Route Nationale 7, or “N7,” was France’s version of Route 66, a mythical road that defined summer for generations of French families. In the 1950s and ’60s, the road was known as “La Route des Vacances” or “The Holiday Route,” as middle-class workers drove their new (affordable) Citroens to vacation in southern France and Italy. Small farmhouses along the route were converted to informal restaurants, offering simple fare to travelling families, as well as to truckers who drove the road throughout the year. Soon the Michelin tire company assembled a list of these venues, and from that was born the venerated Michelin guide.
The bar N7 recreates this farmhouse experience, but you only have to travel a bit down St. Claude
Avenue to get there. Their sign is discreet, just a red stenciled logo on the gate of a fence, but once you open that gate, you leave New Orleans and enter the French countryside. N7 is utterly charming.
A beat-up Citroen is parked outside the small wooden building that houses a tiny bar and mismatched wooden tables. A covered patio beckons when the weather is cooler, and even on a sultry night, there are patrons enjoying bottles of wine there. Inside, the soundtrack is decidedly international, and French movie posters and magazine covers paper the walls. But what adds to the feeling that you have left, the city is not so much the decor as the architecture itself. They got the windows right: small, multi-paned affairs that you don’t see in New Orleans. The low ceiling is a stark contrast to the lofty affairs found in most buildings in this neighborhood.
N7 is officially licensed as a wine bar, and the bulk of their list comprises French wines, augmented by other international varieties. There is a small but carefully curated beer list (even the draft beers are French!) and a tiny bar with an abundant selection of vermouths and aperitifs. The menu is also small and, interestingly, features a number of imported canned treats: pate, smoked trout, octopus in ink, as well as duck a l’orange and, occasionally, vichyssoise. The food prices are on the high side, but you can drink here very reasonably, with bottles under $25 and glasses that start at $7.
The bar’s namesake road is no longer called N7. It is now Departmentale 6007, a demotion of sorts that signifies the road’s secondary status there are far faster ways to get from Paris to the south of France. But its spirit lives on in a quiet section of the Bywater.
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