Perhaps one of my favorite spots in New Orleans for a classy after work drink is the Swizzle Stick Bar at Cafe Adelaide. Helmed in part by Ti Martin, Cafe Adelaide is part of a group of restaurants owned by Martin and her family that includes SoBou in the French Quarter and world famous Commander’s Palace. Ti sat down with me over cocktails in the newly renovated Adelaide to talk about the restaurant’s namesake, what a typical night in New Orleans is like for her and the proper way to make a daiquiri.
Tell us about Cafe Adelaide. What was the inspiration for the restaurant?
Our Aunt Adelaide was one of the last sort of Auntie Mame, glamourous characters who was out all night entertaining guests and customers for Commander’s Palace and who slept till noon everyday. She and my mother kinda joined houses and we lived with her in her Garden District mansion from the time I was 9 until she died. The entertaining was constant. There was an entire bar room in the house and Adelaide would have Lally and I make cocktails for their guests, sort of like a party trick, from a very young age. We made drinks for everyone – the next door neighbor, Danny Kaye, Rock Hudson, Phyllis Diller. The idea for Cafe Adeliade and the Swizzle Stick Bar was to bring this kind of glamourous and a little naughty attitude that she embodied to a bar and restaurant. Everything, from the menu to the booths to the portraits, was meant to reflect her.
In addition to Cafe Adelaide, you also own and run Commander’s Palace and SoBou. What’s it like to be at the helm of such historic and famous New Orleans dining institutions?
Well I mean I don’t get up every day and think that way. I just get up and go to work. It’s our lifestyle. As a business we try and constantly push the restaurants to grow and evolve but they’re also where we get to welcome people into what is like our home. It’s a mindset.
Is there a typical day for you?
No. Just last Tuesday I was in Texas opening up a new Reginelli’s there (Martin is an investor in the franchise) and I was out with all our young employees so I thew on the human pizza suit and went out into the intersection to be silly. I like to be a team player. But then later that night I was back in Commander’s with the fine dining crowd. No day is the same.
What’s your favorite thing about running your own company?
I like to create something out of nothing. Opening businesses and creating new things is always great fun. The challenge with a place like Commander’s is to take something that’s been there since 1880 and make it new and constantly exciting. Numbers and the in and outs of running a business is easy for me but being able to turn people on through our restaurants is really how I get my jollies. That, and teaching hospitality.
Name some of the people you admire. What about them do you appreciate?
There are many people I admire but my mom would be at the top of the list as well as both my aunts. They were just great, smart, generous people who always thought of others before they thought of themselves. Most of the people I greatly admire all care about an old fashioned thing called The Common Good. I was raised to think of New Orleans as just another member of my family. So everything we do is to better her and care for her.
Now for the New Orleans-specific questions. Sidewalk side or neutral ground side?
Neutral ground side. It’s just where my family is.
What’s your favorite dish to order in your restaurants?
Oh my goodness. My favorite dish to order is always our newest one. But I have things I constantly go back to. I can’t go very long without having turtle soup. Or if I’m being naughty, the tasso and shrimp corndogs here at Cafe Adelaide. It’s a little bit of heaven.
What’s your favorite thing about New Orleans?
Oh this is a perfect description of what is so great about New Orleans. Just the other night at Commander’s Palace I had the pleasure of meeting and eating with Winston Churchill’s grandson. Guess who he was with. It wouldn’t happen anywhere else. He was with the 610 Stompers. Apparently the Stompers are a huge hit abroad and the city of London is having them perform in their New Years Day Parade in 2017. So here’s the mayor of London and Churchill’s grandson taking them out to dinner to officially ask them to come over the pond. This is the stuff you can’t make up and it only happens here.
I prefer a Blood & Sand in the winter and in the summer a daquiri. Years ago New Orleans sadly became famous for these really horrific frozen daquiris. The original daiquiri came from Cuba and it’s just three things – rum, sugar and lime. It’s gotta be perfectly balanced with fresh juice, not too sweet, and hand-chipped ice like from the ice block we have here at Adelaide. That is a great daiquiri. If I go somewhere and order one and they ask me what flavor I want I order something else, you know?
This post originally appeared on A-Little-Happy.com, a website I founded that served as a site to inspire creatives & entrepreneurs to obtain a better work-life balance. The site garnered over 78,000 views. It has since been discontinued.