Fresh paint, classically great po boys.
For a dive bar that just wanted to serve cheap beer and great po boys, Parasol’s has had a circuitous path in providing those two crucial neighborhood services. Through a series of ownership changes, closings, renovations and about a million sandwiches in between, Parasol’s has endured, a cornerstone of New Orleans’ Irish Channel district. Hurricane Katrina, unpaid taxes, a little thing called a pandemic, Parasol’s has weathered the storm.
The Irish Channel neighborhood is just that, a neighborhood, a patchwork of residences low on tourist priority that has preserved the area as much as an area can be in a magnet of a city like New Orleans. Though Parasol’s is only one block south of the heavily trafficked Magazine Street, the area is a bit of a dead spot on that stretch, giving Parasol’s a prime corner plot for filling a neighborhood full of beer and po boys.
Though Parasol’s has persisted, the bar’s most recent ownership has renovated the space, stripping out a little bit of the “rustic” nature of the bar in favor of a clean and refreshed look to carry Parasol’s forward. Dive bar enthusiasts may feel conflicted about the updates, but if those updates ensure that Parasol’s can pay the bills moving forward, the trade is worthwhile. What remains is one of the great one-two punches in New Orleans, classic neighborhood bar in front, po boy kitchen in back.
Outside, a streamlined white and green paint job spills out into the street, a series of picnic tables, high top chairs and umbrellas extending the drinking outward, in keeping with New Orleans tradition. Inside, the space is split, the front room consisting of the drinking space, a lightly renovated space with updated beer taps that maintains much of the structure’s integrity with a little polish here and there. The space is skinny, owing to the fact it occupies only the front half of the building, a long bar on one side, limited seating opposite.
In back, it’s hard to argue against the kitchen as the real star of the show with a po boy selection longer than most diner menus, ranging the typical set of New Orleans classics with a surprise here and there. The offerings don’t stop at po boys, contrary to the space’s reputation, some stable (muffaletta) and some rotating (fresh fish) selections augmenting the options. A set of low tables surround a simple ordering window, hot sauce on the tables, a few TVs mounted in the space. The presentation is New Orleans simple, which only accentuates the experience.
During normal, non-pandemic years, Parasol’s also has a reputation for an epic St. Patrick’s Day block party, another testament to its role as neighborhood staple. And that’s the truth underneath the renovations, the ownership changes, the natural disasters. Parasol’s might be a little bit less of a dive bar and it might have a fresh coat of paint, but this is a classic New Orleans neighborhood bar that just happens to have the area’s best po boy shop in back, a potent combination.