As soon as I stepped into St. Joe’s on the corner of Magazine and Joseph Streets, I was immediately upset that it took me so long to finally get there. Ever since that crazy first year in New Orleans with Shalom, I developed an affinity for the “dive bar” and St. Joe’s delivers. The wooden bar is long and narrow with a shortage of available seating; one small table at the front window and stools along the bar. The combination of dim lighting, religious iconography and a bunch of old fashioned mirrors gives the space a Gothic feel but the drinks are what it’s all about.
When I asked for a cocktail recommendation from Paul, a longtime fixture of St. Joe’s who’s been intoxicating patrons for the past ten years, he suggested I try their signature drink, the Blueberry Mojito. Since I have been literally inundated by mojitos in the past few months, I really wanted to try something different.
Patient with my indecision, Paul kindly offered another option, a margarita. But what makes this margarita different from any other? St. Joe’s creates their own sour mix with fresh lemon and lime juice, exactly how a traditional margarita should be. With speed, precision and a heavy hand, Paul whipped up a delicious, yet classic margarita in a tall pint glass with brightly colored salt around the rim.
The simple cocktail was tart and refreshing (not syrupy-sweet) and I found it difficult not to gulp the concoction like a fresh glass of lemonade. When Paul noticed me taking notes and snapping pictures, he said “If you’ve never been here before, you should go check out the back.” I looked past the small pool table and turned back to my most helpful bartender and said “There’s a back?”
If he hadn’t told me I never would have known, but if you venture through the large door behind the pool table, traverse a small storage room and come outside, there is a wonderful patio space that you never would imagine existing in a bar like St. Joe’s. Past some larger tables, they have built a gazebo-like structure featuring a full bar with a mixed Asian-themed decor! Large brass Indian statues and Taj Mahal cut lattices are lit from above by a large cluster of red Japanese lanterns. Although no one was out there (it was still early in the evening), I was told that hanging out in the back was the “place to be.” It certainly looked like a party waiting to happen…I could just picture clusters of people out in the “Shangri-La” patio having the time of their lives.
By the time I returned to the main bar, I had finished my margarita and I was ready to break down and try the Blueberry Mojito. I was a little nervous because fruity-flavored mojitos I have tried in the past severely disappointed, but this was something else. By muddling dried blueberries with sugar and fresh mint, they have created a fruit mojito that surprised me by being absolutely awesome. It wasn’t too sweet and the blueberries simply added to the summery feel that is already a distinct characteristic of the original cocktail.
As I sat and sipped, I couldn’t help thinking how much fun I could have had at St. Joe’s if I had only taken that first step inside the bar almost seven years ago. A little sadness seeped into my previously chipper mood when I realized how much I had missed, even though I thought my local bar repertoire was pretty complete.
I raised my glass and made a private little toast…here’s to making up for lost time!