Tourists might be surprised to learn that New Orleans is so much more than Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. In fact, those two make up an incredibly small portion of the inspiring, layered, soulful city at the end of the Mississippi. For a few bars that aren’t as well known in the guidebooks, check out these spots that will sweep you off your feet—perhaps literally, depending on how much you drink.
For those a little hazy on their history, the 21st amendment repealed prohibition, making alcohol consumption once again legal in the U.S. As the name implies, the bar is modeled after that concept and time period of the 1920s. La Louisiane is now an event and meeting venue, but once was a hotel and restaurant, sometimes run by well-known New Orleanian mobsters. Now, the French Quarter bar offers hand-crafted cocktails in an atmosphere that celebrates alcohol.
Bayou Beer Garden welcomes patrons with a modest shotgun exterior that winds into the expansive back deck. With TVs, pool table, an excellent selection of beer, and bar food, the space has recently widened its range of offerings with the accompanying Bayou Wine Garden. Enjoy the necessary New Orleans courtyard experience in this modest Mid-City must.
Catahoula Rooftop Bar sits on the third of the three-floor hotel in which it is located. The boutique Catahoula Hotel is a renovated creole townhouse from 1845: a modern space with an old-fashioned feel. The rooftop bar features South American wines and cocktails focusing on sherries and vermouths, all to be enjoyed amid the Central Business District skyscrapers rising around you.
For a musically-inclined evening, head over to Kermit’s Treme Mother in Law Lounge. Founded in 1994 by jazz legend Ernie K-Doe, the lounge was reopened after his passing by Kermit Ruffins. With this formidable musical foundation, it only stands to reason that the lounge is currently one of the best jazz bars in town. Stop by for barbecue, dancing, and drinking!
Enter the Little Gem Saloon and step back into the 1920s. Paying homage to the time period that started it all, from New Orleans’ iconic music to its famous cuisine, Little Gem Saloon offers live music, an elevated dining experience, bars, and balconies. With past patrons including the likes of Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton, the building’s deep history in jazz is the final step in this authentic New Orleans experience.
Referring to the “divine spirits in the Vodou faith,” Loa’s name illustrates the bar’s connection to its city’s history, culture, and (every definition of) spirits. From decoration to drinks, Loa embraces and shares the melting pot that is New Orleans: African traditions combined with European cultures, free spirits mixed with sophistication, and community consorting with originality. From top to bottom, Alan Walter leads a space steeped in passionate craftsmanship you’ll regret missing out on.
The Maple Leaf Bar has been around since 1974 as one of the places in New Orleans for incredible live performances seven nights a week. Options here range from zydeco and R&B, to rock and “the longest running poetry reading in North America.” It can feel “hidden” though, especially for tourists, since its uptown, away from the French Quarter. Still, it is certainly worth the Uber fare.
Molly’s at the Market may sound like a fairly random name until you find out it’s an Irish bar near the French Market. Famous for its Irish coffees, both frozen and hot, Molly’s is a casual stop with cheap shots on the edge of the French Quarter. Grab some time in the photo booth for a memory of a night you’ll never remember.
Snake and Jake’s: cheap drinks; late hours (or perhaps early hours is more accurate?); lighting by Christmas lights. What more do you want? The non-descript shotgun building blends into the surrounding residential neighborhood, but the hole-in-the-wall dive bar takes on a life of its own indoors. A favorite of locals, you haven’t had the true New Orleanian experience until you find yourself still at Snake and Jake’s when they close at 7 a.m.
Located above Felipe’s Taqueria in the French Quarter, Tiki Tolteca is the first tiki bar in New Orleans since the 1980s. The Latin American-themed space and tropical décor will get you in the mood for classics like a Mai Tai, Tolteca originals like Raspberry Beret, or even some alcoholic tiki gummies. If you want a snack, the bar serves food from Felipe’s.
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