The Three Muses on Frenchman St. in New Orleans serves not only incredible food, but also a heaping dose of real New Orleans culture.
The Frenchmen pass on Bourbon
On a recent trip to New Orleans my wife, Paulette, and I were directed, by the owner of the B&B where we were staying, to bypass Bourbon St. and head on over to Frenchman St. We were told that Frenchman St. is the locals’ Bourbon St. That was good enough for us as I had grown very weary of the touristy trappings of Bourbon St.
And so it was we found our way just past The French Market, hung a left on Esplanade, then a couple of blocks down to Frenchman. Once we parked a block or so off and walked. When we got there we saw and heard a three piece rock band playing in a vacant corner lot. The three musicians were long haired, shirtless, and unbathed. The drummer had a set of symbols, a base, and a snare, and he was killing it. A bass guitar coupled a lead guitar with a mic and the group was complete. A familiar opened guitar case caught the public’s offerings for their work. We knew immediately this was the place we were looking for.
The vibe is incredible there. It’s gritty, authentic, and honest. The street smells like a city. Not necessarily in a bad way, but your nose tells you exactly where you are on the planet. That’s right Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore. The scene is not about who can be more outrageous or who can consume the most alcohol, no. It’s about people just doing their own thing, trying to make a buck, and having a great time doing it.
Amuse me thrice
While there are several places where you can spend some time on Frenchman, we were told that The Three Muses was worth the price of admission, which is one drink by the way. The Three Muses is a small stage, large bar establishment named for its three proprietors, Sophie Lee, Daniel Esses, and Christopher Starnes. This is a plastic cup and wine glass kinda place. It’s narrow and deep, dimly lit with local art on the walls. It’s loud and crowded with lots of laughing and gathering at the bar and absolutely no pomp and circumstance In other words…it’s perfect. So give your name to the nice lady at the door, spend the hour or two wait roaming up and down Frenchman taking in the sites, and then return to be seated. Oh, there is a vacant lot about a block and a half down where local artists display their work…very cool.
TTM features local musicians playing jazz, blues, rock, and even a little gospel now and then. While there we were treated to Aurora Nealand’s Royal Roses followed by Glen David Andrews. The Royal Roses were incredible; go see them at all costs.
Feed me my muses, feed me
So far we’re doing pretty good here. Great music, check. Great atmosphere, check. Funky, contemporary, chic little joint off of the beaten path, check. Now all we need is some excellent eats to seal the deal, and boy do they deliver.
TTM’s menu is small; one page to be exact. The plates are the same. Their idea of service reminds me of tapas style eating, which is small plates from a varied menu. I love love this type of dining. The diner, that’s you, gets to choose from items across the menu. There’s no committing to a large entrée and the salad and sides that accompany.
So it kinda goes like this. You get yourself an expertly prepared drink and enjoy some excellent music; you order a little plate and enjoy while listening to some great music and share with others at the table and their little plates; you order another drink and laugh a little more; you order a different little plate, as do others with you and so on. Lather, rinse, and repeat well into the night or until they close, which is sometime between when the light disappears in the west and reappears in the east.
A more than amusing menu
We started off with the Feta Fries. I mean who doesn’t want some hand cut, perfectly browned, salty, pungent, little sticks of goodness? Then we quickly ordered the Tempura Shrimp, a moment please while I collect myself….thank you.
This unassuming little dish, served in an equally unassuming little bowl, was incredible. Now this isn’t your Chinese buffet sweet and sour shrimp, far from it. The shrimp are cut into pieces, lightly battered, fried to perfection, and dressed with this incredible sweet Chinese mustard sauce, and served. You see the thing about cutting the shrimp into smaller pieces is that the crunch factor goes up by about 10.
Hey you, yeah you reading this…knock, knock…go get that dish. I’m telling you this is a simple, straightforward dish that is expertly executed, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
After a little while of enjoying where we are Paulette orders the Steak and Cake, and I go for the Smoked Duck Pizza because I’ve been eyeing that little beauty all night. Oh yeah my little friend, you’re going down.
The Steak and Cake is a small piece of hanger steak cooked to your liking, served atop a crab cake, and topped with Béarnaise sauce. All was well and good, but Paulette and I both picked up an overpowering fishy flavor towards the end of the dish. I suspect either the crab meat was too far past prime, or frozen/thawed claw was used. Either way we decided it was a minor setback because the plate was returned empty.
On the other side of the table was my Smoked Duck Pizza. Do yourself a favor and order it with a soft fried duck egg on top. I think they snuck a chicken egg on mine judging by the relatively small yolk to white ratio but no matter because it was delicious. You see what you have here is locally sourced duck, brussel sprout leaves, tiki masala tomato sauce, and a little Fontina and goat cheese thrown in for good measure. Serve that on a wafer thin, slightly charred crust and that my friends is a winner.
Let the muses amaze you
TTM is one of those places you are looking to find. Trust me on this. It’s a jazz bar, gastro-pub, and speakeasy all rolled into one. When you walk in it feels fresh and familiar at the same time. Excellent local musicians playing great tunes, a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, and truly great food is what you can expect. Mix in the local vibe of Frenchman St. and you have a place I will go to again and again. Besides, I gotta get some more of those shrimp.