The story of how Dos Jefes came to be goes a little like this:
In 1994, in an attempt to escape the drudgery of many years in the food and beverage service industry, Shawn Stallard & Ritchie Shaner opened a cigar shop at the corner of Magazine and Arabella Streets, named Dos Jefes (tr. “Two Chiefs”) Uptown Cigar Shop. The popularity of cigars at this time gave rise to another opportunity just a few blocks away. Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar rose from the ashes of a seemingly cursed location at 5535 Tchoupitoulas St. The little bar that changed hands, changed names, & changed concepts again and again for decades became an homage to the “cigar life”- fine wine, rare spirits, great smokes and jazz, the classic popular music of the 20th century.
Not long after opening, Shaner hauled his old Baldwin Spinet into the saloon. One night a mysterious stranger named “Cadillac Red” sat down at the piano and played a few tunes. He was hired to play again the next night and the next night…and the next. For 4 years he brought in guest performers such as Wendell Brunious, Loren Pickford, “Snakebite” Jenkins, Rick Trolsen, Eric Traub, & Rebecca Barry. On Red’s night off, guitar virtuoso John Fohl took the mike (as he still does on most Mondays, when he’s not out on the road with Dr. John).
The musical program has grown out of this to 6 nights of great local acts and no cover charge. Regular performers include song stylists Tom Hook, Bob Andrews, George French, Nelson Lunding (pictured, left) & Burke Ingraffia; piano phenoms John Royen & Joe Krown; zydeco bluesman Sunpie Barnes; jazzmen Geoff Clapp, Todd Duke, Jamelle Williams, & Eric Traub; gypsy swing from the Courtyard Kings and Tony Green; Latin jazz from Rick Trolsen’s Gringo do Choro, and Vivaz w/Javier Guiterrez.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Dos Jefes re-opened its doors on October 1st, just one month after the storm and one day after power was restored to the area. Its comfortable tables and fresh air patio immediately became a haven for relief workers, police personnel, & returning evacuees.
Regardless of what the very successful tourism industry might tell you, New Orleans exists in all of the neighborhoods where people live, work and play. If you are looking for the real vibe of the city, and if you are looking for the laid back feel of real people who aren’t trying to con you out of 5 bucks by using bad grammar, then Dos Jefes is the place – and with no cover charge, the minimal cab fare from downtown is even less.