You won’t have any trouble finding a place to drink in New Orleans. Heck, thanks to “go cups,” you won’t have to spend a minute without a drink in your hand. But there’s more to this town than bars (much), and more to bars than Bourbon Street (ditto), so as with all things, let moderation preside. There, that’s our sermon. Our suggestions include some of the most convivial, quaint, or downright eccentric spots; also keep in mind that many restaurants have excellent bars.
The French Quarter & the Faubourg Marigny
Pat O’Brien’s, 718 St. Peter St. (www.patobriens.com; [tel] 504/525-4823), is world-famous for the hefty, vivid red drink with the big-wind name. The bar’s owners created the Hurricane’s rum-heavy formula during a 1940s whiskey shortage. It’s served in signature hurricane-lamp–style glasses, or a 3-gallon magnum that’s taller than many small children and shared (one profoundly hopes) through long straws, while standing up. Naturally, this attracts tourists and collegians in droves. The line can stretch down the street, despite the plethora of nearby drinking options . . . and the fact that the Hurricane is kinda sickly sweet.
Pat O’s still makes a reliable, rowdy, friendly introduction to New Orleans. The large, dueling-pianos lounge is fun (music starts at 6pm; 2pm weekends) and locals populate the main bar up front, but when weather permits, the rambling, often boisterous tropical patio is the place to be. Your Hurricane automatically comes with a $3 charge for the glass. Return it for a refund, or ask for packing materials
Elsewhere Around the City
The St. Claude scene -- The scruffy local alternative types have carved out a pretty pulsing, punk-infused scene (well, with some garage rock, bluegrass, metal, and whatever else) along a stretch of St. Claude Avenue in the Marigny. If this is what you're into (or if you think Frenchmen St. has jumped the shark), check out Siberia's sundry bookings, which span the punk/funk/death metal/trivia/whatev realms (2227 St. Claude Ave.; www.siberianola.com; tel. 504/265-8855). At the spacious, comfortable Hi-Ho Lounge, we dig Monday night's BYOBanjo bluegrass jam and Saturdays for the Pink Project's genre-spanning, multi-culti house party (2239 St. Claude Ave.; wwwhiholounge.net; tel. 504/945-4446). The loose, welcoming karaoke at 24-hour Kajun’s Pub (2256 St. Claude Ave.; www.kajunpub.com; tel. 504/947-3735 or 504/267-6108) and the friendly AllWays Lounge (2240 St. Claude Ave.; www.theallwayslounge.com; tel. 504/218-5778) round out the tatty, happening street scene. These clubs are just a few blocks from the Marigny and Frenchmen Street. Up the road a bit, Saturn Bar in Bywater falls somewhere between art project and junque-house, but the dive vibe is unfakeable; punk, surf, DJs, and metal rotate, with the blistering hot blues of King James and the Special Men most Monday nights (3067 St. Claude Ave.; tel. 504/949-7532). Do take a cab, and don’t wander into the transitional bordering areas. Hungry? Hit Kukhnya in Siberia for delish, crazy-affordable “Slavic soul food.”
If you’d rather drink with Tom Waits than Tom Cruise, you’ll appreciate New Orleans’s fine dive bars—and by fine, we mean down-and-dirty, neighborhood holes-in-the-wall with regulars straight out of a Jim Jarmusch casting call. Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge’s only illumination comes from dwindling Christmas lights, which doesn’t make it easier to find this crowded, sweat-soaked, off-the-beaten-path shack. It’s BYOD (dog), so you know it’s friendly (7612 Oak St., Uptown; www.snakeandjakes.com; tel. 504/861-2802). Aunt Tiki’s, in the depths of Decatur Street, is laden with stickers, Halloween dreck, and affable, slouching degenerates. As if that’s not draw enough, drinks are strong and cheap (1207 Decatur St., French Quarter; tel. 504/680-8454). At the Elvis-themed Kingpin, 20-somethings in CBGB tees come for shuffleboard and cheap drink specials (1307 Lyons St., Uptown; tel. 504/891-2373). The Abbey has a few motley stained-glass windows, but everything else is the antithesis of church. Yet the David Lynchian clientele pray at their bar 24/7, and any jukebox offering both classic country and the Cramps is worthy of worship (1123 Decatur St., French Quarter; tel. 504/523-7177).
Pretty much every bar and club in town, no matter how unsporty, becomes a sports bar on Saints game days. So if you’re looking for a place to watch the game, try anywhere. We’ll single out Manning's for its wall-size screen and fully reclining leather lounge chairs—reserve them well in advance and expect to pay a hefty bounty: from $25 in food and drink for an average Red Wings game to $100+ for a Saints games, chair and beer bucket only. Yes, Manning's is named for its owner (with Harrah's Casino), the legendary NFL quarterback and longtime New Orleanian Archie Manning (519 Fulton St.; www.facebook.com/ManningsNOLA; tel. 504/593-8118). To hang with masses of locals, taxi to Mid-City’s Finn McCool’s (3701 Banks St.; www.finnmccools.com; tel. 504/486-9080), or stroll from the FQ to the R Bar in the Marigny (1431 Royal St.; www.royalstreetinn.com; tel. 504/948-7499).
Getting Crafty: Making the Brewery Scene
- Courtyard Brewery: Beer-wise, this small, funky converted warehouse in the Lower Garden District offers the best of the local IPA lot (1020 Erato St.; www.courtyardbrewing.com).
- Parleaux Beer Lab: Deep in the Bywater, the Beer Lab's backyard beer garden is full of charm—and fruit trees and herbs, which sometimes turn up in their creative brews. Also, standout stouts and proximity to the Joint barbecue (634 Lesseps St.; www.parleauxbeerlab.com; tel. 504/702-8433).
- Port Orleans Brewing Co.: Way uptown, the beer at the large Port Orleans brewery is just fine. (4124 Tchoupitoulas St.; www.portorleansbrewingco.com; tel. 504/266-2332).
- Brieux Carre: They’re having fun with beer at Brieux Carre, an experimental oasis of hops steps from the Frenchmen Street madness (2115 Decatur St.; www.brieuxcarre.com; tel. 504/303-4242).
- Crescent City Brewhouse (www.crescentcitybrewhouse.com) and NOLA Brewing (www.nolabrewing.com): Don’t forget the originals.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.