I’ve always felt that one sign of a good hospital is a welcoming bar nearby, a warm place to counter the more clinical setting.
Unlike doctors’ waiting rooms, bars are built for comfort, both physical and metaphorical, and offer patrons succor and sustenance. It’s a respite for staff, patients and families alike.
A new medical complex has been climbing skyward along Tulane Avenue, but I have kept my eyes at street level to watch as the neighborhood around it comes to life. One anchor of this new area is a remarkable bar called Treo.
Treo is brought to us by the good folks at Finn McCools, who know a thing or two about creating a warm, neighborhood vibe. Treo is grounded in this aesthetic, though its New Orleans connection is most visible, interestingly, on its ceiling.
When you walk in, look up and take in the extraordinary map of the city, constructed of reclaimed wood. A faded green door occupies the swath of City Park and a cream, domed light fixture sits in place of the Superdome.
There’s another map of the city and environs on the wall, and patrons are invited to stick pins into it to mark their homes. The Mid-City section looks like a pincushion, but there’s still plenty of room as you stretch out (I’m talking to you, Jefferson Parish).
Unlike its sister bar over on Banks Street, Treo is not merely another neighborhood joint, despite its many local pins. It has positioned itself as more of a cocktail destination.
The imaginative and varied seasonal menu currently features The Mistress, their riff on the French 75, featuring gin, blueberry syrup and sparkling rosé and the spicy Sunda Selat which showcases a house infused cumin and jalapeño bourbon mixed with lime.
However, the standout of the night was a stellar Manhattan, chosen from a whole page of standards including the Old Fashioned, Blood and Sand and the Vieux Carre, each offered for the bargain price of $7.
Indeed, this list of traditional cocktails felt a bit like a challenge, and my boyfriend and I began ticking off which classics we had left to try, vowing to return to make our way through the list.
The amiable environment is augmented by a friendly and knowledgeable staff that is happy to answer questions about unfamiliar ingredients and, on a slow night, bar manager Tyler Chauvin may even share her enthusiasm for (and a small sample from) their collection of unfamiliar vermouths and amaros.
Treo features an art gallery that was not open on our visits, but it frequently has openings featuring local artists’ work.
What was open, and absolutely worth the visit, is what can only be described as their backyard.
It’s not a true patio or deck. Instead it is a side lot of grass dotted with picnic tables and chairs and several church pews.
The night we visited the yard was full of patrons, lively with laughter and conversation, but I could imagine that on a slower night, or in the midday between the lunch and evening rush, the yard could be tranquil, an oasis of quiet adjacent to bustling Tulane Avenue.
And then I remembered that many medical centers have chapels, filled with (usually empty) church pews.
Tonight, Treo’s pews are filled with happy revelers, but the yard is big and the pews are many and if you needed to be alone, to get away for a bit to wait, to hope, to worry, to forget, you could do so in their big backyard, as you slowly sipped your drink.