Thursday, July 9, 2009

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Royal Blend, a Coffee Shop Refuge from the Mandess of Tales

When the mad hubbub of Tales of the Cocktail gets a little…much, I sometimes walk four blocks down Royal Street to Royal Blend. Tucked away in one of the French Quarter’s quiet, hidden courtyards, the coffee shop caters mostly to locals and tourists in the know rather than, say, the frozen daiquiri and hurricane crowd. And by "locals," I mean French Quarter locals, not just New Orleans locals.

The shop is easy to miss. But keep an eye out for the long, unlit archway in the 600 block of Royal. At the end, a sunlight-filled flagstone and brick courtyard opens to the sky. With fountains and lush greenery, it's a quiet place to take stock of what the day holds. Were I a horticulturalist, I could name those plants. Ferns, I suppose. That one seems to be a saw palmetto. And…ermm…ivy. We’ll just call them “plants.”

Head straight to the back of the courtyard, order at the counter, and grab a seat inside or among the metal chairs outdoors. Two big table umbrellas ward off the worst of rain and sun. The patrons are friendly and often chatty. Over the years, I’ve met other writers, filmmakers, cooks, journalists, photographers, artists, and tourists from all over. In the evenings, French Quarter ghost and cemetery/voodoo tour groups meet there in the courtyard. The ghost thing's not my bag, but knock yourself out if you’re into it. They meet nightly at 8:15. The cemetery/voodoo group gathers at 10:30pm on Sundays, but 1:15pm Monday-Saturday.

Of course, there’s lots of coffee—hot, iced, or all kinds of beans to go—but iced teas and frozen mocha slushies help keep the heat at bay just as well. For the peckish, there is an array of bagels, pastries, and light sandwiches. It’s my quiet place when I need to retreat, regroup, write, or just cool my boots.

Royal Blend
621 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70130-2115
(504) 523-2716

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