I’ve never been a big bar person. In college, I generally opted to stay in and watch "Good Eats" and "Forensic Files" or bake bread or read Judy Blume novels in lieu of going to The Fieldhouse or Big 12 Bar & Grill. I am not a huge drinker; I don’t particularly enjoy the company of drunk people; and I really, really hate vomit.
During a brief period in grad school, however, Points 1 and 2 did not apply, and I started going regularly to a total dive bar called Snapper’s. In a previous life, Snapper’s had been a restaurant that served only soup – Grumpy’s Soup Kitchen or something like that – and after deciding the soup gimmick wasn’t catching on in Collegetown, USA, the owners apparently gave up and reopened it as a bar. It had a horrible selection of beers (I drank $1 Stag in bottles because the only other option was $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon in cans), absolutely no top-shelf booze, a jukebox that as far as I could tell played only Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, darts and a unisex bathroom that never seemed to have soap. If pressed, I couldn’t tell you the appeal of this bar. It was poorly lit, obviously unsanitary and not especially convenient to where I lived or worked – and yet I spent a great deal of time there with my friends. After a year or so, I got a real job and stopped going out to Snapper’s so often – and then I got pregnant and stopped going to Snapper’s at all. But for a brief time, Snapper’s inexplicably had a very loyal following composed mainly of me, my now-ex-husband and two guys named Aaron.
One of the many, many ways in which New Orleans is so different than Columbia, Mo., though, is that there are probably literally hundreds of bars down here that are every bit as beloved to their regulars as Snapper’s was to us – and for equally hard-to-define reasons.
Just since I’ve moved back, I have been lucky to live near great neighborhood bars: Mid-City Yacht Club, Robert’s Bar and Mick’s. And of course, I’ve been to plenty more: Rendon Inn, Pal’s Lounge, Flanagan’s and Finn McCool’s, just to name a few. All of these bars have the same je ne sais quoi that Snapper’s did, but here I almost feel like we take these places for granted because they are so prevalent; we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dive bars.
But the other thing that I find interesting about the bar scene here is how central these neighborhood bars are to socializing. In Columbia, we went to Snapper’s to drink and play darts, period. But since moving back to New Orleans, I’ve been to potlucks, crawfish boils, birthday parties, memorial services and even a women’s book club at these neighborhood dive bars.
I don’t know if this is a statement on New Orleanians' drinking habits so much as our neighborhood identities and general lack of pretension, and I don’t really care. I enjoy the occasional nice glass of wine at Delachaise or upscale mixed drink at Cure, but really, I feel most at home drinking cheap beer at a bar just blocks from my home. And it’s nice to know that, wherever I am, I am definitely in good company.
What’s your favorite neighborhood bar and why?