Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Port of Call: Is It Worth It?

The d/b/a of this restaurant is Port of Call, but anyone who has crossed its threshold knows the F is silent. Before the great burger expansion, Port O' Call was by far the most talked about burger restaurant in the city. Port O' Call has all the hallmarks of a New Orleans Classic: long lines, shabby interior, limited menu, non-existent parking, and overproofed drinks. A few years ago, I accidentally walked six or so miles on an otherwise perfect spring Saturday morning, and the overwhelming majority of eavesdropped conversations seemed to suggest Port o' Call was the post-race lunch spot.

There will be a wait, but if you move quickly, and have a small party, you can score a few stools along the bar. You might as well go ahead and order a drink loaded with rum and fruit juices. It will come in a cup large enough to bail out a sailboat. It doesn't really matter which drink you choose, they all taste similar and deliver intoxicating results. 

Let's go back to the Burger Manifest Destiny, which swept across New Orleans in the last eighteen months. There are better burgers elsewhere than at Port O' Call. Juicier, thinner patties with crispier toppings, softer buns, and actual melted cheese. A burger cooked over medium elsewhere in town probably won't be mealy and dry. There are gourmet mayos, side orders worth a detour, and craft beers brewed by an ex-Belgian rugby player. Those are the burgers a la mode. The burger at Port O' Call has already won its awards; already had its time in the spotlight. But, and this is important, there may be no better place to eat a burger than in Port O' Call. 

Now, my interior decorating skills are often ridiculed by people with taste, but the inside of Port o' Call with its flotsam and jetsam speaks to my inner Tiki aficionado. The dark, wooden space is staffed with a cast of  salty bartenders. Early in the day, the customers have the well-worn face of a previous long night. Later in the afternoon, this will give way to people on their way to a long night. With all the fishing nets, sailing lanterns, and nautical bric-a-brac, it is a deep sea dive bar that I find it enchanting.

When ordered medium or below, the burger comes out juicy and soft underneath a crusty patina of char. The baked potato comes with Bacon Bits, which until bacon's resurgence as a major culinary force in the last ten years, were fairly popular. Now, of course Bacon Bits are a relic of another era. Of an era before farmer's markets and gourmet burgers before locally sourced, upscale pub food and Yelp fueled fanaticism. Before a world where every new restaurant looks exactly like the other one that opened a month ago. Same goes for Port O' Call itself. Every now and then, it is a welcome diversion to go back in time.

Port of Call: Is it worth it? Once every few years or so, yes.
(504) 523-0120
838 Esplanade Ave.
Closed Mondays.

*Lindsay's two cents: "You are crazy. My burger was terrible and the prices are way too high. This is definitely not worth it. You just like it because you want a Tiki bar to open."


John said...

"But, and this is important, there may be no better place to eat a burger than in Port O' Call."

Agreed. While burgers at other places may be better on their own, there is NO other place that stands up to the entire experience of Port of Call. The dim light, monsoon, and burger (with heaping of shredded cheese) combine to form an experience greater than its individual parts.

Megan said...

I always thought the sleeper on the menu was their pizza... Pre-Katrina of course. I haven't been in a while but I don't think they have resurrected it yet.

Becky said...

I haven't even eaten there in probably three years, but I drop in for a go Monsoon every so often. They're a good starter drink for about 2:00 on a hot Saturday afternoon. And although they initially appear pricey at $10, once you see how long the bartender pours the rums in there it starts to seem like a bargain.

Anonymous said...

I agree with this review. Top-notch establishment, good enough hamburger.

kibbles said...

love POC. i actually enjoy the cold, shredded (in house; as well as the meat grindin') cheddar...i love the way my front teeth sheer thru it, leaving tracks.

the meat is good, delivered daily. even the filet is pretty decent for a bar -- $28 for a filet, potato, bread and salad is a deal, too.

dont get the claims of too-pricey -- the $10 monsoons will last you the whole meal, im a big guy and cant drink two. and the burger + potato is, what, $11? for full, sit-down service....whats the problem w/ that, again? Company Burger is $8 for counter service, no side. plus i never finish the whole thing so get two meals out of it.

its a dive bar. its a tikki bar. they know your name and do ya right. when we go its our Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I really don't like the grated cheese but that's a minor complaint.

Rene said...


Here is the funny thing about the grated cheese. People may not be wild about it on the burger, but 97% of people in a recent poll agree it rocks on the baked potato.

Anonymous said...

"Port O' Call has all the hallmarks of a New Orleans Classic: long lines, shabby interior, limited menu, non-existent parking, and overproofed drinks."

Rene, you are really getting in tune with zeitgeist of this place we call home. Keep it up.