We humans are social creatures with a natural instinct to seek out the companionship of others. As largely insecure, but curious creatures, we are compelled to measure the quality of our lives by meeting new people face to face and comparing our lives to theirs. True, in New Orleans it is perfectly acceptable to strike up a lengthy conversation with a total stranger in the check-out line at the grocery or over a gas pump, but , for many, bars remain the historic fallback when we want to hang out with friends or make new ones. Of all the gathering places available to us, bars provide the social lubricant many of us need to strike out among strangers.
Good, bad, or otherwise, drinking culture is tightly woven into the social fabric of everyday life in New Orleans. New Orleans’ bars are as a numerous and diverse as the people who populate them and the reasons for their patronage.
Want to catch the game or some live music? We have bars for that. Dig on trivia, backgammon or bingo? Check. Check. Check. Lonely? Feeling romantic? Want to send a clear message to your companion to leave and never return? You get the point: New Orleans has all the bases covered.
People go to bars for a million different reasons. Alcohol just happens to be there.
Chef Eric Cook recently opened restaurant Gris Gris in the triangular-shaped building at Magazine and Felicity. It’s a sweet spot for sure but the real estate came with the rare, tantalizing bonus of outdoor seating on the deep, graceful, climate-controlled second floor balcony. If people watching and a long hang with friends on a beautiful day is your jam then this is your spot.
Gris Gris, 1800 Magazine St., 272-0241, grisgrisnola.com.
Catch the Game
Loads of televisions, a friendly crowd, and thriftily priced drinks are the order of the day when it’s Game Day. Best bets:
Henry’s Bar, Uptown; MRB, French Quarter; and Avenue Pub, Lower Garden District.
Avenue Pub, 1732 St. Charles Ave., 586-9243, theavenuepub.com.
Henry’s Bar, 5101 Magazine St., 324-8140, henrysbaruptown.com.
MRB (Mississippi River Bottom), 515 St. Philip St., 524.2558, no website.
Imbued with a sexy vibe and a secretive feel that comes as no surprise in a former brothel, CellarDoor operates in the circa 1830 Swoop-Duggins House just a short walk and a world away from the Dome. A shaded courtyard and seating on deep balconies add to the mysterious feel. Though the spot opens on Sundays when the Saints play just down the street, this upscale spot seems like a better bet before a highly anticipated concert.
CellarDoor, 916 Lafayette St., 265-8392, cellardoornola.com.
Drinks with Out of Town Guests
Shame on you if you go no further than the hotel bar with your out-of-town guests or, worse, allow them to depart with the idea the “Big Ass Beers” on Bourbon Street is the best we have to offer. As one of the few surviving structures from the Spanish colonial period, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was erected at Bourbon and St. Philip streets in the 1770s, making it one of the city’s oldest structures. With peeling plaster walls, the dimly lit space (take care maneuvering over the cobblestone floors) is enlivened with music tinkling in from the rear piano bar, setting the proper stage to share the building’s fascinating history while sipping potent Obituary cocktails.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, 941 Bourbon St., 593-9761, lafittesblacksmithshop.com.
Sipping cocktails on the veranda at The Columns Hotel while observing the rumbling streetcar making its way down the tracks under a canopy of oaks will fulfill every first-time visitor’s “Moonlight and Magnolias” vision of New Orleans. The tranquil, languorous beauty of the space will compel you to linger and reconnect with the more graceful aspects of our city. A daily 5 to 7 happy hour and free live local music nightly at 8 p.m. make this a pretty sweet destination.
The Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308, thecolumnshotel.com.
Nick Detrich became well-known in the cocktail world for Cane & Table, a tiki rum bar in the French Quarter. Last spring he teamed up with Chris Hannah of Arnaud’s French 75 and Konrad Kantor of El Libre, to open an El Floridita-inspired Cuban-themed bar that celebrates Havana›s golden age with classic drinks like the Daiquiri No. 4, Papa Dobles, and El Presidenté. At Manolito bartenders practice a “throwing’ technique whereby drinks are mixed by pouring liquids back and forth several times from high above the glass. The group named Manolito for Manuel “Manolito Carbajo, a Cuban bartender who died in 2017 and served as a mentor to Hannah and Detrich. Detrich and Kantor are also partners in Everywhen on Rampart Street.
Manolito, 508 Dumaine St., 603-2740, manolitonola.com.
Mark Schettler started his career in Chicago and took a chance on New Orleans when he needed a fresh start. Today he is one of those bartenders that high-end liquor brands pay to represent them at events all around the world. When he’s not jet-setting, he serves as the General Manager and Bartender at Bar Tonique. He is the former president of the New Orleans Chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild. He co-founded and serves as executive director of Shift Change, an organization devoted to ending sexual violence the service industry.
