New Orleans: Where to Drink

Whereabouts: New Orleans, LA, USA

My theory on Yelp ratings: If a place has less than 30 ratings, the accuracy of those ratings is hit-and-miss. If a place has 50+, chances are the place will deliver on it's Yelp score.

FYI, this post was written in chronological order of our seven day bar crawl.
Click here for Where to Eat in New Orleans.

Your tour guides: my mom, myself and my dad.
We made it to just shy of 20 bars over the course of seven days, and a few were hit up multiple times. I regret that I don't have more original location photos for this post (a fact which I 100% blame on the alcohol), but I'll supplement from online sources where possible and necessary.

Here's what you will find in New Orleans: (mostly) unbelievable drink prices, phenomenal music and a ton of smoke (with one exception). You will also find energetic and entertaining "barkers" seducing you into their establishments with promises of cheap (sometimes free) drinks or shots. And you will find most places offering 3-for-1 specials (usually domestic beer or well drinks) late into the evening. Stay in a group with a factor of three and getting boozy in the Big Easy can be quite wallet friendly. There were only a few times that drinks were at premium prices, but this was usually in restaurants. I recommend that you use your meal time to pass on suds and re-hydrate yourself. You'll thank me in the morning, I promise.

I can't say with as much certainty that each of these places is as completely amazing as I perceived them to be (see the blame placed above), but beer goggles - and the right company - can make any place incredible.

There are four places that I really want to call to your attention to in this post:
Cafe Lafitte in Exile
Three Muses
Funky Pirate
Fritzels' European Jazz Club
First things first...
View from the Krazy Korner balcony on Tuesday night.
Ignore that dorky girl smiling at the camera.

View from the same spot at the Krazy Korner balcony, Friday Night.
This place gets BANANAS. I'm talking tuck-your-purse-tightly-under-your-arm-and-don't-walk-in-the-street-for-fear-of-being-blinded-by-beads-to-the-eyes bananas. I can honestly say that I'd never been in a place that was SO packed with people who were SO drunk and men who were yelling things that were SO horrendously inappropriate (often bordering on abusive.) Granted, this was the week before pre-Fat Tueday weekend, but from what I've been told by barkeeps and tour guides that it's generally packed every weekend. To my CENTURY 21 peeps who will be there next weekend, you've been warned.

The other thing that was completely foreign (albeit totally awesome) is that New Orleans really doesn't have any open container laws, other than no glass on the street. Taking your booze to go is A-OK and most places have plenty of plastic cups for you to dump your drink and hit the street. Most bars also didn't give us a hard time about bringing IN alcohol in these handy "go-cups." This is particularly fantastic if you are in a group of different speed drinkers.

OK, OK... I've returned to this upper section to add additional notes about 4 times now. It's time to get to the good stuff.


3 stars on Yelp based on 15 reviews
227 Bourbon (at Bienville)
Our first round at this place: $6.25 for three bottles of Miller Lite (see what I mean about the 3-for-1 specials?). What drew us into the Beach was the cute courtyard and fire fountain:

Name does not lie... the vibe here was Caribbean, right down to the Calypso-style band (you can see them in the background in the fountain photo). With the 3-for-1, this place is a decent choice if only for a laid back place to get your footing. Here's the catch: unlike a lot of other bars on Tuesday night, they stopped their 3-for-1 at some point. We returned here at 9pm on the same evening and wound up paying $17.50. Yes, we wound up paying $23.75 for 6 beers, which averages less than $4/beer, but most other places were still offering 3-for-1 specials. Start the night here, but for the sake of your wallet, definitely don't finish it.
4.5 stars on Yelp based on 340+ reviews
941 Bourbon (at St. Phillip)
*Side note: You'll see the name Jean Lafitte all over the place. Learn who he was here.

On a Tuesday night, getting to this place was a schlep. Not that it was particularly far, but more that the crowds definitely thinned to the point of feeling a little bit isolated and uncomfortable on my first night in a new city. The Blacksmith is billed as the oldest establishment in the USA and apparently there are some cool stories surrounding the beginnings of the building. While some people might find this rude, I recommend taking turns playing "tour guide" with your group and whipping out your smart phone at an establishment like this. The bar itself wasn't really that special, but the history made it cooler to be there. No 3-for-1 when we dropped in, so $6.25 per beer. I took advantage of this to try Abita, a local brew in Louisiana. It was OK, nothing to write home about.

4.5 stars on Yelp based on 25+ reviews
901 Bourbon (at Dumaine)
Often confused with Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, Cafe Lafitte in Exile is billed as the oldest gay bar in America. This was one of the places that we visited multiple times, three nights in a row, in fact. Though we saw varying degrees of fullness, on all three nights (Tuesday-Thursday) it was relatively low-key. (Foursquare is only telling me I was there twice, but I definitely remember making a third visit... you know where to place the blame.)

Three things I loved about this place: ultra-friendly bartenders (we chatted with one in particular for over an hour), great music videos playing on the big screens, and downright lovely patrons. Truly, the only way to find friendlier gays than my loves in Hillcrest is to meet those who are also instilled with Southern Hospitality. 

