Photos by Quest Shot It | Words by Trey Monaghan
Ask bartenders about the qualities they most value in patrons, the word “tolerance” almost always makes an early appearance. From storms, to pirates, to soldiers, to geography, New Orleans has had three-hundred-years experience building that tolerance. And as Bob Dylan once said of New Orleans, “The past doesn’t pass away so quickly here.” That is echoed in our drinking culture.New Orleans centers itself around maximizing your Blood Alcohol Content like nowhere else. Louisiana was the last state in the nation to switch the legal drinking age to 21 (however we have a little loophole for 18- to 20-year-olds still on the books here). Drive-thru daiquiri shops are a real thing. Bars are open 24/7. It’s more than just Mardi Gras. It’s all the festivals. It’s Super Sunday in March. It’s Bacchanal on a hot summer night. We have Halloween parades and bonfires for Papa Noel. We have a culture of celebration that is unmatched in the States. Hell, even our funerals honor the dead with parades and parties.
There are 1,500 establishments in Orleans Parish with liquor licenses. You’re bound to find some favorites that didn’t make this list. This list of great dive bars is just a jumping-off point. You can add to it when you’re here next.
The Best Way To Start Your Day
Molly’s at The Market
1107 Decatur St.
This is one of two bars that stayed open during Hurricane Katrina. Locals stash their personal coffee cups next to the urns above the cash register. You’re likely to find a cribbage game while you sit in the window and watch the rest of the Quarter wake up. You’ll want to grab a Bloody Mary here. With the shot of Guinness they add, it’ll get you right.
625 Chartres St.
This is by far the least divey of bars on this list. That said it makes the list because when considering a full day of drinking, you should start with a great base layer. Begin with Champagne and Fries (actually on the menu as such), or if that feels too fancy, $3 cans of Schlitz help keep this spot casual.
800 France St.
The Saints sell out the dome every home game. The lines for beer are stupid long, and those beers are way overpriced. At J&J’s you won’t have those problems on a Saints Sunday. A PBR is the drink of choice during any game. Located in the Bywater neighborhood, they open early to catch overseas soccer. Pro tip: wear black and gold during football season, it’s a locals bar.
2533 Constance St.
There was a time before nurses and IVs would show up at your hotel to fix the mistakes from the night before. A rum and coke and a roast beef po-boy from Parasol’s should solve any problems that might be lingering from the night before. If they don’t, it’s probably time to call the attorney. We would recommend Morris Bart.
Old Point Bar
545 Patterson Rd.
So many visitors come to the city and never venture across the Mississippi. Don’t make that mistake. There are amazing views and even better bars on Algiers Point. After you hit some of the other West Bank staples, drop into Old Point on Sunday and enjoy an afternoon of live music. Grab a 7 & 7 for the walk along the levee as you head back to the ferry.
The Candlelight Lounge
925 N Robertson St.
If you take the right path to get there, you’ll walk right by Congo Square. Jazz and the city will always be connected, and Candlelight sits right in the middle of that history. Night clubs have bottle service, bars have a “setup.” A setup is a half pint of liquor, a mixer, small bucket of ice and a couple plastic cups. Lucky you, Candlelight serves the best setup in the city.
300 Chartres St.
Very few places remain where you can walk in, and for $5, you get a beer (draft High Life), the ability to tip well and money left over to feed the jukebox. The Chart Room is one of those places. It gets so packed on nice days that people pull the chairs out of the bar and set them up on the street.
811 Conti St.
This is a spot you can make your home base. The walls are covered with the faces of regulars. The bartenders, the jukebox and the Frozen Irish Coffee work in perfect unison to create unforgettable moments.
After Hours or All Night Long
Best open-late options, maybe even 24 hours
2256 St Claude Ave.
If you are visiting from out of town and ask a bartender to recommend a karaoke spot, you’ll know you are doing it right if this is their suggestion. Tequila shots are the drinking version of forks in the road. At Kajuns, they are the jet fuel to keep karaoke going until your vocal cords are stripped or someone yells the name of the next bar.
961 St Mary St.
In other cities, late-night bars are starting to close right when things really start to get good at The Saint. Low ceilings create a basement party feeling, and the DJs have to be credited with helping to start a healthy percentage of relationships in the city. Beer and a shot. This is the only spot where the recommendation is two drinks at the start. You simply don’t want to be at The Saint sober.
738 Toulouse St.
Some of the craziest bar stories start with, “I was at The Dungeon the other night …” Bad news is, your friends will just have to take your word for it. The only rule for this bar is no pictures. Really. Don’t take a picture inside the bar. Don’t think it’s funny. It’s not worth it. Just go and order the drink you say will be your last of the night. And don’t worry, it won’t be your last. P.S. Also, don’t take a photo.
Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
7612 Oak St
The Leaning Tower of Pisa imagined as a late-night bar. You’re not sure how it’s still standing, but it’s a legend. Just order a Jameson neat.