B Mac’s French Quarter Bar & Courtyard has brought its cook-off challenge back, but this time the contest spans the football season.
Instead of having only one cook-off challenge, B Macs announced last month that it will be having one cook-off challenge per month. The first challenge was a red beans cook-off on Sept. 18, but there’s three more you can still participate in.
The next event is is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15 at 11:30 a.m. with a chili cook-off, followed by a gumbo cook-off on Sunday, Nov. 12 and a Christmas side dish cook-off on Dec. 21.
To participate, all contestants are required to sign up no later than seven days before each event. Winners are announced at halftime for each Saints game.
It’s four a.m. and I just woke up from another job-related nightmare. I was getting up in another hour anyways. Perhaps these painful dreams of work will be exercised from my subconscious if I write them down. I won’t claim to suffer from any form of PTSD., let’s save that for the combat veterans and victims of serious crimes. Still, I’ve seen some pretty fucked up shit in my years of French Quarter employment.
My position? Morning clean-up guy in a couple of dive bars right off Bourbon Street. It’s every bit as gruesome as it sounds. Imagine a melancholy Tom Waits song about mopping up vomit. I’ve been doing this for so long, not only can I tell you that the puddle contains hurricanes and gumbo, but that it looks like it originated from Pat O’Brien’s. It’s not a career for the weak or cowardly. These are some highlights from my cringe scrapbook.
I hose off the sidewalk every morning. Picture Jackson Pollock with a bad stomach virus. There is no way to feel cool about yourself while hosing off a soiled condom stuck to the lid of the city garbage can. I’ve seen so much blood in and out of the bars, it’s like analyzing a crime scene as I clean. “Janitorial Forensics” as I like to refer to it. Blood drops and spilled drinks with shoe prints tracking through it all.
Walking into work about 7 a.m one morning, I was greeted by a bartender with a distant dead stare in his eyes. He had a welt on his forehead, and his hair and the objects behind him were splattered with candle wax. I only asked, “Did you kick out a hooker last night?” He silently nodded yes. I felt like Sherlock Holmes.
Years ago, when I worked at the hotel across the street, I was hosing a rather large puddle of dried blood with a trail starting from Bourbon Street, leading to the front of what is now the Ra Shop. As I rinsed the sidewalk, a tooth skipped across from of the water. “Someone was an asshole to the wrong person last night.” A couple days later I ran into a door guy at the club on the opposite corner, his right hand was bandaged. My buddy lamented, “I was aiming for the side of his head, but he turned into it. Sliced my hand on his teeth. He lost a few, hope I don’t catch anything.” I casually motioned to my corner, “He went that way?” A nod of yes confirmed my conclusion.
One might be surprised to find out how difficult it is to hose a butt plug down a gutter. I guess it has to do with how it’s shaped. Where the fuck did it come from? Did it just fall out? Did someone get bored with it and just reach back and pluck it out? Perhaps it just fell out of a pocket, I told myself as many gallons of hose water were used to prompt the bright red sex toy to the sewer grate on Bourbon Street. It should wash out to the river after the next storm and from there, flow down to the Gulf of Mexico where it will lodge into the blow hole of a baby dolphin — IF everything goes according to my diabolical plan.
I find some disgusting things in the gutter as well. One time I found a toe. An actual little toe from a human, like in the movie, “The big Lebowski.” That’s how I recognized what it was. I leaned down real close, rinsed it and looked a little closer — yea, a fucking toe. Didn’t surprise me a bit. We see idiots all the time wearing flip flops, sandals or even barefoot. Good, you deserved it. I won’t wear anything less than Doc Marten on that wreckage-strewn street. Hosing the tiny grayish appendage down the gutter, I amused myself with a lousy John Goodman impression: “You want a toe, Dude? I can get you a toe. Hell, I can get you a toe by three o’clock. With nail polish.”
I pondered if I had any obligation to report it to proper authorities. Nah. Teeth, toes, they don’t care. What if I found an entire foot? Would I phone it in, then? Probably not. I just would pretend I didn’t notice it and let the city workers deal with it. An entire leg? Hm, maybe. Odds are the owner didn’t get very far.
Another morning I walked into the men’s room and stopped dead in my tracks. Looking down right in the middle of the floor. “REALLY GUYS?! I would expect this in the women’s room, but not in ours.” I leaned down and squinted. “Oh wait, it’s just a cigar. Sorry men, as you were.” Ask any janitor, the women’s bathroom is always many times worse. “We’re out of paper in the ladies’ room.” “No, you’re not. There’s a half a fucking roll strewn all over the floor. Every morning it looks like goddamn mischief night in there.” This is why I don’t date anymore. I’ve been cleaning ladies’ rooms for so long that I want nothing to do with you nasty assed bitches. They all act like they don’t even fart, yet there is crap on top of the toilet tank. Somehow the glitter makes it all OK, I guess.
