Port of Call
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The archetype of a common New Orleans institution: a bar with a superior hamburger. To this day–even as name chefs open hamburger joints all over town–most of the city’s great hamburgers are still found in bars. The Port of Call set the standard and still does.
The hamburgers are made from fresh two-way chuck (the two best parts of that beef cut, with a minimum of junk) ground daily in the restaurant’s commissary. They grill them thick and fat over a hot open fire and serve them with grated cheddar cheese on a normal-size bun, making the ratio of meat to bread very agreeable. The burgers are served with baked potatoes instead of fries. The steaks are only pretty good. The drinks–especially the tiki-style rum drinks–are generous and well made.
The Port of Call opened in 1963. I got there when I was a junior in high school and was blown away. Returning infrequently now, I’m always surprised by how little the place has changed over the years, in both decor and flavor. There are few similar time warps. Since Hurricane Katrina, the business here seems to have risen tremendously. Be prepared for a long wait to be seated.
The front room is unambiguously a bar, surrounded by tables. The ropes hung across the ceiling appear to be part of the original decor. I would not want to see this room in bright light. The main dining room is more like a restaurant. The service is not what you could call attentive, but they get the job done sooner or later.
Schooner salad (like a chef’s salad)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Understand that the Port of Call’s reputation as having the best hamburger in New Orleans may lift your expectations unreasonably high. Remember: a hamburger can only go so high up the ladder of culinary accomplishment.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
One wonders what would come of a satellite restaurant serving exactly this food in a more accessible, larger location.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color +1
- Sidewalk tables
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open until midnight SU MO TU WE TH; 1 a.m. FR SA
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- No reservations