Bar Tonique, 820 N. Rampart St., 324-6045, bartonique.com.
Live Jazz Music
The Royal Frenchmen Hotel, beautifully forged from two historic townhouses facing Washington Square Park, opened its doors last autumn with 13 rooms, three suites, and a large, interior courtyard with a stunning fountain. The courtyard, serviced by the cozy Royal Bar with inspired craft cocktails, artisan wines and spirits, and an extensive list of craft beers, is the scene for a changing roster of live jazz ensembles. The space offers a tranquil retreat from the crowds jamming the clubs on Frenchmen Street.
The Royal Frenchmen Hotel, 1614-700 Frenchmen St., 619-9660, theroyalfrenchmenhotel.com.
Located behind a high wooden fence, the fact that you have found N7 is indicated only by a small red impression in the wood. To step behind the swinging gate is to enter another world; a warmly lit romantic discovery that will send little shivers of pleasure through the stoniest of hearts. A lush garden surrounds the small, open building glowing with candlelight and a polished copper-topped wine bar. Within the petite French restaurant, beautiful people sip natural, handmade wines and share artfully arranged plates of French delicacies.
N7, 1117 Montegut St., no telephone, n7nola.com.
A First Date
A beautiful lighting plan that makes everyone look and feel their best is imperative for a first date. Both Bouligny Tavern and Cure deliver. The former, a gastro-pub, has a sexy, mid-century modern sensibility with banquet seating, clean-lined furnishings, and futuristic light fixtures straight out of Mad Men. The latter, coming up on its ninth year in business, pioneered the now-thriving dining and nightlife scene on Freret Street when it opened in an elegantly re-imagined firehouse. Both have extensive craft cocktail and wine lists, and both feature the welcome addition of well-appointed outdoor courtyard sitting areas.
Trivia Nights, Episodes of Dr. Who and a Brit Vibe
Just blocks from the Algiers Ferry landing and, therefore, easily accessible from downtown New Orleans, the Crown & Anchor Pub bills itself as New Orleans’ only authentic English pub. Find an extensive selection of draught beer, single malt scotch, wine, mixed drinks and bottled beer. The Thursday night Pub Quiz and darts are popular attractions. The vibe is mellow and the place is decked in vintage Brit paraphenalia. [Crown & Anchor Pub, 200 Pelican Ave., 227-1007, crownandanchor.pub.
The Dungeon is the place to do “the deed,” if you have the heart of the Grinch. Lead your dumpee through the dark, narrow (turn side-ways), claustrophobia-inducing alley that feels more like the passageway to the gallows than a dimly lit bar with skulls and bones adorning the brick walls. Visit after midnight on the weekend when the upstairs bar is open and treat your date to the visage of the most garishly demonic art outside of Dante’s Inferno. If your companion has any sense at all, they will flee from your company and you will be off the hook to enjoy, in the solitude someone like you so richly deserves, a cup of Dragon’s Blood, Witches Brew, or Midnight Potion while perched on a bench inside one of the many cages, serenaded by screeching heavy metal music.
The Dungeon, 738 Toulouse St., thedungeoneneworleaans.com.
A Sultry Atmosphere
Hiding in Public
It was close to 30 years ago when I encountered Mick Jagger three times in one night. Never once did I or anyone else disrupt his evening out, so it’s safe to assume if Mick Jagger can hide in public in New Orleans, anyone can. The first time I saw the front man for The Rolling Stones was early in the evening and he was shooting pool at the eternally grubby Grit’s Bar. A few hours later he turned up amongst the clutter of old New Orleans memorabilia at The Saturn Bar. Then, as Saturday night edged ever closer to Sunday morning a group of us were dancing on the warped floors and passing a collection jug for J Monque’ D and his band at the now defunct Benny’s Blues Bar. When I passed the jug to Jagger he stuffed in a wad of cash, took a pull on his Dixie, and kept on dancing, just as cool as the other side of your pillow.
Grit’s Bar, 530 Lyons St., 899-921, no website.
The Saturn Bar, 3067 St Claude Ave., 949-7532, no website.
When You Just Can’t Deal with Going Home Alone
It is no secret that some go out on the prowl with the singular intention of heading home with a willing near or total stranger for a tryst. No judgment, a few spots are known as places to look. Among them, F&M Patio Bar, Uptown, and The Gold Mine Saloon in the French Quarter. After midnight the main bar at the former has a frat house vibe and it’s packed with students, musicians, professionals on the prowl, and just-off-work waiters and bartenders. Down in the French Quarter the Gold Mine is known for its rowdy crowd as well as old arcade games, including The Amazing Spider-Man and Popeye, both of which, presumably, are effective ice-breakers. Drink specials may include the two-for-one Flaming Dr. Pepper, Retro Nights and the Wheel of Booze. Spin the wheel to launch a drink special that will last between 10 minutes and half an hour.
