VERRET’S NEW ORLEANS

As my friend visiting from Los Angeles observed, “This is a great bar that hasn’t been ruined yet.”

Verret’s is a neighborhood bar under new management, and though they gave the bar a total makeover, the atmosphere and crowd it draws feel like they’ve been exactly like this for years. The red naugahyde bar is a delight: classic old-school. Banners for various Mardi Gras Indian tribes and social aid and pleasure clubs hang on the walls, including that of the Fabulous Ladies Social Aid and Pleasure club. The prices fit Verret’s moniker as a neighborhood joint: $3 for a beer and craft cocktails like the Bulleit Old Fashioned for $7. The crowd is all local, and most are familiar to the bartender. One patron, still in his security guard uniform, nurses a beer at the edge of the bar while charging his phone into a power strip that the bartender has pulled out specifically for his use. We sip our first drinks under the red light of the fringed lanterns hanging above the bar, envying those who are nestled in the cushy red booths, then take round two outside to the patio.

Service industry folks smoke under a school of sea creature light fixtures made from melted Mardi Gras beads. We find a picnic bench under a green and orange octopus, swimming through the air toward a jellyfish. Wednesdays and Thursdays, the bar thumps to the sounds of bands like Chapter Soul, but on a Monday, Verrett’s is a good place to visit with friends. We imagine it’s more fun to bartend when the crowd is dancing on the black and white checkerboard floor and the bar is booming with music. When we asked our bartender, Ed, if he wished it were busier, he demurred. He prefers nights like this when he can easily chat with new patrons and regulars. “I like it when we’re not making too much money.”

Riverbend and Carrollton

This part of the city was originally owned by Chauvin de la Freniere. Back in 1769, he participated in a revolt against the Spanish government, which controlled Louisiana at the time. Spain had forbidden the importation of French goods and required locals to only buy Spanish goods. Among the French products no longer available were French cognac and French wine. As you can imagine, this was not a popular law. He led a group of four hundred locals (most of whom had been drinking) into what is now Jackson Square. Allegedly, they yelled, “Give us back our Bordeaux; take away the poison of Catalonia.” La Freniere and the other leaders of this revolt were rounded up and hanged.

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After his death, the land was eventually incorporated into a town, named in honor of General Carroll, a leader in the Battle of New Orleans. New Orleans annexed the town in 1875, but the residents retained a strong sense of their previous status as an independent locale. The “Mayor of Carrollton” remained an informal title until 1984 and was held by a resident who spoke on behalf of the neighborhood’s needs to the New Orleans City Council. Carrollton is near enough to Loyola and Tulane Universities to cater to that crowd, but if you are willing to overlook some of the more college-focused watering holes, it offers its own kind of neighborhood charm

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