You must stay up with the graffiti, too. If you let one tag slide the next day, there will be three more. Inspecting the women’s room one gloomy morning I was greeted by “MEN R PIGS” written on our ivory tile wall. Upon examining the scrawl to determine the best removal method, I realized it was in fact written in blood. I chuckled at the irony of this self-own. Do used tampons work like felt-tipped markers? Total lack of self-awareness on her part. I gloved up for the procedure and laughed thinking about a troll response. I should write beneath it: “NO WE’RE NOT” in semen. That would’ve been counterproductive to my job, though. Besides, I’m not that young anymore. Maybe I could’ve squeezed out enough to write just “NO.” Not nearly as clever.
Why did I wake up this morning screaming? Have you ever had to plunge a fetus? There is no coming back from that.
French Quarter-area residents and tourists received a scare earlier this month that Buffa’s Bar and Restaurant announced that it was on the brink of going out of business, but then the bar did an about-face and said danger was averted, at least for now, after people started showing up.
On July 2, Buffa’s posted an article on social media stating that it will “likely” close sometime that week, with the owners citing “skyrocketing rent, high overhead costs and a decline in tourism and clientele.” The day before, Buffa’s ominously posted “the last brunch,” along with a recorded video of its usual Sunday jazz brunch.
The article said a miracle was needed and something resembling that happened: people started patronizing the shit outta the place.
“Like many things on social media, rumors of our closing have been a little exaggerated,” Buffa’s said in a July 3 post. “The situation is dire, that much is true. But we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community. We were busy enough on Sunday to postpone closing a little bit. Every day we can do that allows us to discover and explore other options.”
Buffa’s takes its name after Vincent Buffa, who opened the bar on the corner of Burgundy Street and Esplanade Avenue in 1939. Since then, the place has become what some have described as a “staple” or an “institution.”
Despite surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in numerous local businesses shutting down, Buffa’s is instead faced with the prospect of shuttering its doors due to declining business.
Buffa’s has, at least for now, avoided closing after an outpouring of support, but warns the situation is still “very fluid” and has asked that regulars make a stop there at least once a month.
The business said that if enough people frequent the establishment on a regular basis, it’ll stay open, but also pleaded with the community to do the same for other family-owned businesses.
“They are hurting too,” the bar stated. “If you could find 3 or 4 places you love to go every month, and your friends did that as well, so many of the places we love in New Orleans would not be facing the ominous prospect of going out of business forever.”
Buffa’s told its staff that it’ll “deal with the future when it gets here,” although right now the place is focusing on saying open. “We promise to hang in there as long as we can,” Buffa’s owners said.
Picture courtesy of Turtle Bay. Christopher and Joanna Gargiule will be bartending their last shifts at the Chart Room and Turtle Bay, respectively, after more than a decade of faithful service to French Quarter denizens before heading out of state.
Monday night (tonight) is Christopher’s last bartending shift at the Chart Room, where he has been a mainstay at the Chartres Street establishment for years. If you don’t get this message in time and missed seeing face, you’ll still have a chance to give Joanna a send-off Tuesday night at the Turtle Bay on Decatur Street.
UPDATE 7/14/23: Christopher will be bartending his last shift at Harry’s Corner Bar at 900 Chartres St. on Saturday afternoon. Make sure to show up.
After closing out what will be the final shifts, Christopher and Joanna, and their family will be moving on to greener pastures and sandier beaches, where they will be united with friends.
I had the pleasure of working with Joanna at the Turtle Bay, where she mentored and trained me on all the establishment specifics of working behind the bar. I wasn’t the only one, of course. It wasn’t just about knowing how to make cocktails or pour beers, but how to provide great customer service.
So if you live in town, or just visiting, drop by and say hello — and good-bye — before it’s too late, and be sure to give the Gargiules a nice send-off with lots of tips.
Joanna got back to us, but wasn’t able to offer a comment because they are busy getting squared away for the move — totally understandable.
Turtle Bay is located at 1119 Decatur St. and the Chart Room is located at 300 Chartres St. — both in the French Quarter.
If you walked into Molly’s on Toulouse and thought that boasting “I’m friends with the owner” would give you any clout, you would be met with four out of five patrons raising their hands and saying, “Us too. What’s your point?”
The passing of Erin Churchill is devastating to so many people that she has touched over the years. Even as a casual acquaintance with Erin, you knew how much of an exceptional person she was. For those of us with a close relationship with her, it is deep personal loss.
It’s a great loss to the French Quarter, a successful business person and a wonderful soul is gone. I could write a thousand words praising her qualities, but they all would fall short of describing her remarkable character.
We are all fortunate to have even known her, we are better people for having done so. There will forever be a void in our lives and in The French Quarter without Erin Churchill.
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