31 Second Avenue, 212-460-0992
Cheapest Drink: $4 Rheingold
Most Expensive Drink: $14 Single Malt
Extras: Best Po’boys east of Mississippi River
The mural of Bourbon Street in Patio Bar bears little resemblance to what’s happening now in the French Quarter, where in the March madness of spring break thousands enjoy public drinking and underage girls bearing it all from lovely Spanish balconies. In Patio’s depiction the depravity is muted, save for some girly clubs, and the street nearly empty except for a black teenager blowing a horn near a Cajun restaurant. It’s no great work of art, but does represent the New Orleans Patio Bar strives to capture: Bourbon Street stripped to its jazz, sex appeal, and hot food.
Patio adjoins a sister restaurant, Natchez, serving gourmet-style Cajun food; the chipotle-glazed oyster po’boy put on the bar was a lot better than the mayo-drenched versions I’ve eaten in the Quarter. The music is jazz and classical; the bartender played the front half of a cassette (yes, cassette) of Miles Davis’ Round About Midnight, before switching to a roaring Bessie Smith. Live jazz and rock (crappy rock, per the jazz-centric bartender) are featured weekly.
The crowd was mixed: trendy, European, a few NYU girls. But it’s spring break, so the beads-for-boobies-loving frat boys may all be vomiting in Louis Armstrong Park right now, hopefully moments from getting mugged. If they return for summer to drink on the outdoor patio next to gay-friendly Hole, there could be trouble. But Patio, with its dark, crimson lighting, its pool table and sofas in the back, its bartender happy to talk about anything from Jesus to String theory, is more New York than Cajun, thankfully.