According to their website, "because the gay crowd dominates this part of Bourbon Street [home to several other gay bars], people tend to be a little more 'adventurous' in their pursuit of beads and 'sights'...the balcony at Lafitte's can be quite 'entertaining.'" The bartender also told us that they have fully nude male dancers on the weekends. We didn't make it back to experience any of this craziness, but if you enjoy frequenting gay bars, this one was quite enjoyable. 

4 stars on Yelp based on 25 reviews
640 Bourbon (at St. Peter)
Oh Krazy Korner... you so crazy. This place might as well have a sign up that says "we serve all ages, no ID necessary" for all the clearly underage patrons on Friday night. This was also where I experienced the most rowdy, inappropriate behavior and ridiculous, rude come-ons. I think the two are directly related.

Why, might you ask, did we return three times? No cover for the balcony, 3-for-1 all night, and centrally located along Bourbon to give you a great view of the craziness. The balcony across the street from us was causing quite a ruckus with the beads and we were in prime location to observe:

We did also stop in on Monday night for some live music. In my mind, the joint was rocking, however I'd also ingested a Hand Grenade that evening (more on this later), so maybe take that with a grain of salt.
I rate this photo as an accurate portrayal of your vision after a Hand Grenade.

Howl at the Moon
4 stars on Yelp based on 15+ reviews
135 Bourbon (at Iberville)
If there was a True Life: I'm Addicted to Piano Bars, I would be on it. I don't care that there must be some secret university for piano bar players (because they all tell exactly the same jokes and have the same schtick)... I love the fact that I can do some sloppy singing with a room of strangers and no one will judge that I am a terrible singer. And yes, I absolutely HATE karaoke.
Cool/odd tidbit: we ran into this guy several times on the street during the week.
3-for-1 all night when we were there, and I enjoyed that they were served from a giant tub of ice. If you have a freakish addiction to piano bars like myself, you'll enjoy an evening at Howl.

The next four bars were on our Gray Line Walking Cocktail Tour. With the exception of Court of the Two Sisters, we visited these places only during the late afternoon and only for a short while.

Napoleon House
4 stars on Yelp based on 265+ reviews
500 Chartres (at St. Louis)
Another historical establishment- this place was originally built for Napoleon (name does not lie) although he never made it for a visit. A town builds you a residence... you think you'd make an effort to pop in! We sampled a Pimm's Cup here (gin, lemonade, lemon-lime soda and cucumber). Quite tasty and definitely worth a try. Plus, it was so charming... a good place for a classier drink or maybe to impress a date.
The courtyard
Table for two in an alcove. The walls are COVERED in writing from previous patrons.
The Hermes Bar in Antoine's
4 stars on Yelp based on 35+ reviews
713 St. Louis (at Royal)
The mojito was terrible :( That was the only drink we had here, and unfortunately I can't say much about the bar other than the appetizers smelled delicious. We did spend a great deal of time at Antoine's on our tour, but only because we were given a walking tour of this enormous restaurant and it's multiple private/secret dining rooms. There was one room that I wasn't allowed to go in because I'm a girl... apparently lady-parts mess with the feng shui? Each of the rooms at Antoine's has it's own name... I don't remember exactly what the men-only room was called, but if I had to guess, it would be the Sausage Fest room. (Spoiler tag to protect those with delicate sensitivities.) Seriously dudes, get over yourselves.

The very pretty Rex Room at Antoine's, which houses a special and exclusive Mardi Gras meal every year. The cases surrounding the table house memorabilia and the photographs are all former Kings and Queens.
Court of the Two Sisters
3.5 stars on Yelp based on 210+ reviews
613 Royal (at St. Peter)
I already covered the Two Sisters on my Where to Eat post, so I'll here's a one sentence rehash:
The bartender is Droopy Dog meets Southern accent (IE: awesome), he makes everything impeccably and you won't regret a Bayou Bash: Southern Comfort, red wine, lots of fruit juices.

I found this picture while looking up what was in the Bayou Bash... my charming Southern Droopy Dog barkeep making several of them on a cocktail tour in 2011 (for what it's worth, he was never this smiley when we saw him):
Photo via The Foodie Diaries
OMG, y'all... due to the magicalness of the internet, I found Southern Droopy Dog (a.k.a. Charles Portera) on Facebook. I didn't not not just stalk through his public photos and find this one, which I'm assuming is a Bayou Bash:

Pirates Alley Cafe & Olde Absinthe House
4 stars on Yelp based on 70+ reviews
622 Pirates Alley (next to the St. Louis Cathedral)
Have you ever had Absinthe? Don't do it. I know you probably won't heed my advise and you'll want the experience, and I'll be waiting her to digitally remind you that I told you so. Granted, it's a cool looking process...
Place a tiny slotted spoon over a wine glass, put a sugar cube on it and light it on fire (the claim is that this will make the drink tastier... it won't), pour Absinthe over the sugar, add water into the glass as an insanely slow drip, and try not to spit it out after you take the first sip.
In the end, it will cost you $10 and a taste that you will have a hard time scrubbing out of your mouth.

