On New Orleans’ most famous avenue, at the confluence of Aline and Delachaise Streets, lies an oasis of Parisian life where the cheese boards are a-plenty and time passes slowly, as if you were wasting away the evening hours in a nondescript wine bar in the Marais. After nearly 14 years in business and well past the crest of the wine bar trend, the Delachaise continues to thrive while remaining loyal to its original missions of becoming a late-night destination for wine lovers and an anytime hangout for those who enjoy good food and drink in the company of strangers as well as friends.
Starting with the tenure of Chef Chris DeBarr immediately after Katrina, the kitchen at the Delachaise has blended classic French bistro fare with global influences. Take the recent offerings of pâté, which range from a luxurious combination of duck, pork and drunken prunes to a trio of Cambodian seasoned duck, pork and shiitake mushrooms. A recurring special of hand-rolled gnocchi topped with a properly acidic lamb ragu may share equal billing with crispy twice-cooked Cuban pork splashed with orange mojo and paired with fried yuca.
During Mardi Gras, an abbreviated menu may disappoint regulars looking to scratch their Carnival cravings for mofongo or johnny cakes topped with smoked salmon and vodka crème fraiche. But a majority of the kitchen’s top sellers will likely make the cut, including the city’s best french fries, which are fried in goose fat and served with malt vinegar aioli and spicy satay.
The bar program at the Delachaise displays a wide breadth that appeals to all types of imbibers. An extensive selection of wines by the glass is supplemented by daily $5 specials—one each of sparkling, red and white. While the bartenders don’t refer to themselves as mixologists, they can still build a fine Old Fashioned. A short list of craft beers on tap lends legitimacy to a list that otherwise includes many holdovers from the pre–beer nerd era.
For such a narrow building, the interior holds a surprising number of seats spread among a small group of tables at the St. Charles end and opposite the long bar, which is the focal point of the space. Permanent Christmas lights are part of the décor, supplemented by strings of champagne cork cages proudly displayed like notches on a bedpost. The best seats in the house are actually outside on the small patio looking out onto St. Charles, where gas heaters protect against winter chills and misting fans offer some semblance of relief during the summer doldrums. Ice buckets for champagne are, thankfully, available year-round.