In a place like New Orleans, where bars are part of the city’s DNA, choosing a neighborhood spot to call your own might seem like a tough choice. But Marjie’s Grill chef Marcus Jacobs says it all comes down to convenience. “If you ask anyone in the service industry in New Orleans what their favorite bar is,” he says, “it’s either the one that’s closest to their work or closest to their house.”
For Jacobs and partner/general manager Caitlin Carney, that spot is Carrollton Station. Current owners Mike and Colleen Miller bought the bar in 2013 after being regulars since the early 90s. While they don’t know the building’s entire history, Mike says it formerly housed a restaurant, neighborhood grocery and a brothel before becoming Carrollton Station Bar in 1980. By the time they aimed to purchase the business, “it had lost a little of the neighborhood bar aspect and was focusing more on live music, so we changed that around, and now we do very infrequent live music but have a great neighborhood bar,” Miller says. “Some people would suggest it’s a dive, but I think that’s only because neighborhood bars have been on the decline for so many years that folks don’t really know the difference between a neighborhood bar and a dive bar.”
Inside, a long, stately Brunswick bar that dates back to 1904 anchors the main space, which was renovated in the mid-1980s when it was called the Willow Inn. “The original owner and current landlord did a complete renovation of the building that involved removing the drop ceiling, exposing and sandblasting all the wood walls, opening up the back stage area, tiling the floor and, most importantly, installing the Brunswick bar (which he found in an old hotel in the Quarter and had restored),” Miller says. “He used cheap labor to do it: customers that had run large tabs and had no way to pay them off.”
On any given night Jacobs says five or six people might be inside, with the same number of neighbors enjoying the backyard patio—one of the reason Jacobs hosted early Marjie’s Grill pop-ups in the space. “There’s no pretension, no bullshit,” he says “Even when it’s crowded you know everybody in there.” Being situated across from where the city houses all the local street cars adds to the neighborhood feel. “It’s cool when you’re sitting in the bar, because you can see all the streetcars putzing around.”
The bar’s drink selection includes “a pretty good selection of craft beers and specials,” Jacobs says, though he adds that most regulars stick to cans of Haam’s. “I usually get a beer and a shot and Caitlin either gets white wine or a vodka soda,” Jacobs says. Carney says that one of her favorite things is how the bartender not only knows what she likes to drink—he’ll often choose for her when she arrives. “You walk in and the bartender can look at your face, know how your day was and know what drink you want.”
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