Once an exciting addition to a resurgence of bars and restaurants in New Orleans’s Central City, five-year-old Portside Lounge is the latest to close in the neighborhood, owner Danny Nick announced this week. The tropical dive bar with a punk twist will go out with a grand finale weekend of live music, culminating with a Fourth of July bash.
Nick tells Eater that Portside was able to weather the COVID storm for the most part, but that, “Until New Orleans can heal from the wounds that have been inflicted on her, a Caribbean North fantasy like the Portside Lounge cannot functionally exist.” He references what he perceives as a recent spike in crime in the city, which he says is “chasing people away at an elevated rate.” Nick, who was born less than a mile away from Portside Lounge, says he’s unsure of his next move, but hopes to “revisit” Portside again: “It has been a strong passion of mine and I’m deeply saddened to let her go,” says Nick.
Nick, a bassist in a local metal band at the time, opened Portside Lounge with his then-wife in 2017 as a casual spot with Caribbean cocktails and funky decor that would host occasional pop-ups and live music acts. It joined a bustling row of new restaurants and bars in Central City at the time, anchored by Cafe Reconcile on Oretha Castle and accelerated by the opening of Casa Borrega in 2013. A year later the Southern Food and Beverage Museum opened its doors, at points serving as home to two different restaurants, one from chef Isaac Toups (it closed in 2019, and a new restaurant never moved in, though the museum hosts chef dinners and pop-ups).
Portside was an instant locals favorite after opening, offering something just different enough (tiki-inspired) while feeling familiar (dive bar). While it was open, Portside made good on its promise to host emerging food pop-ups, and helped introduce a number of now-loved kitchens to New Orleans bar-goers. Most recently, it was the longtime home to Queen Trini Lisa’s kitchen, which has since graduated to a permanent restaurant in Mid City.
Portside also opened not far from two Central City food hubs with a mission, Dryades Public Market and food incubator Roux Carre, both of which have since closed (and Casa Borrega just closed recently, in May). There have been a few big openings in the neighborhood in recent years, however, including a nightclub from restaurateur Larry Morrow, Treehouse, and Margaret Place, a chic boutique hotel that hosted James Beard Award emerging chef semifinalist Serigne Mbaye’s dinner series and has a restaurant in the works.
Portside’s last day is Monday, July 4, so come say your goodbyes at 3000 Dryades Street from 5 p.m. ‘til.