Bullet’s Sports Bar is so local that many long-time New Orleans residents don’t even know about it. Which is perhaps a good thing since the venue is small and the seats are few. But when we heard that insider-fave jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his band, the Barbecue Swingers, have been playing a standing gig at Bullets every Tuesday night, we had to make it happen.
Located in New Orleans’ 7th Ward on an unassuming residential street lined with bungalows, Bullets was also recently featured in an HBO television series “Treme” so it is indeed beginning to draw a fairly significant mix of tourists along with the locals – more daring ones perhaps since this is still not a bar you should walk to. No, the area itself isn’t dangerous, but areas you pass through as a lost-looking tourist might be.
Our first cabbie looked askance at us when we mentioned Bullet’s Sports Bar as a destination and asked “Where?” When we told him, he just said, “Call someone else from United Cab – they go there,” and drove off. We were more fortunate with our second cab from United. We were our cabbie’s third fare … ever. He was so nervous he forgot to turn on the meter. But he got us there with a smile. We paid him $10, the rate we had been told to expect from our hotel.
Be sure to arrive by 6 at Bullet’s
The music starts around 7 or 7:30 p.m., depending on Kermit’s mood. But we didn’t abide by the warning to get there by 6. By the time we arrived about 6:20 p.m. (and paid the $10 cover each), the bar was already packed, with the two rows of tables at the front – one running down the middle of the bar and the other alongside the wall – and the bar area already full. So we made our way toward the back area (remember, this place is small, so “back” is pretty relative) where we still found seats next to three other adventuresome tourists from Northern California and London, England. Those who came in 5 minutes after us were standing all night. So do heed the warning to get there early (fyi, that’s an early HITT tip!).
A waitress quickly arrived to take our orders with a huge smile and super friendly demeanor, which we soon learned was standard fare there. Drinks were all basically $5 – from a whiskey in a small plastic cup to a local beer in a bottle. Local vendors also wander in to sell various things to customers, from Elmer’s Chee Wees cheese snacks to mini-home-baked sweet potato pies for $2. HITT’s male half couldn’t pass up sweet potato pie for dessert!
Although “life is short, eat dessert first,” we had heard not to miss the huge BBQ smoker (it arrives towed behind a pickup truck) and other goodies for sale OUTSIDE the bar. No food in the bar. HITT’s female half wandered out to check out the offerings, doing a little jazz jig up the aisle and out the door since Kermit had decided to start partyin’ already.
Everyone welcome at Bullet’s Sports Bar
Although HITT manages to blend in pretty well, this was not going to happen at Bullet’s Sports Bar. But it didn’t matter. The ambiance was so welcoming, convivial, friendly and polite, as if it were just one big family, no matter who you were. Between songs, Kermit was talking to the crowd like they were his long-time friends, which many of them were. When Kermit’s special guest Nayo Jones took the mic and started singing with a voice as smooth as velvet, we sidled toward the front, tentatively, since others were there. But in short order, folks were encouraging us to get closer to listen and take photographs. Other musicians just wander in with guitars or saxophones over their shoulders and Kermit motions to them to ask if they want to play. You never know who is going to show up.
At 10 p.m. or so, the party is over. Kermit apparently doesn’t like to stay out late … and that’s just fine with us. We shared a cab back to town with our table mates where the music on Frenchman Street in Faubourg Marigny is just getting start for those who want to make a longer night of it.
Bullet’s Sports Bar – 2441 A P Tureaud Ave.; 504-948-4003