I love New Orleans. It is a small City with a great vibe. It is one of the best food Cities in the US and it has a great bar culture. There are too many bars to try in a lifetime, so we focused mostly in and around the French Quarter. There were a few bars that hold a place in history, there are bars where I have fond (if not blurry) memories of and then there are bars that are just close by and you just need shelter from a storm. We hit all three categories on this trip.
The Napoleon House was a former residence to the Mayor of New Orleans from 1812-1815. The Mayor offered Napoleon a place to stay during his exile. He didn’t take him up on that offer, but ever since then, the house kept this name. This is a dark, old little bar that has a bit of a dive feel, but there is nothing divey about it. This bar also created the famous Pimm’s Cup – and yes, I had several of those while I hung out in New Orleans. The service, at the bar, was a little hit or miss. The patrons at the bar, the last night I visited, were quite loud and vulgar. The bartender asked them nicely twice to settle down, then he threw them out, then the bartender personally apologized to each of us for the awful behavior of these drunk patrons. Kudos to the class of the bartenders and to fabulous Pimm’s Cup.
I visit the Napoleon House every single time I am in New Orleans, it is a bit of a tradition for me – a tradition that I will keep going until I’m dead.
Cafe Lafitte in Exile
Cafe Lafitte in Exile is located far down Bourbon Street (far from Canal), but still easily walkable. It is on the corner of Bourbon and Dumaine. Cafe Lafitte is the oldest continually running gay bar in the United States. It opened right after Prohibition in 1933 and is a mainstay in the New Orleans gay scene. It’s the place to be during Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence – two events I really have no interest in attending.
We stopped by here because you have to. It’s a historical landmark and you need to check it off your list. It reminds me a bit of the Stonewall Inn in New York. There is nothing flashy, it’s not known for it’s amazing specialty drink, it didn’t create a fabulous cocktail you know and love now. It’s a piece of history and the bartenders are quite nice. I order a local beer; we chatted up the bartenders and moved on. You should visit these guys if you haven’t been. If I’m near their bar in the future, I’ll swing by, but I don’t plan on making it a regular pilgrimage, like these other places.
The Carousel Bar: Hotel Monteleone
The Hotel Monteleone is located on Royal Street between Iberville and Bienville. The Carousel Bar is located on the first floor and features – well, a bar decked out like a Carousel. The bar itself seats 25 people but there are a handful of tables surrounding the bar. The best part – the bar actually spins. It makes a full revolution in about 15 minutes. The first time I visited the Carousel Bar, I didn’t realize it was spinning – and no, I wasn’t that drunk. A friend and I sat down (he knew what was up) and we ordered a drink. After a little bit, I got up to use the washroom. Interestingly enough, where I decided to disembark the bar was the exact spot we where we sat down when we arrived — so nothing seemed amiss. I returned from the washroom and found that “my seat” had been taken. Then upon closer inspection, I saw that my friend had moved to the other side of the bar. I instinctively thought he was being a gentleman and moved to some empty seats so a larger party could sit together. Nope. The bar was indeed spinning. Let’s just say that the bar was full of people and they thought it was hilarious that I was so confused.
This trip, I didn’t get tricked, nor did I intend to trick anyone. We dropped anchor at the bar, I ordered round after round of Pimm’s cups and MS tried a few different drinks, including a Hurricane, Pimm’s Cup, Lily Oaks and Ginger’s Royale. I tried each and they were all very tasty, but I was perfectly content sipping my Pimm’s.
One of my favorite things about this bar is the people. There are always a ton of tourists, but they aren’t the awful tourists that I steer clear of usually. The people I’ve run into here have been well traveled, educated and just fun to chat with. I think I just lucked out, because there is nothing that would keep the normal hotel bar riffraff away. No matter what happens, I’ll visit this bar every future visit to New Orleans and so should you. Chat up your neighbor or the bartender – they’ve all got great stories to tell.
The Cat’s Meow is a karaoke bar on the Bourbon and St. Peter Streets. This was our last stop in a long night and closed out a long week. We spent a couple hours here late in the night watching old friends and new friends sing their hearts out. Yes, I did do a bit of karaoke myself…My song was Fireworks by Katy Perry. I am an awful singer, but I enjoyed the little bit of time I stayed on stage. If you ever see me on stage doing karaoke, you need to find the closest exit and get out of there! The drinks were strong and the bartenders quite friendly.
I’ve been here once before, on my first trip to New Orleans – this is one of those bars where it is never on your list of places to visit, but after a few too many hurricanes your friends talk you into it. It is enjoyable, but makes for a rough morning to follow.
This is obviously far from a comprehensive list of New Orleans watering holes. This isn’t even a list of all the places I stopped to drink on my most recent trip, but just a list of a few of my favorite or most important places you should plan on visiting.
Where you drink in New Orleans? Do you steer clear of the Quarter and explore Uptown, the Garden District or another neighborhood? Do you have a favorite historical bar in which you imbibe? Shoot me a list of your favorites and I’ll put them on my list for my next visit.