One can’t talk tiki without mentioning Beachbum Berry. Before the re-emergence of tiki in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, he was already rediscovering and cracking the code to many lost and secret drink recipes from tiki’s glory days. He has also written numerous books about tiki drink history, Polynesian food, and of course, recipes. It was only a matter of time before he would join his legendary predecessors like “Trader” Vic Bergeron, and Donn Beach, and open his own tiki bar. In November 2014, he did just that, opening Latitude 29 in the famed French Quarter of New Orleans.
Since New Orleans is not terribly far from Dallas, Todd and I decided to head out there for a couple of days, and check out Latitude 29, as well as the rest of the local color in the city. It was an 8 hour drive, but not out of the question. After checking into our hotel, we walked a short 18 minutes and reached our destination.
When we walked in, we were immediately drawn to all the amazing tiki art and lamps, all of it appropriately decked out for the holidays with colorful lights, ornaments, and tinsel. The amount of detail given to the space is truly impressive. The bar is divided into three sections: The lounge area, which is visible immediately when you walk in, the bar area, and a dining area, which is separated from the bar and lounge by a wall. The whole place was dimly lit, as any good tiki bar should be, with only a small amount of daylight coming in. Annene, the Bum’s darling wife, greeted us, and it was really awesome to get to meet her.
Todd and I promptly took a seat at the bar, where the bartender, Drew, was slinging drinks like a champ. Despite how busy he was, he was extremely pleasant, engaging, and I’ll be darned if he doesn’t make one hell of an amazing drink. I started off with the signature Latitude 29, which bowled me over. I am a huge fan of passionfruit, and if you are too, I strongly suggest you start here. The drink comes in a Collins glass, wrapped in what looks like a banana leaf, and also comes with a swizzle. Todd went straight for the Zombie, and noted its cinnamon-heavy flavor, and its smoothness. We were having a hard time deciding on Round Two. One of the detriments of having so many awesome options is having to decide on one. In the end, we went with a Rum Barrel, and decided to share it. I had never seen a drink so crazily and elaborately garnished. It, too, was absolutely delicious. Drew was even kind enough to let us have a taste of the new Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum, which is not out yet, from what I hear. For an overproof rum, it was really smooth! I had to sip mine very slowly, though, as rum tends to sneak up on me quickly. We shared one final drink that night, a Mai Tai, and this one tasted very similar to the best one I’ve had, which was at Bootlegger Tiki in Palm Springs.
We enjoyed Latitude 29 so much, that we decided to return the next day and have both dinner and drinks. I went for the Dumpling Burger, and Todd opted for the Chicken Katsu, with a small side of fries to share. My burger was awesome, and came with a dipping sauce that set it off perfectly. It inspired me to try it at home. Todd really enjoyed the chicken, and it was topped with what I can only describe as an Asian-style sweet and sour barbecue sauce. He also liked the macaroni salad that came with it. The french fries are skinny (my fave), and come with kimchi ketchup and Sriracha mayo. Both were fantastic. As far as cocktails, I went for the Latitude 29 again, while Todd went for a T.O.T.C. Swizzle (That’s Tales of the Cocktail), which had two overproof rums in it, and was a bit heavy for me, but right up Todd’s alley. Round Two consisted of a Banshee for me (my first tiki drink with banana in it!), and a Navy Grog for Todd. My Banshee was silky smooth, and I loved the coconut moai ice cube garnish. Todd’s Navy Grog was the most attractively served one I have ever seen, and tasted pretty darn good, too. Our final drink, the Ponchartrain Pearl Diver, was awesome. I loved how rich it was!
After two nights at Latitude 29, we were sad to have to go home the next day. The plan was to leave around 1PM, so we could be home around 9 or 10 PM. That never came to fruition, as our morning in the French Quarter extended to early afternoon. We were driving out, ready to leave the city, when I spotted a parking spot open on the block Latitude 29 was on, and I made a last minute decision that we would stop in for one last drink. That decision proved to be most fortuitous. We walked in, and Annene warmly welcomed us back to the bar, and then told us that the Bum himself was there that day. We took our places at the end of the bar, and within a few minutes, he came out to say hello to us. I think I cupped my hands to my face, because I really was THAT thrilled to finally meet him. We talked a good while about all sorts of stuff – tiki art, bartending, cocktail-appropriate rums, and other tiki-related things. He snapped a photo with us, and also took the time to sign our copies of Sippin’ Safari, and Remixed. He was the absolute warmest person, and made us feel like ohana.
I can’t say enough wonderful things about Latitude 29. If you don’t have a reason to go to New Orleans, make one up, and go visit. The drinks and food are top notch, service is attentive and friendly, and you might catch a glimpse of the Bum himself being the gracious host that he is. My experience was memorable, to say the least, and I hope to be back to visit soon. To Drew, Sam, Annene, and the Bum, THANK YOU!!
For more information about Latitude 29, please visit their website at www.Latitude29NOLA.com
For Beachbum Berry’s website, including links to purchase his awesome swag, books, and get some recipes, go to www.BeachbumBerry.com