As each day of Jazz Fest ends, a great rush ensues, with buses and cabs, the SUVs of VIPs, flocks of bicyclists and thousands of pedestrians all pressing out from the Fair Grounds vicinity. People are headed home, to their hotels, to the late dinner reservation or to next show across town.
But this is the phase of the Jazz Fest experience when I like to take my time. I like to soak in the scene as the sun slips below the shade of live oak tops and as the beautiful old neighborhoods around the Fair Grounds fill with people. It’s like being at a beach town at sunset, when the singed, happy, buzzed masses start streaming back from the shore, lugging their chairs and gear, with a coat of aloe and the evening’s plans on their minds.
The ideal vantage for all of this is a friend’s porch, with an open rocking chair, a neighborhood band within earshot and a cooler at the ready. But a good runner-up is a bar nearby, someplace within walking range for people who also find themselves more interested in festival afterglow than hurrying off somewhere else. Even on days when I can’t make it to the festival itself I like coming by after work for this evening shift.
Liuzza’s by the Track is the landmark locale for this type of post-fest hang. There’s usually a garage band jamming or a brass band blowing somewhere, a veritable bazaar of vendors hawking crafts and latter-day hippy wares along the sidewalks and clusters of people all around comparing notes on the day. Liuzza’s clears the decks for the crowds, emptying its dining room of tables and chairs and functioning as a big, walk-up bar, with food served outdoors around the corner. On the Gentilly side of the track, the Seahorse Saloon similarly comes to life as the fest lets out. And, like Liuzza’s, this big corner tavern does banner business in the morning and early afternoon with people grabbing drinks on the way in to the fest, too.
Both places are go-to watering holes thanks to their locations near Fair Grounds entry points. But there are also plenty of less obvious spots that assume new Jazz Fest identities as the crowds ebb and flow around them.
The entire 3100 block of Ponce de Leon Street is a case in point. Here the wine shop (and wine bar) Swirl, the bar at the French bistro Café Degas, an ad hoc backdoor service bar from the Esplanade Avenue pizzeria Nonna Mia and even the non-alcoholic option of the Fair Grinds Coffee House line the street. They all offer drinks to go and together constitute something of a block party.
Keep going just a bit, past Esplanade and the micro Fortier Park, and you’ll find Pal’s Lounge in full bloom. This is the neighborhood joint incarnate, with a coterie of local characters, bartenders who have been here long enough to feel a part of the place and an easy but charismatic vibe that makes regulars out of people who might live across town. During Jazz Fest evenings, look for food trucks parked just outside for snacks.
Across the bayou, up on Carrollton Avenue, the Parkview Tavern – not to be confused with the nearby Parkway Bakery – is an old-fashioned neighborhood bar, solidly on the B list, that happens to own a big, covered apron of picnic tables under the avenue’s oaks. This is a good spot to sit and watch the streetcars and fest traffic pass by while you pass around cheap pitchers of beer. And though it’s really a restaurant, Toups’ Meatery just across the street can offer a similarly satisfying perch on the same route, especially if your tastes run more toward a glass of wine and a small sack of cracklin’s from its Cajun kitchen.
New and nearby in the American Can apartment building is Pearl Wine Co., the wine shop previously known as Cork & Bottle, which operates its own attached wine bar, which was previously known as Clever.
Back on the other side of the bayou, the bike path that winds away from the Fair Grounds neighborhood takes you past the Bayou Beer Garden, where the shotgun cottage-turned-pub upfront expands dramatically into a huge covered deck and open patio in the back with its own bar, a tavern menu and an area for live bands.
Keep going along that bike path and you’ll see the doors of the Holy Ground Irish Pub inviting you in for a cold pint and, after that, d’mac’s Bar & Grill, a music club and tavern with a road house feel. It’s the last stop before the Jeff Davis overpass.
Sure, hitting even a few of these stops can make for a long return trip from the Fair Grounds. But remember that Jazz Fest is a marathon, not a sprint. And sometimes the way back home is a relay.
Here's where you can find all of these post-Jazz Fest spots:
Bayou Beer Garden
326 N. Jeff Davis Pkwy., 504-302-9357
d’mac’s Bar & Grill
542 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy., New Orleans, 504-304-5757
3127 Esplanade Ave., 504-945-5635
Fair Grinds Coffeehouse
3133 Ponce de Leon St., 504-913-9072
Holy Ground Irish Pub
3340 Canal St., 504-821-6828
Liuzza’s by the Track
1518 N. Lopez St., 504-218-7888
3125 Esplanade Ave., 504-948-1717
949 N. Rendon St., 504-488-7257
910 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-482-2680
Pearl Wine Co.
3700 Orleans Ave., 504-483-6314
The Seahorse Saloon
1648 Gentilly Blvd., 504-218-4217
Swirl Wine Bar & Market
3143 Ponce de Leon St., 504-304-0635
845 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-252-4999