Oct 28, 2014

A commoner reviews Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans

Since it’s so close to Halloween, it only seems appropriate that I blog about a haunted bar.  It also happens to be one of my favorite bars in New Orleans. 

I know … you've heard this before, but let me explain why Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is no ordinary bar, even without its ghostly reputation.  It’s a historical landmark that’s significant on many levels. 

Pay no attention to the passed out gentleman in the chair.  
See the exterior of the building? It stands out, and not just because it looks like it could collapse at any moment.  Built somewhere between 1722 and 1772 (depending on your source), it’s one of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter and one of the few French provincial style buildings to survive the city’s great fires at the beginning of the 19th Century. 

He appears to be unimpressed.
Then there’s the bar’s namesake and most famous proprietor, at least according to legend – the pirate Jean Lafitte.  The historical evidence surrounding his ownership is sketchy, but most storytellers believe he likely used the building and the businesses there as fronts for selling his contraband.  As you can see, his portrait still stands watch in a corner of the bar … and maybe his spirit does, too.  More on that in a bit.

And there’s the legend that Lafitte’s is one of the oldest continuously operated bars in the United States.  That makes it fitting in a way that you’ll find Lafitte’s on Bourbon Street, although on the quieter end away from the loud music and raucous party atmosphere.  You go to Lafitte’s for a much more laid back drinking experience.  The ambiance there makes you feel like you've stepped a couple of centuries back in time when you’re there.  And to get the true effect, you must go at night. 

Notice the bar still operates with no electrical lighting.  It’s all candlelight …

 … even in the back where patrons literally sit around the piano player.  It makes for a very cozy environment to share libations and conversation.   

Of course, the minimal lighting also helps perpetuate a certain level of spookiness surrounding the place.  The fireplace in particular is reportedly a focal point for supernatural phenomena.  People get chills around it, and some people have reported seeing a pair of red eyes in the fireplace that belong to Jean Lafitte himself.  His spirit also supposedly likes to appear in dark corners of the building and suddenly vanish when spotted. 

I see no reason to doubt any of this.  If I were Jean Lafitte, I wouldn't want to leave this place, either.  But then again, it’s also very possible these apparitions are due to over-served patrons with overactive imaginations.  You decide.  

Because of these legends, Lafitte’s is famous for one more thing – it’s the haunted bar where most ghost or haunted history tours in the Quarter take tourists for a drink. 

Aside from the history and mystery surrounding Lafitte’s, there’s the fact that it’s a pretty darn good bar.  And the reviews support me.  The bartenders know their drinks, and they make them well.  There are cheaper places to drink in the Quarter, but there are also a lot more expensive and less interesting places on Bourbon Street that will happily take a lot more of your money.  It’s because of Lafitte’s low-key vibe and unique aura that I love to make this one of my final stops of the night whenever I’m bar hopping in the area. 

If you go to New Orleans and visit the French Quarter at night, you owe it to yourself to drop by Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop and check it out.  And have a drink in honor of New Orleans' favorite pirate.

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