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Muriel’s Jackson Square, 801 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA
Every time I go to New Orleans, I make sure to stop in at Muriel’s Jackson Square for lunch.
The first time I went to Muriel’s was in 2011, when I was in New Orleans for a birthday trip. It’s near a few voodoo/magick shops (Voodoo Authentica, French Quarter Gem and Lapidary, Esoterica – I like all that stuff), and after exploring for a few hours, was ready to grab some lunch.
It’s on the “northeast” corner (NOLA is kinda tilted, like Manhattan, but even more so) of Chartres and St Ann. What got me in was the lunch special… and the $4 lunch special martinis. Seeing that was like catnip, especially after coming from New York, home of the $16 martini.
On my recent trip to New Orleans, I went to Muriel’s again to continue the lunch tradition. It was as good as ever, even at the height of Mardi Gras madness. I wanted to share it with you guys.
They focus on Southern/Cajun classics. It’s one of those places where everything on the menu is good – seriously, order anything, you can’t go wrong. I was really in the mood for catfish during this trip (had a catfish po’ boy and a couple other catfish dishes), but this one was unsurprisingly the best I had.
Here’s their lunch menu:
They use high-quality ingredients and the dishes have huge flavor – lots of spices and richness and unexpected combinations. I got the Blackened Mississippi Catfish and my partner got the Crawfish Etouffee. The prices for the entrees are reasonable, especially considering the level of service they offer.
I love the presentation. And of course I had to get a round of dirty vodka martinis. They are delicious.
The menu is extensive and the food is delicious, which is important, but it’s all the other stuff that I love about this place.
Service and decor
The service here is top-notch. I’ve heard others have had a hit-or-miss with the quality of service, but I’ve never known it to be anything other than impeccable. All of the hosts and servers are extremely professional. I’ve always been greeted and seated promptly, and the servers know the menu inside and out. It’s attentive without being overbearing, and the timing of the courses and drinks allows for plenty of time to check out the various rooms and ponder all the history that has happened in this place.
There are various rooms, including the dining room I was in, a “gold” dining room, a “red” dining room, a back bar, an entire upstairs area for private parties, a seance room, and many other little tucked away nooks. The staff is quite used to people wanting to poke around – especially in the seance room – so feel free to have a wander between courses.
I would’ve taken more pics, but it was extremely crowded and I didn’t wanna be “that guy.” The decor is really beautiful, though. It goes from being light and airy, with lots of decadent Southern sophistication in the front, to darker and more intimate further back, then there is a whole bar area which is dim… then the seance room, which is always has a table set with bread and wine to invite the ghost of the deceased owner over for a visit from the other side any time he wants.
Which leads us to…
This is what I love about New Orleans the most: the sense of history that is so tangible there. The architecture and the way the streets are laid out make it easy to imagine all the stuff that’s gone down in times past. You can feel the opulence, the decadence, the past that is still alive in so many ways… walking the streets of New Orleans is a fascinating experience on its own.
But then when you start poking around the history of a place, it enriches everything. There is a history here of voodoo and of magick, of aristocracy, flourishes from the French, some Cajun thrown in, and Southern-fried in a way that makes New Orleans a city unlike any other on the planet.
For Muriel’s specifically, the history is one of player’s clubs, plantation owners, inheritances, oranges, and fire. I know it sounds crazy, and it is. They have a page on their website that details the major events from 1718 to present-day.
There is also supposedly a ghost or two that haunts Muriel’s. Some say this is hogwash, but in any regard, it’s fun to think about, and who knows… there just might be a ghost there. It is New Orleans after all.
Going from the bright entrance to the dark, red and black, dim, and plush inner rooms can be quite the experience, evoking images of bourbon, gambling, and old boys’ clubs. And, on a more tawdry note, quite a few adult films have been shot in those back rooms at Muriel’s… but don’t expect it to happen nowadays.
I wanted to dedicate a post to this place because I’ve always had such a good time here. They consistently impress me with their food and service, and the location on the Square, with all the wonderful decorations, make it such a great place to sit and recoup and think about the City of New Orleans over a couple of dirty martinis. Coming here has become a little ritual for me every time I go down to NOLA, and I was especially impressed by how well they handled the Mardi Gras crush.
If you can visit when it’s not so crazy and take your time exploring the rooms and hanging out, that would be ideal. In any season, though, it can get super busy, so pro tip: make a reservation. It’s worth it.
Has anyone else been to Muriel’s in New Orleans? Any other can’t-miss recommendations for my next NOLA trip, whenever that may be?
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