If you absolutely insist on trying it, ask the barkeep to cut it with Coke. This will make it taste more like root beer (but you'll still be choking it down because there is no way to make this drink palatable.)
I'm the Green Fairy! You know what else is green? Your face after you try to drink me.

Spotted Cat Music Club
4.5 stars on Yelp based on 145+ reviews
623 Frenchman (at Chartres)
We stopped by this place early... a little after 5pm, and it was empty. The piano player/singer was OK, but we were checked into the next place (Three Muses) by 5:40. Our tour guide and Yelp swear by the Spotted Cat for live music, so maybe our timing was wrong. As far as the bar goes, I'm 99% positive that my screwdriver was made with Tang. If anyone has a good experience there, I'd love to hear about it.
What the Spotted Cat didn't look like while we were there.
Photo via FourSquare

4.5 stars on Yelp based on 140+ reviews
536 Frenchman Street (at Chartres)
(Once again, I defer to my Where to Dine post... please excuse the copy/paste)
First, it must be said that this is the only restaurant/bar/lounge we found that was NON-SMOKING (a very nice break for my lungs!). No cover and decent music from Luke Winslow King and Esther Rose... my mom disliked that they tweaked the mics to sound more old-timey; I found it to be charming. We both agreed that the food was incredible (plenty of mouthwatering pictures await if you click here). The other thing I really appreciated about this place was that the happy hour wine wasn't just house red and house white. Instead I got to pick from vinho verde and malbec (both of which were tasty.)
*Video not from that evening.

Old Opera House
4 stars on Yelp based on 15+ reviews
601 Bourbon (at Toulouse)
Pretty sure that this is a photo of Old Opera House based on the timestamp:

I can't remember much about the Opera House... Don't blame the alcohol this time... just wasn't a memorable place.

Bourbon at Iberville
Ok, so I'm finding myself questioning if Saloon really exists as I can't find it on Google or Yelp. It's next to and shares a bathroom/hallway with Howl at the Moon. At least I have video proof! The band we saw was John Lisi and they were excellent:

Bourbon Live
3.5 stars on Yelp based on 3 reviews
216 Bourbon (at Bienville)
The night that we were in Bourbon live, it was packed to the brim. Definitely appreciated the two-man DJ team as well as the live music that followed. 3-for-1 was the name of the game.

My Bar @ 635 Bourbon
635 Bourbon (at Toulouse)
4.5 stars on Yelp based on 4 reviews
Music was decent. Only in here for a short while with my dad, left after an incredibly drunk guy with a lit cigarette in hand tried to forcibly put beads on both me and my dad. I'll keep my eyes in tact, thanks.

Fritzel's European Jazz Club
4.5 stars on Yelp based on 60+ reviews
733 Bourbon (at Orleans)
GO HERE. The live music is worth the smoke inhalation and lackluster drink prices. Incredible! My dad and I wandered in here just before 1am on Saturday and left when the band shut down at 3. We brought my mom back the next night because it was just too good not to share. Definitely a place where I would gladly park it all night just to hear these musical masters.

A quick note about the piano player in the All Star band... If you took Will Ferrell's Harry Caray and any of Andy Samberg's characters and mashed them together, you would get this guy. He's incredibly talented, but I had to stifle laughter on occasion. Watch the above videos if you don't believe me.

Funky Pirate
4 stars on Yelp based on 20+ reviews
727 Bourbon (at St. Ann)
In New Orleans, there is a mystical drink called the Hand Grenade. You can only order it at 5 licensed bars and the trademark secret recipe is fiercely guarded. Online research tells me it's some combination of gin, grain alcohol (rumored to be Everclear), rum, vodka and melon liqueur.
You can also buy these in plastic yard glasses. I'm just fine with the cup.
Apparently the bar says you shouldn't have more than 4 in an evening... I had one and it knocked me pretty far. Two probably would have killed me, so proceed with caution. Another recommendation: if you, like me, need to put something in your stomach before a night of heavy drinking, there is an excellent casual eatery right up the street. I don't remember what it's called, but it's on the north side of Bourbon street and specializes in fried chicken and french fries (which made an excellent soaking pad for the alcohol that was to come.)

This place had great music... but they strictly prohibit filming. I think my dad bought a CD from the band. At any rate, how could you not love a place that has a portrait of Pirate Betty White and Southern Droopy Dog?
No, not really. But after a hand grenade... yes. This is a portrait of pirate Betty White and Southern Droopy Dog.
Fat Catz Music Club
2.5 stars on Yelp based on 16 reviews
440 Bourbon (at St. Louis)
When we checked in here at 11pm on a Sunday night, I wrote "Pass." No idea why. That's all I have for you to go on with this one.

Bourbon Cowboy
2.5 stars on Yelp based on 20+ reviews
241 Bourbon (at Bienville)
Disclosure: This was the last place we visited on a night that included a hand grenade and four other bars. I have no photos, but can tell you that they have a mechanical bull and I loudly (and probably obnoxiously) belted country songs until we stumbled out. I do remember watching a girl ride the bull very slowly for about 30 seconds before just kind of falling off awkwardly. In my brain, it was a fun joint.

I'm pretty sure that writing this post raised my blood alcohol level. Enjoy!


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