With its dim lighting, Soviet-red color scheme and turn-of-the-century propaganda art, Pravda! (1113 Decatur St., 581-1112) offers an appropriate setting for patrons to indulge in its two specialties: vodka (the bar stocks more than 50 kinds) and absinthe (anywhere from 12 to 17 varieties are available). Co-owner Ryan Fitzmorris says he loves giving customers "the full absinthe experience," complete with sugar cubes, slotted spoons and, when the bar isn't too crowded and busy, an informal absinthe history lecture.
"It's not the stereotypical bar people think of when they think New Orleans," manager Michaelle Nolan says of Pravda!, which opened in 2006 in a storefront that had housed a succession of short-lived businesses during the previous decade. "It was something that hadn't been done around here, a turn-of-the-century dive with a post-Victorian disheveled salon look. The Russian theme provided us with a liquor to focus on and a color scheme to work around."
In addition to the usual liquors and beers, Pravda! houses a full-service coffee cafe with a selection of Tazo teas, Italian sodas and cappuccinos. "We run the line between being a cafe and a bar," Nolan says. "And we can combine the two, infusing any coffee drink with whatever alcohol you want, from rum in your cappuccino to cognac in your chai."
The quiet and noninvasive bar, decorated with guns, elegant lampshades, historical portraits and chandeliers, lends itself to privacy and conversation. "We have a lot of small, intimate spaces," Fitzmorris says. "It's very easy to insulate yourself from everything else going on around you."
"People ... read here," Nolan adds. "It's a good, relaxed and quiet conversation bar, and we are fiercely protective of that."
Pravda! attracts an eclectic crowd ranging from scholars and suited-up lawyers to street musicians and celebrities like R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.
"We are welcoming to everyone, and we want all to feel comfortable here," Fitzmorris says.
"Our job is to give people a good time, to know when to slide in and out of the conversation ... and to create an enjoyable atmosphere without even realizing it sometimes" Fitzmorris says. "And you ... find your joy in that," Nolan adds.