Bacchanal: A backyard oasis in New Orleans’ Bywater

Bacchanal Wine
600 Poland Ave., New Orleans, La.

The Pitch  New Orleans has no shortage of excellent places to (literally) stumble upon for a great drink. It is, after all, where the cocktail was invented. As one cannot subside on chicory coffee and Hurricanes alone, an excellent wine is always is order. You’ll find some of the most impressive bottles in one of the most unexpected, unpretentious places: Bacchanal. Founded as a hangout for locals in 2002, well before gentrification in Bywater, Bacchanal has since evolved into a wine store, restaurant, bar, music venue and more.

What We Love  Bacchanal’s unmarked and unassuming brick exterior betrays what’s going on inside. Visitors enter into a storefront stocked floor to ceiling — and when I visited, the better part of the floor — with wines of every region, varietal and price point. Rare gems are to be found, with a focus on old-world vintages from smaller producers.  There is no bad way to experience Bacchanal. You could sample at the store’s bar and purchase a bottle to go if you like. But you really, really should buy a bottle, have staff pop it in a plastic bucket and drink it in the garden accompanied by some of their outstanding small plates for snacking.

Bacchanal’s backyard is a tree-canopied oasis that feels a bit like a barbecue party at your best friend’s place. Mismatched patio furniture dots the garden, with tiny tables tucked into corners for canoodling, or pushed together for maximum socializing. Patio lanterns and lights are strung in every possible manner. It’s a wonderful place for lunch and an afternoon tipple in the sunshine. At night, it sparkles with absolute magic.

Don’t Miss The food, which is superb. El Salvadorian chef Joaquin Rhodas spent time in Los Angeles and Chicago before landing here, and he has created a menu that’s perfect for sharing with friends and pairing with old-world wines. The ceviche, bacon-wrapped dates and dark chocolate with olive oil are all standouts — and all served on paper plates, as they should be. If you can, time your visit to the live music; performances happen regularly.

Drinks from US$9, food from US$5

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