Off the Clock with Nathan Dalton

A man in a Hawaiin shirt behind a bar.
Bar director Nathan Dalton at Tiki Tolteca.

To say bar director Nathan Dalton is busy would be a major understatement. He spends most days bouncing around the four Felipe’s Taqueria locations throughout New Orleans while remotely managing the forthcoming Naples, FL spot. He meets with bar managers and bartenders while juggling paperwork, schedules, and meetings at the corporate headquarters on Tchoupitoulas. On Friday nights, you’ll find Dalton slinging drinks at tik-easy lounge Tiki Tolteca upstairs from Felipe’s flagship restaurant in the French Quarter. Keeping pace with one of the busiest tourist cities in the country is second nature to this seasoned Crescent City bartender; whose pre-Katrina stints included the now shuttered Hookah Cafe and local favorite, the musical Marlene’s Place. Katrina changed everything--not just for the city, but for Dalton.

Like so many displaced, storm-torn residents, he was forced to leave the city he loved to start over--moving to four different states in six months before finally returning to his hometown of Gastonia, NC. While there, he helped to open two restaurants, and in doing so, discovered his passion for cultivating bar programs. This prompted his return to his beloved New Orleans. Once back “home,” it was his work at Club 300 Jazz Bistro which finally prepared him for his future with Felipe’s. There were many nights he found himself alone behind the bar, 50 screaming people deep in drinks, no bouncer, drenched in sweat, and loving every damn minute of it. The rush he felt at Club 300 is the same he feels now with his current schedule. But Dalton wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what does “off the clock” look like for Nathan Dalton beyond the frenetic weeds of Felipe’s ever-expanding bar program?

Off-duty Nathan looks like...

After work, I usually go home and relax with my wife, Kristi, until bed. On the weekends, we go to the grocery store and take our two dogs to the levee. I know, pretty boring. We used to go out all the time, especially after work, but Kristi is at Tulane now getting her Masters in Accounting, so we’ve tightened our belts.

Fitness regime to stay in shape (and sane)

I've been saying I need to start working out for years. I did start about a year ago, but my credit card number changed, the membership lapsed, and I never got around to dealing with it. So, that didn’t last long.

Favorite hobby

I've played the piano since I was in kindergarten. It's one of my true loves. I went to high school at North Carolina School of the Arts, and then went on to earn a degree in music composition from Tulane. I decided I liked bartending more, and went 10 years without a piano in my house. I finally found one a few years ago for $100 and have been playing every day since.

Home bar set up

I have a full bar at home. Running water, fridge, hundreds of bottles of liquor, and all the bar tools. The original idea was to have people over once a week to learn by having themes and letting different people bartend. I’ve done it a few times, but I've gotten so busy, it's a rare occasion now.

Off-duty cocktail

It changes pretty regularly, but my most recent loves are the Aviation and the Martinez.

Favorite spirit

Currently, gin. I go through phases all the time. My last phase was Negronis. I think that has put me on a gin kick.

Wine or beer?

That's like choosing between children! I drink more beer than wine, but I love both. Right now I have a bottle of Los Vascos Cabernet Rosé in my refrigerator. It’s pretty inexpensive, but damn good.

Restaurant or bar in New Orleans to grab a good meal and a drink

Once again, phases. My current love is St. Roch Market. Before that, it was Oxalis.

Lazy day wardrobe must-have

I never shop for clothes. Everything I have was bought by my wife or given to me by a liquor company. So, you'll typically see me in jeans and a shirt advertising some kind of liquor on my days off.

Current binge read

I was just incredibly addicted to the The Name of the Wind. I'm waiting on the sequel now. If you like fantasy books, get it!

Dream vacation

Anywhere! I love traveling. It doesn't matter if it's a small town in Missouri or a tropical Polynesian island.

Create a band name that describes you in four words or less

“Just Along for theRide." I took the artistic liberty of connecting the last two words to make it four words or less.

Why New Orleans?

I had lived in North Carolina all my life. I needed a change. I figured what bigger change than New Orleans? So I went to Tulane for college. I fell in the love with this city the very first week.

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