601 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans,
TWO STARS (out of four)
Barcadia is a combination tavern and throwback video game arcade, with a big bar, a collection of vintage coin-op games and a kitchen serving surprisingly good food. Nick Hufft, a New Orleans native who made his name with the Curbside food truck in Baton Rouge, serves a menu of specialty burgers and pub grub that fits the fun setting and makes for a unique destination for very casual dinners or just better-than-expected bar food while you’re watching a game.
From the street, it’s clear that Barcadia is built into the ground floor of a parking garage. Inside, it’s easy to forget all that and instead feel immersed in design-savvy game room for the young at heart. It functions at least as much as a bar as it does a restaurant, sometimes feeling like a sports bar, other times like a late-night, post-shift spot for service industry people. During the day and early evening, it’s common to see families with children here, though at night it’s definitely an adults-only crowd. Garage doors open to a sidewalk patio and make a nice addition in good weather.
This place is very casual, and service is about what you’d expect from a sports bar. At night, the focus is primarily on slinging drinks and getting baskets of fries to the right tables.
Potato skins, fried pickle chips and “loaded” fries (cut in house) are the go-to starters or bar snacks here, though Barcadia’s kitchen gets more creative than that. There are hunks of pork in a Korean-style marinade with hot sauce, for instance, and tempura-fried shrimp with sweet/hot coating and toasted coconut. A real stand-out is a basket of fried cheese curds – or dense, sour chunks of cheese. It takes fried cheese to a new level of indulgence and really should be split several ways around the table.
Burgers are of course the main attraction on Barcadia’s menu, and they do not disappoint. Whenever I’m sizing up a new burger joint I like to start with a straight-up cheeseburger. Barcadia’s is not huge but shows the trifecta of a juicy, hand-formed patty, a quality bun and careful preparation. It’s a good foundation, and from here the options get more offbeat. My favorite of the specialty burgers is called the flag boy – the burger patty is topped with a second patty of white cheddar. Bite in and there’s a crunch, following by a gooey pull of cheese. The menu also works in a number of sandwiches, from plain old grilled cheese to BBQ shrimp po-boys. Look for the “manager’s special,” which is a classically made deli sandwich with pastrami stacked thick on marble rye.
The best dessert here also qualifies as a potential main course, or even a dare. Billy’s fried PB&J is in fact a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, battered with tempura and deep fried. It arrives hot, crusty and covered with powdered sugar, with a small carton of whole milk on the side to wash it down. Alternately, just have another draft beer and plug more quarters into the arcade games.
The “bar” part of Barcadia revolves around beer – the row of draft beers stretches on and on and includes local beers and craft brews from around the country. There’s a full bar, though this isn’t the place for a specialty cocktail or fine wine.
Bills at Barcadia run a little higher than you might expect for a burger and a beer. Most burgers and sandwiches are $10-$12, with a few going higher. It’s not unreasonable for the quality.
Barcadia is a fun setting for an easy going night out, a quick lunch or some pub grub while watching a game. It’s good for groups, with plenty of distractions and amusements around the room. For foodies, the menu is more interesting and better prepared than the standard tavern.