Editor’s Note: May we Mayke a suggestion? No, our suggestion is not that we stop using cringeworthy puns, but it is to think ahead! We know what’s coming: the summer. The time when the air is heavy, the tourists have abandoned ship, and us locals are left to enjoy our city, heat and all. That’s where we come in! All the month of May we are going to prepare you to “Ban the Boredom” by giving you the best places, the best restaurants, and the best event, but since we never do anything “normal” at ViaNolaVie, we are basing these suggestions around various psychological states! If you’re a total introvert, we’ve got a spot for you! If you have a disability, we’ve got the places that actually don’t discriminate and let you get down the way you want to get down. We’ve got something for everyone because New Orleans is the city for everyone! Up next, writer Mercedes Ohlen shows how Petite Rouge Cafe isn’t so petite after all!
Petite Rouge sits on Calhoun St. at 3146, a sleepy offshoot of the more aggressive South Claiborne, which (if I’m walking) I must cross in order to get to. 6 lanes divided by a median become my obstacle. Safety leaves my mind as I time my entrance into the traffic and across the neverending pavement.
Then finally, the holy land: a quaint red building beckoning me to enter. Red detailing is a prominent fixture, and holiday decorations shift in and out like the seasons. Numerous pieces of artwork scatter the walls including (but certainly not limited to) a signed photo of Robert De Niro, various paintings, and a framed Golden Girls puzzle. Like the eyes of TJ Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby, a cardboard cutout of Patrick Swayze overlooks the cafe from a corner. There are days when he is hidden behind a curtain, shielding the public from his intense gaze. Various tables scatter the space, and a small section with magazines and obscure books resides in the corner for those who are so inclined. Wherever you sit, you can always look up and see the smiling faces of the baristas or your other Petite Rouge patrons. Perhaps you are more of an outdoorsy person, to which I’d say: great news! There are two tables in front of the cafe with your name on them.
Though I genuinely find comfort in the overall aesthetic of the space, I didn’t initially come to Petite Rouge for the atmosphere… I came for the caffeine. And who could blame me? The per capita rate of caffeine use in the United States is approximately three times that for the world as a whole, and Tulane students were not provided with sufficient resources in order to feed this growing addiction. In the days before my discovery of the cafe, much like a middle-aged father, I found myself constantly asking what I had to do to get a good cup of coffee around here. Petite Rouge is the closest cafe to campus (unless you consider PJ’s a “cafe”, which I do not) so numerous students from both Tulane and Loyola make the pilgrimage across S. Claiborne on a weekly basis to both study and catch up with friends. In 2020, there were 37,189 coffeehouses in the United States alone. Like a rejected Rent song, we have 37,189 coffee houses, 37,189 different communities so dear. So many to choose from, yet Petite Rouge remains a siren, luring me with their sweet promises of caffeine between the hours of 7:30am and 4:00pm.
For the most part, caffeine is the same around the world, but the way in which it is presented to you is what makes the experience. Petite Rouge understands this and has come up with numerous different drinks in order to fuel the sleepless nights and numerous coffee dates.
I will now present to you my top caffeinated products on Petite Rouge’s menu, which have the power to bring strangers together:
If you’re an iced coffee kind of person, Petite Rouge’s cold brew is the star of the show. Smooth and delicious, it’s the perfect pick me up no matter what time it is. They have also begun to sell their cold brew in half-gallon and full-gallon size containers right from the tap to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
A recent new love for me, the Frozen Cafe Au Lait is nothing short of magnificent. Though I would argue that the reason I love it so much is because of its milkshake-like properties, sometimes you just need a sweet coffee-based beverage to get you through the day.
Just as intense as it sounds, this concoction consists of maple syrup, espresso, cold brew, and a dash of milk. I wholeheartedly believe that if I were to have more than one of these, I too would be traveling at the speed of a commercial jet airliner.
But sometimes, I’m just in the mood for a simple cup of coffee and one of their old-school donuts. Subsequently, I choose to engage in the age-old tradition of sharing a meal with others, even if we aren’t talking or even at the same table. As the sound of the espresso machine mixes with the various playlists they blast into the space, Petite Rouge surpasses the title of the “quintessential American coffee house” and transforms into something more– something comfortable and routine for me in a time when I feel like I am going a million miles an hour at all times.
Being able to look up from your computer and see another person sitting in the same room as you, even if they have a mask on, has become an extremely comforting sight. Even if you’re not interacting with them, you’re having a shared experience. People are prone to creating “place attachments” to social centers within their communities, coffee shops being some of the most common, so it’s no surprise that I have become sentimental towards Petite Rouge’s quiet and calm atmosphere. I never thought I would miss strangers, yet here I am, writing a piece about just that. I missed the awkward eye contact, the clacking of their respective keyboards, perhaps the occasional phone call taken in my presence. I missed people, all with their own lives, yet somehow all brought together into this little cafe in Uptown New Orleans. Maybe it’s because I’m young and prone to romantic interpretations of the world, but Petite Rouge helps to remind me that through it all, we aren’t always going to be alone. And damn it, their coffee is delicious. Long live caffeine, and long live Petite Rouge.