It was spring in 1840, when New Orleans was queen city of the Mississippi River, when cotton was king and French gentlemen settled their differences under the oaks with pistols for two and coffee for one. "Dixie" had not yet been written, destined to become the marching anthem for Confederate forces in the War Between the States.
This was the city young Antoine Alciatore adopted, after two frustrating years in New York, to establish a restaurant that would endure under his family's direction for more than 150 years and set the standard that has made New Orleans one of the great dining centers of the world.
The names of each of the 15 dining rooms at Antoine's Restaurant are steeped in history: Mardi Gras has been the premier attraction in New Orleans since 1857, just a few years after the birth of Antoine's. Four of our private rooms bear the names of 4 of our Carnival krewes -- Rex, Proteus, Hermes, and 12th Night Revelers .
The Mystery Room acquired its name due to Prohibition, the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcoholic drinks (from 1919 until 1933). It covered the era of the bootlegger and the Al Capone reign of terror in Chicago. During this time, some would go through a door in the ladies' restroom to a secret room and exit with a coffee cup full of booze (in spite of the Blue Laws).
The protocol phrase at table when asked from whence it came was: "It's a mystery to me." The name stuck and to this day, it's still the Mystery Room, nestled charmingly at the end of an interesting corridor.
go on....take a tour of one of the dining rooms!
Antoine's Café Brûlot Diabolique
One 1-inch stick cinnamon
8 whole cloves
Peel of 1 lemon, cut thin
3 lumps sugar
3 jiggers brandy
3 cups strong black coffee
In a brûlot bowl or chafing dish, place the cinnamon, clove, lemon peel and sugar. Put brandy into a ladle, ignite, and pour over ingredients in bowl. Keep ladling brandy over ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Gradually add coffee and continue ladling mixture until the flames fade. Serve immediately. Makes 8 demitasse or brûlot cups.
I'm not quite sure the extent of the damage to Antoine's or when they will reopen. A report said that at least one of the walls fell out onto a courtyard and that there still is no potable water so eating is "at your own risk", but let's hope they come back and continue their amazing history.