There are many restaurants in New Orleans that are famous for a particular dish: oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, barbecue shrimp at Mr. B’s…and burgers at Port of Call. The latter had been highly recommended to us by a Southern friend, and several other locals we encountered in The Big Easy also told tales of the huge hamburgers and super-strong drinks.
Dating back to 1963, this nautical dive bar is located on the northeast edge of the French Quarter, on the border of the Marigny neighborhood. (A couple blocks farther over on Frenchmen Street is Port of Call’s sister establishment Snug Harbor, which serves up the same burgers. It also offers a more extensive menu and is a decent jazz club, apparently.)
Because of its popularity among both tourists and locals, there can be quite a wait some nights when you put your name down for a table. (Your other choice is to hover behind somebody at the bar in hopes they eventually give up their seat.) However, we had no trouble at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday (upside of being jet lagged).
There are only about eight tables in the sunken dining area behind these bamboo poles, plus a few more tables in another room down a hallway from the L-shaped bar. Nautical lanterns, an aquarium and colorful Christmas lights brighten up the dim space, and the wood-paneled walls are covered with ship replicas and prints, a life preserver and ship’s wheel. Above your head is a canopy of rope woven together like a fishing net.
For the record, I didn’t see any tikis anywhere except the tiki mugs depicted on the menu, which is likely why Port of Call merited a mention in James Teitelbaum’s Tiki Road Trip book. (Besides the fact that there isn’t much tiki in New Orleans — though that is starting to change…)
The cocktails are served in big plastic cups, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the emphasis is quantity over quality. (They’re not half bad though if you come in with proper expectations.) For perspective, here you can see the difference between the jumbo size ($10) and a regular/half order ($5.50). The unofficial signature drink is Neptune’s Monsoon, described as “an old recipe used frequently as a last request by pirates condemned to walk the plank.” It’s a Hurricane-esque drink made with passion fruit, “tropical juices” and two kinds of rum. We also tried the Huma Huma, which had too much melon for my taste. I’d say stick with the Monsoon.
The menu is short and simple, just salads, steaks, baked potatoes and burgers smothered with shredded cheddar cheese and mushrooms. These are not those gourmet burgers so trendy nowadays, but I still thought they were damn good. Instead of fries, your starchy side is a hearty baked potato you can load up with bacon bits, chives, cheese (+$1.25), sour cream (+$1.25) and mushrooms (+$1.50). A burger and a baked potato may sound like an odd couple but here it works. Ask for extra napkins — things are gonna get messy.
Our server was very friendly and even asked around to help us find a bar nearby where we could watch the playoff hockey game. (If you’re looking for the best place to watch hockey in the French Quarter, head to Ryan’s Irish Pub.)
Port of Call is just the place if you want to stuff your face and consume entirely too much alcohol. And if you haven’t finished your drink but need to be on your way, you can request a plastic top and take it to-go because that’s part of the fun of being in New Orleans.
Port of Call
838 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70116