Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
I knew I had hooked Mary Ann when, as we danced around the subject of its classy restaurant dinner, I suggested that we go to the Pontchartrain Hotel for dinner tonight. Not the Caribbean Room, but the Bayou Bar.
I was rolling the dice, not sure the Bayou Bar had a bar menu. But it was a likely prospect. Restaurateurs love the idea of turning bar tables and counter top into full-fledged dinner venues. Not only is the space used more efficiently, but the people who have dinner at the bar are likely to either leave sooner or have another round or two of drinks.
I show up first, and order a glass of wine. I should have tried the Bayou Bar’s Ramos gin fizz, but it didn’t cross my mind. I know none of the fifteen or so people in the darkish room. But it’s a Wednesday in the first week of lent, and everyone is easing back for awhile after Mardi Gras.
We get off to a good start, eating-wise. Two kinds of oysters are here. One of them has a fascinating, sharp flavor that’s hard to calculate. Citrus, I decide, is the primary source of the sharpness. The other variety of oyster is, of course, another Drago’s imitator. (Oysters a la Drago may be now the single most widespread non-sandwich dish in New Orleans.)
A batch of pommes frites come to the table. Nothing special there. Mary Ann asks for a trio of chicken sliders. I say that sliders should be little hamburgers with mustard and onions, but the current thought on rules of taste is that they should all be forgotten. But MA doesn’t care much for the chicken sliders either.
The big nights at the Bayou Bar are on the weekends, when Philip Melancon pulls up to the piano and begins his long-running act of singing and making up funny lines. He did this in this very room for many years before the old Pontchartrain shut down, and he is back again on a regular schedule. Very entertaining. Wish he were here tonight. Melancon has a special power that makes it impossible for me to sing with him at the piano. He favors unusual keys. Or maybe he’s just too good for a hack like me to interrupt him.
The Pontchartrain was always famous for its blueberry muffins. They have brought them back as a bread pudding. What a great idea! I can’t remember ever having had such a thing.
The only disappointment is that the check ran over $100 for the two of us, with no live music. (And really terrible recorded tunes music.) But only a rube would go to the Pontchartrain, in the old days or now, and expect a bargain.