If you take a cab about 15 minutes downriver from the French Quarter, you'll find a neighborhood called Bywater that is becoming trendy, recently sprouting a handful of farm-to-table restaurants and craft cocktail bars to cater to its emerging arts scene, which definitely leans toward edgy. There are also a handful of great dive bars, including a couple that have live music.
And then there's Bacchanal. Laid back and totally unpretentious, it's unlike any other dining or club experience I know anywhere, let alone in New Orleans. Here's how it works: Enter the little shop and select a bottle of wine for purchase. If you prefer, they have a few that they'll pour by the glass for 6 bucks. Then, stop by a refrigerator to pick from their selection of really good cheese. They also have a small plates menu that looked tasty. Pay for your cheese, wine, and whatever else you might order and head to the spacious and leafy patio out back. They'll plate up the cheese with toasted bread, chutney, olives and other treats and bring it to you. There's great live music ranging from folk to jazz to listen to while you relax, sip and eat.
That's it. It seems simple, and I guess it is. But the scene is great, very friendly and convivial. And in a city where the dining options range from humble po-boy joints to white table cloth Creole seafood shrines, it sits somewhere totally unique, a sophisticated yet utterly casual neighborhood place where you probably won't find too many out-of-towners and have an easy time conversing with locals.
Also, I didn't check it out, but I understand they have a dining room upstairs with a full cocktail bar. A contingency for rainy nights, I suppose, but not needed when I was there.
Great place. Get out of the Quarter and act like a you know.
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