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photography by Grant Groberg

I know ya, now I can't remember who you are.

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Evelyn's Place
Evelyns PlaceThere are people and places who are anchors. Vortices. Around whom life swirls, drawing you in, inviting you to join the dance. Such people and places never happen by intent, they manifest by conditions unique in each instance, blooming spontaneously and offering all within their sphere an extra portion of life's nectar.

Tucked away in the French Quarter of New Orleans is one such place. You wont find it by looking for gilded trim and beveled glass. Unassuming and inelegant, the crown jewels of Evelyn's Place shine in the hearts and lives of those who have joined the dance that weaves in and out of her weathered doors.

Evelyn's Place is on Chartres. The first block off of Canal Street into the Quarter. You might pass it by without noticing it. I did, but something made me stop about ten paces beyond the doors, turn around and go back.

Evelyns Place behind the barHave you ever seen one of those roadside shrines? Along a remote road in Greece or way out in the French Countryside--you find them all over the world--something about the spot makes people want to people leave things there. Evelyn's Place is one of those. For whatever reason, people want to leave something of themselves behind. The walls are covered with currency of all Nations that people have signed and stapled there. It is not just money. People have marked their passage with, hats, shirts, bras, thongs, name tags... "kilroy was here" in a thousand variations; strata of identity covering walls, beams, ceiling; evidence of the thousands of souls that have passed through and made the exchange.

Evelyns Place first dollarSpend some time at Evelyn's Place in New Orleans. You'll see people walking in with a silly grin, slowly approaching the end of the bar where Evelyn sits. They don't get too far until Evelyn calls out and greets them. "Zat you? Come over here and gimme a kiss." It seems every night there are reunions. People, regulars for a long time until a marriage or change of life took them away from New Orleans; others only part of Evelyn's for a short foray; come back to a place where a cherished part of their life was formed. Whether a person had been gone for two months or two decades, the joy at the reunion is always genuine.

Where the old bitch holds courtEvelyn is able to remember something about everyone who has ever been in her bar. Three young men walk in and sit down. Evelyn recognizes them. "Zat you?" One night every year they show up when they get together in New Orleans for old times sake. Just one night. Last year only two showed up. The other had skipped the event having just been married. They come for the Gumbo and the atmosphere they don't expect to be remembered.

"You remember us?"

Evelyns Place Menu"Hell yeah, I remember you... and this 'un too. You didn't bother showin' up last year, I hear busy getting' married. You working on any babies yet?"

Besides good company and an engaging decor, Evelyn can boast of having some of the best Red Beans & Rice and tastiest Gumbo in the French Quarter. Luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel have tasted her cooking, but she doesn't treat them any different.

"I ain't gonna treat 'em any different. Their just like you and me. Jus' as long as they don't put on any airs, I'll feed them jus' like anybody else."

Evelyns Place money shotEvelyn doesn't take gumph from anybody. She is a 4-foot, 10-inch dynamo. Queen of her domain and does not tolerate any disrespect in her bar. She once beat up Mickey Rourke to get him out. "He was bein' an asshole. He said I couldn't close my bar with him in it and he was gonna stay 's long as he wanted. I just laid in on him. I knew he couldn't hit me back. He's a big guy, but I wa'n't afraid of him. He's puttin' on airs an' I ain't gonna take none of that in my bar."

Evelyns Place ceilingThere isn't much that can sway Evelyn. She is a true survivor. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Miss Ev and her partner, Frank, weathered the storm and it's aftermath inside the bar. A few days after Katrina, Evelyn fell on some debris on the street and broke her foot. The Security people who were helping to watch that area wanted to take her to the hospital ship. "Hell no, I wasn't gonna go," she told me, "I'm not leaving the quarter, and I'm not leaving the bar. They weren't gonna get me out there on that ship no tellin' where I might wind up." So she stayed. Her foot healed, though she still has a limp. When Salvation army came around and was giving out food. Evelyn had excess and took it upon herself to see the people who she knew needed things got them. When I tried to compliment her on her charity she declined the compliment. "Oh no, not me, I was just trying to keep from getting bored. But the Salvation Army... I'm gonna win the lottery and give half the money to them. I'm forever grateful for what they done."

Evelyns Birthday 2Evelyn has many favorites among the people she met following Katrina. There is the doctor that came and visited her, the National Guardsmen who watched her street and other people who came around to help. Knowing Evelyn, knowing Evelyn's Place, I know all of them have been touched. You can be sure--whether in ten weeks or ten years--one by one, those people will come back, step through those doors with a silly grin on their face to be greeted with the familiar. "Zat you? Come here and give me a kiss."

Evelyns Place Evelyn----

Go ahead and try some of Their Gumbo
Evelyn's Place
139 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA 70130

anothercupoftea photography by Grant Groberg

All content copyright © Grant Groberg
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