Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop contends it is the oldest operating bar in the United States. This may be true. It’s definitely the oldest building in New Orleans operating as a bar; the edifice was erected around 1722. Local hero and privateer Jean Lafitte probably drank here, since his brother lived around the corner. I make no pronouncements on the legend that his ghost still haunts the fireplace; you can check that out for yourself.
Lafitte’s fills up in the evenings, when lubricated visitors crowd around the piano, lustily belting out House of the Rising Sun. I prefer to arrive at the bar earlier in the day, when there’s a better chance of snagging one of my favorite tables near a window. There, you can eavesdrop on the buggy drivers who invariably pause at the bar and recount the fabled story of Jean Lafitte. Yours is not to wonder at the truth of their tales. Distinguishing between truth and fiction has never been a high priority in the French Quarter.
Twilight arrives and the bar’s only illuminations are candlelight and the cigarette machine, both of which offer their own kind of romantic glow. When the piano bar gets too rowdy, the tiny, side patio offers quiet sanctuary. Lafitte’s makes a passable hurricane, but touts their frozen voodoo purple drink as their special. Maybe one of those is all you need to catch a glimpse of the ghost of Jean