster bit. And I’m not shucking the oyster. That’s like busting through concrete for half of a Lucky Charm marshmallow.
NL: So how long does it take you everyday to make sure your beard looks fantastic?
JN: (laughing) I wake up in the morning with it fantastic.
NL: It just grows like that?
JN: I don’t even shave.
NL: And when you get angry, do metal claws come out of your hands as well?
JN: I took a personality test on Facebook, the X-Men one, like who I’m going to be…  Of course I got Wolverine.

"You will probably like something with a 
cucumber and St. Germain 
and then tell me 
'..not too sweet'."

NL: If you were going out with a gay friend of yours, like let’s say Michael Glassberg, would you go to Oz or Bourbon Pub?
JN: Bourbon Pub.  Oz is has trippy lights. Things can happen. That’s weird. Yeah, Bourbon Pub.
NL: You’re at R’evolution right now right?  How’s the vibe there? 
JN: I like the quality of booze that’s behind the bar, and the wine.  I feel like my ability to serve matches the quality of the product as opposed to other places that I’ve worked where I’ve had to screw the guest, or make them think they’re getting a high-end product when they’re getting charged a whole lot of money. In other words, the people that are selecting the stuff I’m selling, well, it’s just top-notch.  And it’s such a stress relief to know that when somebody gets the bill, whether they think it or not, I don’t feel like I’m cheating them.  Every dollar they’re spending, they’re getting more than what they payed for.
NL: What are some of your favorite places to go for a pre/post-work snack?
JN: I would say pre-work is Bourbon House for those bourbon milk punches. I went in to try one just because I had never had one, and I had like 7 in the hour before work.  After work, I like going over to Chart Room, and I’ve woken up with Rally’s cheese fries on my face. I don’t eat a lot before work. I don’t like going into work full. 
NL: Wanna end this with your favorite Chris Hannah-ism?
JN: I don’t know if it’s so much a quote of his or more of a mentality.  But he will be in a group and there will be a hot chick.  He will ask like 3 people, hey, who’s that girl? And he may say nothing else about her, and he definitely won’t talk to her.  --NL