There may be no name, no place more closely associated with dining in New Orleans than Antoine Alciatore's palace of French Creole cuisine, located on 713 St. Louis in the heart of the French Quarter. Antoine's has appeared in films, been the setting of novels, and seen its history lovingly documented by Anthony Bourdain's “No Reservations” crew. It is the oldest family owned restaurant in America, playing host to popes, presidents, and generations of employees over the last 171 years – many of these employees proudly claim fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers who were themselves part of the Antoine's tradition. The restaurant was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and saw its 14 ornate dining rooms largely empty for the first time in history during Katrina's lengthy wake of recovery, a sad time in Antoine's history depicted during Anthony Bourdain's sojourn there. The post-Katrina episode of “No Reservations” asked an open-ended question: Would Antoine's be able to survive, to keep its proud traditions intact, as the city struggled to rebuild from unimaginable devastation, both cultural and structural?
A presence, a history with wild glory days, through the post-Katrina malaise, and now this: Antoine's is still here, strong as ever, and they're proving it just around the corner, from behind the slow brew bar at Antoine's Annex.
This beautiful, calm space, found at 513 Royal Street, is undeniably the first such public cafe of its kind in the Quarter, featuring pour over V60, siphon and “slow drip” iced coffee. There's an elegance, a formality to the slow bar experience that fits this town to a T, and it doesn't hurt one bit that the Annex pairs its slow bar with ice cream, housemade French pastries, and a delightful outdoor jasmine garden, one of many such private oasis jungles hidden throughout the Quarter. The interior at the Annex is its own sort of oasis; delightful air conditioning, a melange of marble floors, glowing black tabletops, beautifully branded mugs, demitasse and saucers, and a large selection of coffees from local stalwarts Orleans Coffee Exchange. When we visited, we treated ourselves to the classic “Creole Coffee & Chicory”, with plenty of milk and sugar. It tasted like a candy bar.
Sadly absent from the menu was Antoine's world-famous Cafe Brulot, a dessert concoction made from Grand Marnier, cinnamon, sugar, cloves and lemon peels, served flambe. You can find that around the corner at the original Antoine's, along with emblematic dishes like Oysters Rockefeller, Crawfish Cardinal in pastry shell, Trout Almondine and Chateaubriand (for two). Sit in the Rex Room, let them recommend you wine, and stroll around the corner to the Annex for a pour over when you find your legs. This truly is one of the greatest cities in the world, and after 171 years of places like Antoine's, and a few months of pour over service at Antoine's Annex, New Orleans is only getting better.