Here’s an idea for your next New Orleans trip: Stop in at an historic pub with a French connection and enjoy a British cocktail along with a sandwich invented a few blocks away; have some Creole food on the side; and finish up with an Italian dessert. This could only happen at the Napoleon House, at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis in the Vieux Carré.
Built in 1794, the National Historic Landmark came into the possession of New Orleans mayor Nicholas Girod in 1814, who is said to have hatched a plan to spirit the exiled Napoleon to the third floor of his home to live out the rest of his days. The plan was rendered moot by Napoleon’s death in 1821, but the house has retained his name ever since.
New Orleans is associated with an inordinate number of cocktails, many actually invented in the city, like the Sazerac, the Hurricane, and that brunch favorite, the Brandy Milk Punch. Some are inextricably tied to a particular restaurant, one being the Pimms Cup and the Napoleon House. How this came to be, we have no idea, but everyone in town knows that if you want a Pimms Cup (invented not in New Orleans, but in England), the Napoleon House is the place to go. It’s a classic summertime refresher (the cucumber garnish is a dead giveaway).
The Italian cold cut and olive salad-stuffed round bread loaf known as the muffuletta was created at the Central Grocery, also in the French Quarter. Purists decry a heated muffuletta as an abomination, but for the rest of us, Napoleon House’s toasted muffuletta is a pleasure to tear into. Its olive salad is relatively mellow, speaking more of celery than of olives. Add to that the melted cheese and crunch of the toasted loaf and the effect is totally different from that of a Central Grocery muff.
The menu also includes a variety of “poor boys” (usually known around town as po-boys) as well as such local favorites as red beans and rice and gumbo; but most of the rest of the menu consists of things like salads and sandwiches of no particular provenance. The dessert menu features spumoni, cannoli, tortoni … like you’d find in a Little Italy cafe. Of course.