The French influence on Louisiana and New Orleans is unmistakable, possibly even overstated at the expense of our significant Spanish heritage. However, Napoleon’s influence definitely gets the short end of the stick (I apologize, but it won’t be the last). What many tourists never see and some locals don’t know, is that New Orleans has honored Napoleon by naming streets after the diminutive emperor and some of his more well renowned battles: Milan, Austerlitz (arguably his greatest victory), Marengo and Waterloo (now called General Pershing so as to blot out the failure), to name a few.
New Orleans’ love of Napoleon goes way back. In fact, in 1821 a plan was hatched to rescue Napoleon from exile, bring him to the New World and re-install him as emperor, only across the world. As part of the plan, a house in the French Quarter was secured for him to live in. Napoleon died on May 5, 1821, before the rescue plan could be implemented. The house offered up as his refuge, still bears his name and stands as a virtual shrine to the conqueror of the Old World, as countless prints, paintings and sculptures inside bear his likeness.
In the typical French Quarter style, the Napoleon House’s facade gives no indication of the fantastic inner courtyard that awaits. With ample shade, the courtyard provides an amazing oasis for locals and tourists alike for lunch and a few drinks. On the warmer days, nothing can keep you cooler than a Pimm’s Cup, the House’s refreshing signature drink.
The Pimm’s Cup may be the signature drink, but the muffuletta is the star of the show. A classic New Orleans sandwich consisting of meats, cheeses and olive salad on round Sicilian sesame bread. The Napoleon House version stacks on the ham, Genoa salami, pastrami, swiss and provolone cheeses and a homemade Italian olive salad.
Two things about the Napoleon House muffuletta that make it the city’s best in my eyes, the olive salad is way more than just olives and they lightly toast the muffuletta to give it some crunch and barely melt the cheese. Toasting the sandwich brings a little bit of warmth to the mound of bread, gently melts the provolone and swiss cheeses and draws out a bit of the juices from the various meats, bringing the flavors out just that much more. The beauty of the olive salad is it’s more than just olives, with celery, onion, red and green peppers and the occasional carrot piece. There are olives in there, but they aren’t allowed to dominate the sandwich as the are at many other shops. Word to the wise, most people don’t need more than a half to fill their belly.
But the Napoleon House isn’t just a two-trick pony, po-boys, jambalaya, red beans and other favorites grace the menu. With such fantastic entrees, its pretty easy to quickly zoom past the appetizers. If you do, you’ll miss out on great boudin or bruchetta.
Don’t feel like eating? Belly up to the historic bar and enjoy that Pimm’s Cup or order up another New Orleans classic, the Sazerac. Beware it’s not for everyone.
In all, the Napoleon House only comes up short (zing!) in that it isn’t open seven days a week, closing its doors on Sundays. One last word of advice, if you want that fantastic courtyard spot, you may want to head in a little early to beat the rush.
500 Charters Street (Corner of Charters and St. Louis)
New Orleans LA
Open Monday 11:00-5:30
Tuesday through Friday 11:00-10:00
This post originally appeared on Go Nola.