We follow a family story that leads across the Mississippi River to Algiers Point, and the tight-knit circuit of restaurants that make the neighborhood so inviting for short excursions.
I didn't grow up in New Orleans, but after being married a few years now to someone who did, some of the family stories are starting to feel a little bit like my own. This especially applies to those shared by my wife's grandfather, my grandfather in law, I suppose.
He grew up in Mid-City and in the 1940s when he met his future wife she happened to live across the Mississippi River in Algiers Point. He describes ferry rides from Canal Street to the Point and, once there, the strolls they’d take around the neighborhood, with frequent visits to what he called family bars.
Family bars? These, he explained, were neighborhood watering holes, taverns, where the family owners lived on premises and were always on premises. What's more, they were always looking out for a neighborhood girl seen with someone from outside the neighborhood. When he stopped in for a beer, he’d be given a plate of food from whatever was cooking in back, and presented with a whole a lot of questions about background and intent.
This tale of his youth stuck with me and it's refreshed each time I visit Algiers Point, which has changed a great deal in the intervening generations but still does keep that tight knit feel I envisioned from his story.
That feeling has been especially resonant on visits to Algiers Point during the past year. That’s because the ferry service here has been on the ropes. Budget cuts and the elimination of bridge tolls that once funded the ferry led to a severely curtailed schedule. When the last ferry left in the early evening, it truly felt like the last ship had sailed, and the neighborhood was on its own. In the restaurants and bars, it sometimes felt a little more cozy, like a lock-in almost, but it was definitely not good for business.
Well, the good news is the ferry schedule has been partially extended again, beginning this week. And that comes with a marketing campaign by the ferry operators to get more people to ride it and support its future with fares. On Wednesdays this summer, there’s a free, after-work concert series on the levee here in Algiers Point, called Wednesdays on the Point. That should get more people on the ferry.
But I’ve always had a soft spot for the small circuit of restaurants and bars here anyway, starting with the Dry Dock Café, an Algiers answer to a waterfront restaurant, and right next door, Vine & Dine, a laidback wine bar, wine shop and restaurant that’s hidden behind a barber shop.
There’s the Crown & Anchor, an English-style pub built into an old shotgun house, and the Old Point Bar and Louie’s Corner Bar. The café Tout de Suite is an essential stop for a breakfast visit, and Algiers Point has also recently marked the return of Peter Vasquez, a well known local chef who sells prepared dishes for home from his Appetite Repair Shop.
You can drive to these places anytime, but that’s not like being transported over by the ferry. That’s a journey full of New Orleans history, and as I’m beginning to appreciate the more I sink into New Orleans family life, one with some personal history too.
Appetite Repair Shop
400 Vallette St., New Orleans, (504) 602-9990
200 Pelican Ave., New Orleans, (504) 227-1007
133 Delaronde St, New Orleans, (504) 361-8240
Louie’s Corner Bar
500 Elmira Ave, New Orleans, (504) 366-7487
Old Point Bar
545 Patterson Dr, New Orleans, (504) 364-0950
Tout de Suite
347 Verret St., New Orleans, (504) 362-2264
141 Delaronde St., New Orleans, (504) 361-1402
For ferry schedule updates and information, see www.nolaferries.com
Free concerts each Wednesday through Aug. 27 on the levee by the Algiers Point ferry landing, from 5:30-8:30 p.m.