Black Penny used to be a bar called The Ninth Circle. It was a dive. Your mother would not be happy if you drank there regularly (or worked there). The first time I went to the newly opened Black Penny, I was astounded. It was, well, clean. I could see the floor, the walls. I asked the bartender how long it took for them to scrub away the sin, and he replied, Sin doesn’t come off, just dirt. Black Penny is part of a renaissance on Rampart, where sketchy bars are turning into neighborhood bars. Where people can go after work, or late at night, and not lose their wallets or their souls.
Black Penny is a welcoming spot, set on the corner of Rampart and St. Peter, and when its door is opened up to Rampart Street foot traffic, it’s a beacon of hospitality. I can only imagine that once the streetcar is rolling down Rampart in late 2016, the view from the bar will be even better.
Black Penny’s specialty is canned beers, or, I should say, delicious canned beers. As the craft movement has grown in the United States, so has the quality and availability of canned craft brews. Operating a bar in the French Quarter requires nothing less than an acknowledgement that every drink should be a walking drink, and the Black Penny has embraced that fact. Lee, beer aficionado that he is, usually takes his beer in a glass, but he is also a big fan of the go-cup and admires Black Penny’s commitment to offering a wide, portable beer selection. Though there is no regular kitchen, the Old Portage pop-up on Saturdays offers a rotating selection of hearty food that pairs well with beer.
But Black Penny isn’t just a beer bar. You can get a great cocktail here, especially a whiskey one, and especially if Jonathan is working. I’m thinking in particular about a Manhattan tasting I had one night, featuring three different whiskeys, when I encouraged my fellow patrons to taste them all and cast their votes. I think Rittenhouse whiskey won. Actually, hell, everyone won that night. Black Penny is the kind of bar where conviviality and a lack of boundaries are at least tolerated, if not encouraged. It’s a friendly place to pop in for a go-cup or to stay in for many rounds. Round after round, it’s lots of whiskey and beer in a can. America!