The Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans is one of the more up and coming areas of the city that tend to draw tourists who want to experience the city as a local might. Located down river from the French Quarter, the Bywater is located in the Upper Ninth Ward of the city, a neighborhood that is undergoing a transformation from its pre-Katrina days. While there are many popular establishments located in the Bywater, the place to draw the most out-of-towners is Bacchanal, the wine bar and live music venue located at the bottom of the Bywater, where the Industrial Canal meets the Mississippi River.
Bacchanal began as a sleepy little wine bar on the outskirts of the city and slowly became a local favorite before emerging as an underdog champion after Katrina. The bar evolved around wine and is dedicated to “Old World-style wine from smaller producers that truly reflect the regions and soils they are grown in.” Upon first walking into Bacchanal, you pass through a small wine shop lined with rows and rows of hand-picked wines, mostly from Europe, but with a selection of domestic wines and some found in the Southern Hemisphere as well. You can choose to purchase a bottle at the counter upon entering and then grab glasses to head out to the patio.
The patio is what Bacchanal really special. Lit up with Christmas lights at night, the open yard looks like a festive garden party. Tables and chairs are scattered throughout, but it does tend to fill up quickly, so make sure you get there early to stake out a spot. There are seats upstairs indoors, but sitting upstairs prevents you from enjoying the live music from the patio stage. On every day of the week, the patio stage is filled with local musicians playing everything from Gypsy and traditional jazz to blues. The music and the patio lights create a perfect atmosphere and ambiance to relax and enjoy with friends and families.
The kitchen at Bacchanal serves up some of my favorite dishes in the city and they are always changing and rotating to include fresh, seasonal ingredients. The menu includes a lot of small plates that are delicious and great for sharing, including a bread and butter plate with four different kinds of butter and a serving of some of the most delicious marinated olives in the city. Bacchanal prides itself on its Mediterranean roots, so you’ll find seafood dishes with sardines, calamari and mussels, prepared to pair well with many of the wines in stock.
A night at Bacchanal is a one stop shop. You’ll find wine, a fully stocked bar upstairs, a comprehensive kitchen and live music.