It's some steps away from the main action on Bourbon, but you'll know Lafitte's when you see it. Dating from the 1770s, it's the oldest building in the Quarter -- possibly in the Mississippi Valley (though that's not documented) -- and it looks it. Legend has it that the privateer brothers Pierre and Jean Lafitte used the smithy as a "blind" for their lucrative trade in contraband (and, some say, slaves they'd captured on the high seas). Like all legends, that's probably not true.
The owner managed to maintain the exposed brick interior when he rescued the building from deterioration in the 1940s. At night when you step inside and it's entirely lit by candles (Offbeat magazine claims Lafitte's patented the word dank), the past of the Lafitte brothers doesn't seem so distant. (Unfortunately, the owner's penchant for treating good friends such as Tennessee Williams and Lucius Beebe to refreshments was stronger than his business acumen, and he eventually lost the building.) In other towns, this would be a tourist trap. Here, it feels authentic, though a renovation on the outside ended up falsifying the previous genuine plaster-and-exposed-brick look, turning it into something rather plastic in appearance. We still don't understand why. And for some reason, it's almost always easy to get into, even on a crowded Mardi Gras day. Definitely worth swinging by even if you don't drink.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Romantic Bar 2006 – Audience Winner
- Romantic Bar 2007 – Audience Winner
- Highly Recommended 2010
- Very Highly Recommended 2009
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