F&M Patio Bar, 4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784, fandmpatiobar.com.
The Gold Mine, 701 Dauphine St., 586-0745, no website.
Mardi Gras Day
While crowded, the balcony at The R Bar is a welcome way to take in Mardi Gras Day while staying above the crowds and out of the muck. Good Friends, on the other hand, is Ground Zero on the big day, a.k.a the stage for the Bourbon Street Awards. The Drag Queen Beauty Contest, is, inexplicably, not on Bourbon Street at all but is located just outside the front door to Good Friends on Dauphine Street.
Upscale Shots and a Warm Welcome
Though the French Quarter is an actual neighborhood, most businesses tend to overlook neighborhood patronage in favor of the more lucrative tourist dollars. At Longway Tavern, a relaxed, civilized, welcoming environment courts return patronage and casts Bourbon Street 1,000 miles away. This quality of hospitality comes honestly to 719 Toulouse St., once the home of writers Roark and Mary Rose Bradford, both of whom purportedly slept all day and wrote all night, graciously welcoming with food and drink those who took “the long way” home after work in the neighborhood. The spot made it on to Esquire magazine’s list of “Best New Restaurants” for 2018 and Chef John Sinclair’s upscale comfort food is mighty fine indeed, but Liam Deegan’s beverage program is equally striking. The list of creative shots made a decisive impression. Vivid green Chartreuse with an orange Fanta backer is oddly satisfying, both visually and on the palate.
Longway Tavern, 719 Toulouse St., 962-9696, LongwayTavern.com.
The service industry crowd drives its own micro-culture with few ready to head home after pulling an adrenaline soaked double shift. Enter the bars popular with the vampiric crowd, and that favors hard partying with the same people they have been working with for the past 12 to 16 hours. The Black Penny, an old-school dive bar, is a popular choice for French Quarter servers, when they are ready to be served. There are reasonably priced craft cocktails and over 90 regional, American, and imported craft beers, all of which are canned. The Saint in the Lower Garden District is also popular with the service industry crowd with karaoke and rock bottom prices being the big draws.
The Black Penny, 700 N Rampart St., 304-4779, no website.
The Saint, 961 St. Mary St., 523-0050, thesaintneworleans.com.
Watch the Sunset
Hot Tin Rooftop Bar (in the Pontchartrain Hotel), 2031 St. Charles Ave., 323-1500, hottinbar.com.
With its African walnut bar, richly paneled walls, and impeccably restored Paul Ninas murals hailing from the height of the Art Deco era, The Sazerac Bar may be the most elegant drinking establishment in New Orleans. The environment compels you to sit a little straighter and walk at bit taller, lest Huey P. Long stroll in and catch you slouching in the spot where he enjoyed many a Ramos Gin Fizz.
The Sazerac Bar (in The Roosevelt Hotel), 130 Roosevelt Way, 648-1200, therooseveltneworleans.com.
Dive Bar with Great Grub and Cheap, High Quality Drinks
Thrillist once said of Mid City’s Twelve Mile Limit: “It’s the neighborhood bar worth leaving your actual neighborhood to adopt as your own.” It’s true. Owner/Bartender T. Cole Newton turns out inventive cocktails and serves them up at thrifty prices. He also keeps things interesting with frequent specials: Free Food Mondays (7 to 8 p.m.), Open Mic (Mondays 9 p.m.), Charity Bingo (first Tuesdays at 8 p.m.), Trivia Wednesdays (8 p.m.), and Heat-Wave Oldies Dance Parties (second Saturdays at 10 p.m.) The dive bar also turns out exceptional Texas style BBQ.
Twelve Mile Limit, 500 S. Telemachus St., 488-8114, twelvemilelimit.com.
Rubbing Shoulders with The Beautiful People
The Elysian Bar at the Hotel Peter & Paul, 2317 Burgundy St., 356-6769.
Free Live Music and No One is a Stranger
Located on the Algiers riverfront, the Old Point Bar has a bohemian air. The walls are covered in license plates and old bobble head figures, and an old military police sign forms the backdrop behind the bandstand where live music is offered every night and on weekend afternoons. The feeling is warm, welcoming and lived-in. There’s a huge assortment of beers, many of them regional on tap, and no one is a stranger for more than a minute. Feel free to bring your dog.
Old Point Bar, 545 Patterson Dr., Algiers, 364-0950, oldpointbarnola.com.
Culinary entrepreneur Kyle Brechtel recently opened Copper Vine, a new wine bar concept in the CBD with a state-of-the-art wine tap system in the historic, circa 1876, Edwardian building that once housed Maylie’s Restaurant.
