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.