How I Found the Oldest Bar in the United States

The Big Easy, Nola, Crescent City, Nawlins, nicknames for the French rooted port city of New Orleans. Hands down, New Orleans is my favorite US city. HANDS DOWN. A few years ago, I traveled to Nola with my sister, cousin, and two aunts. I felt like I needed a passport down there – New Orleans is a breed of its own. A city with a lot of soul.

With a rich history of crime, bootlegging, prostitution, and vampires – local folklore is common as jambalaya. One famous hole-in-the-wall dive claims the title as the oldest bar in the occupied United States. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, located on the famed Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, dates back from 1722 and is considered one of New Orleans’ oldest establishments, right after a convent. A place of such stature doesn’t earn a reputation by serving beignets and chicory coffee all day, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was once owned by an alleged pirate, survived two fires, has NO electricity except for behind the bar and a scorned ghost whose physical body was burned in the fireplace. Legend has it, if you stare at the fireplace, you may see a pair of red eyes glaring back at you.

My kind of place.

My traveling crew and I stumbled upon this gem during a mule and buggy ride. Our driver, a born and bred Cajun man with a thick Creole bayou accent and his gallant mule, Sugar Lips, gave us a tour around the French Quarter. His knowledge on Nola was vast, but his accent was uncomprehendible. English it was, but I could not understand a damn word he said. Here is an example:

**Cajun man: *Da do ov’d threa da dis da ydst browlthya billda’ in gn na Nawwwlings. Dam kpt da ores da!

Me: What?

Cajun man. Da ores! Da ores! Ores evd orv tar. Nahowrlans yad edh tem ors ed ploayce.

Me: Oh, do you mean whores? Was that building used as a brothel?

Cajun man: Me da to yael tewwllying u. Da ores Da ores.

Besides pointing out every old brothel and yipping “Cum on’ Suwgarr Eps!” to his sweet mannered mule, I was lost in Southern translation until Cajun man took us to a rundown shack further down Bourbon Street, away from the spring break bead collectors and fanny pack wearing tourists.

**Cajun Man: Da me byourldest bmen brrrr in Onewlangs. Aeffict Blawkmint Op. U ent ad foa d uuracnn? Lawffyette Backmn; Op es ol est urricans in ahal da Orlawingshas. Ow anyn’ da u awant’d?

Me: Um, Sure????

We put our order in with our Southern friend, but the object in question was a mystery. Frogs legs? A voodoo doll? A shrunken head on a stake?

No, even better. Hurricanes!

Not just your drunk rum filled concoction you may get a cheap Cajun restaurant, I’m talking about the real deal. Fresh, not too sweet juice, small fruits chunks, rum so tasty you would think it’s made of the nectar of the Gods. Screw Pat O’Brien’s world famous hurricanes, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop serves a category five of goodness. Best hurricane drink to date.

The Cajun Man

Did I mention you can get these hurricanes to go? Maybe Cajun man told us, I couldn’t get a lick out of him except for “da ores”, which meant “the whores” and “Sugar Lips” (go getem em Suwager Eps!). If I thought I couldn’t understand our tour guide, after that hurricane, his words blurred together like the ice in my drink. At one point, I finally asked my aunt if she could understand a word he was saying. Nope, was her answer. We were in the same boat of confusion.

The place where the Cajun man refered as where the “da ores, da ores” lived.

Sugar Lips, the faithful male who loved to chase tourists.

Our vacation progressed through a Southern haze, and before we left, we made our way back to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop where we learned far more about the place then from our Creolelispe (alert new word!) friend. Lafitte’s was used as a blacksmith’s shop during the day, at night, a place to conduct shady business. They say old man Lafitte still haunts the place. Others say a local man was burned alive in the old stone fireplace and you can see his eyes, burning back at you, beckoning for you to join him. Hocus pocus to some, for superstitious Southerners, you don’t mess with the dead. You respect them.

As I stated before, the place has no electricity, except for behind the bar, which is supposedly run by power chords from an adjacent building. The fire burning in the old stone fire place, skinny French windows in the front, an array of candle scattered about are your only light source, making the place look ominous as it would from the old days when Lafitte had control.

No light. No electricity. No problem.

Inside the dimly lit room, I noticed the bar owner had several pictures of the famous faces that passed through his door. Sometimes Nola residents Nic Cage and Brad Pitt (who has a house only blocks away from the bar), James Gandolfini, James Franco and so on. I like the feeling of having a hurricane in a haunted joint that Nic Cage has been in, makes me feel a little bit more Hollywood.

The hurricanes the second time around were as good as the first. In fact, we order more than one. I thought I would tire of hurricanes, but not the ones at Lafitte’s. Pat O’Briens’ may have invented the hurricane, but Lafitte’s perfected the recipe. They make their drinks just right, and not too sugary but a enough rum to knock your socks off. If mixed drinks are not your forte, try a local brew from Abita. You won’t be sorry.

 

Hurricane!

For more information on Lafitte’s check out http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com/Homepage.html

Want to read more Southern stories, check out Robynn’s hunt for dinner in the South here: http://vaultuncensored.com/2012/08/30/the-quest-for-bar-food-in-a-southern-environment/

By the way, Cajun Man is showing us where Nicolas Cage’s lives. Yep, its that large green mansion.

**My interpretation on what the Cajun Man said.

Cajun man: *That over there is the oldest brothel in New Orleans. They kept whores there.

Me: What?

Cajun man. The whores. The whores. New Orleans had many brothels in the French Quarter. It was legal back then.

Me: Oh, do you mean whores? Was that building used as a brothel?

Cajun man: That’s what I’m telling you. The whores. The whores.

**Cajun Man: That is the oldest building in New Orleans. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Do you like hurricanes? Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop has the best in all of New Orleans. How may hurricanes do you want? ?

Me: Um, Sure????