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Aug 26, 200912:00 AM
After Hours

New Orleans Finest Nightlife

Even If Half Empty, the Bulldog’s Glass Always Seems Full

The Bulldog on Canal Boulevard has a popular Wednesday night special, but the bar might be best enjoyed on quieter evenings.

Ian McNulty photograph

When both cab drivers and city tow truck operators are sure that hanging around a certain bar on a certain night will be time profitably spent, you can be sure that bar’s special has caught on big.

That’s the case with the Bulldog on Canal Boulevard on Wednesdays, the tavern’s pint night. The unusual offer promises patrons that when they order a pint of beer, the glass is theirs to keep and bring home. By the time some have had their fill, they can be seen heading to the door with  rattling, heavy glass sheaves of a half-dozen or so emptied pints.

Driving after such a feat, and with such extraordinary physical evidence of it clinking around in the car, would be unwise –– hence the cabbies trolling outside for business. The special is immensely popular, even among those who don’t dispatch quite so much beer, and on Wednesdays customer parking attempts can be pretty creative –– hence the city tow trucks similarly trolling for business.

There’s rarely much room to park yourself inside the Bulldog on Wednesdays either. It’s an elbow-to-elbow crowd of mostly young to middle-age locals. There is typically a thick knot of people waiting at the bar, and there’s a parade of burgers and cheese fries held precariously aloft on fingertips as others wade back from the kitchen window to whichever table their friends are defending.

Surely, all this action can’t be driven by free glassware alone, and the Bulldog has other charms. My feeling, though, is that these are easier to appreciate on any of the other six days of the week.

The Bulldog’s roots go back to 1994, when the first location opened on Magazine Street. It came along just as the revival of interest in craft beer was gaining momentum, when smaller American breweries were hitting their stride, more imports were pouring in and beer consumers began broadening their horizons beyond the mega market-leader domestics such as Miller and Bud. Bars started adding more taps, and the Bulldog took it to another level, making a large array of draft beers its calling card. Today, other New Orleans bars have larger or more studied beer selections, but the Bulldog’s lineup of solid American offerings, familiar German and Belgian brews and a scattering of exotics remains impressive. 

This formula proved successful from the get-go, and just a year after the original Uptown Bulldog opened, its owners created a spinoff, Lager’s International Ale House in Metairie. Other Bulldog locations have sprouted up in Baton Rouge and Jackson, Miss.

These locations all more or less share a pub-like aesthetic of dark woods, abundant wainscoting and sturdy furniture, but it’s the Canal Boulevard operation that offers the most in drinking ambiance. The main bar area is par for the course, the adjoining room is stocked with sofas, and farther back still is the tavern’s crowning glory: a full-fledged beer garden, lushly planted, adorned by fountains, gated and served by an enormous outdoor television for sports broadcasts.

Some people will enjoy all of this much more on any night but Wednesday, when the outdoor atmosphere and the Belgian imports can be savored without the jutting elbows of a crowd or the peril of cheese fries falling on your head. But there’s no arguing with success, and pint night is a huge success. Just ask the cabbies and tow truck drivers.

Bulldog, 5135 Canal Boulevard, New Orleans, 488-4191

 

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After Hours

New Orleans Finest Nightlife

about

Ian McNultyA transplant from his native Rhode Island, Ian McNulty quickly discovered how easy it is to strike up conversations with New Orleans people simply by asking about their favorite clubs and neighborhood joints.

He asked often, listened carefully and has been exploring the nightlife of the Crescent City ever since.

McNulty was the editor and principal contributor to Hungry? Thirsty? New Orleans, a guidebook to nightspots and inexpensive restaurants around town. He is also author of Season of Night, a memoir about life in a devastated part of New Orleans during the first few months after Hurricane Katrina.

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