Napoleon House: A Taste of History
Napoleon House, a New Orleans cafe and bar, has walls that have seen it all in its 200 years of existence in this French Quarter location. During a perfect day of walking through the beautiful French Market, my famished parents and I finally stopped to eat at this New Orleans landmark practically unchanged by time.
Walking down Chartres Street, I almost passed this old building which you might think is some kind of abandoned building at first glance, however it was in fact Napoleon House. Through the corner entrance, we headed into the bar area where patrons were crowded waiting for their tables. We gladly took a seat at the bar while waiting for our table, and quickly ordered an Abita Amber, Old Fashioned, and an Iced Tea. As we refreshed at the beautiful old mahogany bar, I took a good look at this establishment that almost housed Napoleon Bonaparte.
Between the years of 1812 and 1815, New Orleans Mayor Nicholas Girod occupied this location until 1821 when Girod offered his home to Napoleon temporarily while he was in exile. Napoleon did not take this kind offer but Girod's residence became known as the Napoleon House. Since 1914, the Impastato Family has owned and operated this bar and restaurant. One of the most famous in America, Napoleon House bar is known for the sounds of Napoleon's favorite classical music as well as the tasty Pimm's Cup, a delightful beverage of a British Gin based liquor, lemonade, a splash of lemon-lime soda with a cucumber garnish. The broken down exposed walls are decorated with paintings, newspaper clippings and just about anything that relates to who-you guessed it-Napoleon! Even a sculpted head of Napoleon sits behind the bar watching over you sipping your Pimm's Cup. You can just imagine the heartache, battles, brawls, sin, and celebration that happened inside these walls.
The menu of this famed establishment is casual, classic New Orleans cuisine all the way-Cajun-Creole with a touch of Italian. I guess the Impastato's had something to do with that. You can start your meal with an Antipasto Platter, Bruschetta or a Panini, or try the Boudin Sausage with a Louisiana Satsuma Creole Mustard. I opted for the Boudin, a Cajun-French sausage made with pork, rice and Cajun spices. The satsuma Creole mustard provided a nice sweet contrast to the spicy sausage. For a main course, New Orleans standards took the stage with comforting dishes like Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Seafood Gumbo and the Po'boy Sandwich. Other surprising entrees included a BBQ Pork Sandwich with Zapp's chips, a Ratatouille Calzone, a Veal Parmigiana Sandwich and Grilled Steak Fish on an Onion Roll.
The highlight of all sandwiches on the menu is the Specialty Italian Muffuletta, a stick-to-your-rib satisfying sandwich of ham, Genoa salami, pastrami, Swiss cheese, provolone cheese and house made Italian Olive Salad all on top of a giant plate size round seeded roll. Our choice was certainly the Muffuletta! The Muffuletta was served hot with the cheese oozing out of the center cut into four quarters and more than enough food for three people. The salty Italian meats are exaggerated by the saltiness of the crunchy Italian Olive Salad. For dessert, an array of Italian desserts are on the menu including Spumoni (Neapolitan style ice cream-yes Napoleon strikes again), Lemon Ice, and Cannolis with vanilla and chocolate filling topped with pistachios.
Transporting you in time from the moment you enter, this restaurant and bar defines old New Orleans culture. It is the kind of place where you want to get comfortable, banter with those you are with and those you just met, and stay a while.
Go to Napoleon House, try a Pimm's Cup and Muffuletta, and experience dining in a historical landmark.