Spring 99
Volume IV
Issue 2

The
Big Easy:
America's Vahalla

by Chris Rose
photos by Kerri McCaffety

At the corner of Royal and Dumaine Street, deep in the heart of New Orleans' storied French Quarter, Cafe Havana occupies one of the prime people-watching spots in this city's oldest neighborhood, away from the raucous blues and Cajun clubs on Bourbon Street, and far away from the sameness of the dozens of T-shirt shops in the Upper Quarter, all selling silk-screened NC- 17 slogans about the proper way to eat a crawfish - "Suck the heads!" etc. - that those out-of-towners just love to buy.

Royal and Dumaine border the just-barely-still-residential area of the Quarter, a tangle of neighborhood bars and restaurants, "po-boy" bakeries and “washerterias," all topped by balconied studio and slave-quarter apartments, their wrought iron railings festooned with hanging ferns and Mardi Gras beads. The sound-track to life here is the click-clack of the mule-drawn buggy carts, whose captains bounce along above the street, telling stories about this place that nourishes their souls. Ghost stories. Vampire tales. Anne Rice. Tennessee Williams. Louis Armstrong. Voodoo. Love and lust. Crime and politics - often one and the same here in the Big Easy.

The currency of life in the Quarter, telling stories is the great equalizer between the investment banker and the strip club barker, the common thread through this most uncommon city.

"Cigar smokers are storytellers," says Lisa Young, proprietor of Cafe Havana, as she takes in this busy street corner. "Cigar smokers cannot be stressed. You can't smoke a cigar in a hurry, especially in New Orleans. So they come in here and they talk, and they talk, and they talk. They'll talk about anything. Mostly they'll talk about music and they'll talk about food, and they like to talk the details of a fine smoke."


The following information is a summary of New Orlean's Cigar Scene from SMOKE's original article. For the full text of this article, see the Spring 99 issue of SMOKE magazine - available at a tobacconist near you.


CAFE HAVANA

Address: 842 Royal St.,
New Orleans, LA 70116
Phone Number: 504-569-9006
Fax Number: 504-569-9007
Years Operating: 2 years

Decorated in a Latin American theme of plastic palm trees, rocking chairs, hammocks, and various imports from Peru, Colombia and Honduras, Cafe Havana has a corner cantina feel to it. A roomy walk-in humidor is stocked with an ample supply of premium brands: Fuente, Avo, Paul Garmarian, Ashton, Butera, Partagas, Punch, and Padron, as well as Cohiba, Montecristo, and Romeo y Julieta. Cafe Havana has a decent sized collection of pre-embargo Cubans on hand, probably the most in the city, dating back as far as 1911. One unopened box recently sold for $3,600. Private lockers are available for $350 a year. Barry Corbin, the police chief from the USA Network's "Big Easy," and formerly the astronaut from "Northern Exposure," keeps a private stash of $2 cigars in his locker. Go figure. Coffee and cappuccino are available, and there's a TV in the corner generally catering to sporting events. Of interest is a ceiling mural of the creation scene from the Sistine Chapel with a cigar theme.



NEW ORLEANS CIGAR COMPANY
Address: 201 St. Charles Ave.,
New Orleans, LA 70170
Phone: 504-524-9631
Fax: 504-524-9651
Years Operating: 3 years

This place hustles in the day by benefit of its position in the bustling lobby of the 42-story Place St. Charles office tower, home to a number of the city's most powerful law firms, investment houses, and oil companies. Lots of suits rolling in and out, a busy turnover. A bright and tidy walk-in humidor features a full line of Davidoff products, as well as Arturo Fuente, Macanudo, Hoyo de Monterrey, Ashton, Punch, Montecristo, Cohiba, and Puros Indios, to name a few. A limited but high quality selection of accessories are available, as well as briar and meerschaum pipes.



THE EPITOME IN FINE TOBACCO
Address: 729 St. Louis St.,
New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone: 504-523-2844
Fax: n/a
Years Operating: 29

It's the French Quarter's only full-service tobacconist and the oldest in the city. A port of calm in the sea of bedlam that is the heart of the French Quarter, no one here will rush you to the door once you've made your purchase. The venerated New Orleans tradition of talk is appreciated here, whether it be cigar brands, the weather, or the city's lowly Saints. The Epitome has over 300 varieties in its narrow humidor and an eclectic staff to tell you about it. Epitome also has a huge array of imported cigarettes, a generous selection of pipe tobaccos, and a natty selection of gifts, accessories, and meerschaum pipes. If your favorite cigar shop back home is 75-years-old, this is the place you'll feel comfortable in.



ARNAUD'S
Address: 813 Bienville St.,
New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: 504-523-5433
Fax: n/a
Years Operating: 81 years

Welcome to historic New Orleans - the ceiling fans, the mirrors, the tile, the ambiance that exudes the gentility and grace and romance that this city's reputation was built upon. Count Arnaud Cazenave opened this restaurant in 1918 in an antebellum mansion on Bourbon Street. There are seventeen private dining rooms tucked hither and yon, and two bars, of which you'll want the Main. It's an informal smoking club for the city's social and political elite. The brand selection in the wall humidor is, for a restaurant, quite large. If you're looking to get lost in time in a clandestine hideout, and argue with the ghost of Huey P. Long, this is the place.



MAYAN IMPORT CO.
Address: 3009 Magazine St.,
New Orleans, LA 70115
Phone: 504-269-9000
Fax: 504-269-9003
Years Operating: 2 years

This is a quaint storefront on a narrow and busy stretch of avenue that attracts antique, art, and clothing shoppers seven days a week. Weekends are downright swarming; a great energy buzzes up and down Magazine Street. McCammon is an importer of all things South and Central American; he knows of what he speaks. The walk-in humidor is large and well-stocked, with a basket of discontinued brands and leftovers available on the cheap. Mayan Imports does a lot of specialty work; they can personalize bands for you, sometimes in as little as an hour, if the art is easy. If the bustle of Magazine St. gets to you, you can seek relief in the backroom parlor.



Continued on next page...


HTML Copyright © 1999 by Keys Technologies and SMOKE Magazine. All rights reserved.