There is an expansive, lush, sexy tropical courtyard decked out with bench seating, throw pillows, rugs, and elegant minimalist outdoor furniture.
Thirty wine varietals are available on tap. Wine flights allow for vertical exploration of flavors and varietals, and a Coravin system allows guests to taste 20 higher end and exotic wines that are not typically poured by-the-glass. There are eight local beers on tap, as well as a strong cocktail program.
Other wine-centric spots worth checking out include The Delachaise, Uptown; The Vintage, Magazine Street; and Bacchanal Wine, Bywater.
Bacchanal Wine, 600 Poland Ave., 948-9111, bacchanalwine.com.
Copper Vine, 1009 Poydras St., 208-9535, coppervinewine.com.
Delachaise, 3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858, thedelachaise.com.
The Vintage, 3121 Magazine St., 324-7144, thevintagenola.com.
A cocktail in a glass featuring a cartoon character
Turkey & the Wolf is as ridiculous as it is brilliant. Mismatched glasses featuring throwbacks like the Hamburgler keep time with rummage sale finds of Mawmaw’s old china and a menu that is surely planned with a bong. Knock it all back with one of the ever changing cocktails like Snickerpoodle My Labradoodle (vodka, mint, cinnamon, rice milk, and hellfire bitters).
Turkey & the Wolf, 739 Jackson Ave., New Orleans, 218-7428, turkeyandthewolf.com.
What could be more perfect than a tiki bar in the French Quarter? Jeff “Beachbum” Berry spent decades unearthing and publishing “lost” exotic tiki drink recipes, many of which you will find on the list at his colorful hangout, complete with an indoor pool.
Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, 321 N. Peters St., 609-3811, latitude29nola.com.
Drink with your Dog
Pups are always welcome at the Rusty Nail.
The Rusty Nail, 1100 Constance St., 525-5515, rustynailnola.com.
Rendezvous, 3101 Magazine St., 891-1777, therendezvoustavern.com.
Twelve Mile Limit, 500 S. Telemachus St., 488-8114, twelvemilelimit.com.
Brieux Carre Brewing, 2115 Decatur St., 304-4242, brieuxcarre.com.
Mid-City Yacht Club, 440 S. St. Patrick St., 483-2517, midcityyachtclub.com.
Bulldog Uptown, 3236 Magazine St., 891-1516, draftfreak.com.
Bulldog Mid-City, 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191, draftfreak.com.
Crown & Anchor Pub, 200 Pelican Ave., 227-1007, crownandanchor.pub.
Parleaux Beer Lab, 634 Lesseps St., 702-8433, parleauxbeerlab.com.
Le Bon Temps, 4801 Magazine St., 895-8117, lbtrnola.com.
Finn McCool’s, 3701 Banks St., 486-9080, finnmccools.com.
Henry’s Bar, 5101 Magazine St., 324-8140, henrysbaruptown.com.
Old Point Bar, 545 Patterson Dr., Algiers, 364-095., oldpointbarnola.com.
Stand Out Happy Hours
All draft beers and wines by the glass are half off and the daily cocktail is $5 from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. 8201 Oak St #1,518-6889, dtbnola.com.
Mimosas are $2 and well drinks, beer and wine are half off every Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. Five dollar wine specials and $20 for select bottles of wine all day on Wednesdays. 4729 Magazine St., 894-8881, apollinerestaurant.com.
$5 classic cocktails and wines by the glass, Monday through Friday, from 4 to 6 p.m. 3641 Magazine St., 891-1810, boulignytavern.com.
Happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, plus Monday when wines by the glass are $5, and special cocktails are $6. 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, 304-2147, toupssouth.com.
Bar 1908 at Pythian Market
$5 wines; $4 draft beer; $6 frozen concoctions and old fashioneds from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. 234 Loyola Ave, 481-9599, pythianmarket.com.
Choose from seven cocktails, wines by the glass, and hearty, upscale snacks like smoked duck wings, crab and artichoke dip, and wood-grilled oysters at Happy Hour prices every day from 2 to 7 p.m. in the Roost Bar. On Fridays at 5 p.m., Champagne sabering is featured in the courtyard. 417 Royal St., 525-9711, brennansneworleans.com.
Happy Hour is offered on Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. Plates of assorted pates are $6; plump, expertly fried oysters with creamy aioli are also$6; classic escargot are $5; and a hearty portion of Moules au Fenouil & Frites is $8. Glasses of quality French wines, both still and sparkling, a daily house cocktail, and glasses of NOLA Blonde beer are $5. 3127 Esplanade Avenue, 945-5635, cafedegas.com.