One of the most interesting places we like to drink in all of New Orleans is the French Quarter. Yes, it seems obvious, and yes, it’s true that the French Quarter is packed with tourist-targeted bars, but there are also quite a few bars that bar scene locals frequent. Drinking is a serious pastime in New Orleans, perhaps even to some a kind of sport, so it’s important to drink well and drink smart. Today we present five of our favorite bar options in the French Quarter. Sure, we visit lots of other places, but we end up in these five more often than not.
We’ll start with a classic French Quarter bar – one of our favorites: Erin Rose, on Conti Street, one block off Bourbon Street, lakeside. Although it’s always been a fixture within the service industry, it’s becoming more and more well-known among the wider world with each passing month. Still, it’s a cool, local place to sit and get a drink. The bartenders know how to pour beers AND carry on a conversation (pro tip: buy your bartender a shot now and then), the local clientele always chatty (pro tip: buy the locals shots now and then), and when we get hungry, we can just grab a po’boy from Killer PoBoys in the back room (pro tip: buy the chef a shot now and then). It’s perfect, really, as long as you can find a seat, preferably up at the bar.
Another of our favorite watering holes in the French Quarter is on lower Decatur Street, called Cane & Table. While this is actually a restaurant (amazing food!), it’s also a great place to drink (more on the solid happy hour in a sec). Cane & Table inhabits the intersection of New Orleans and Caribbean influences. It used to be said that New Orleans was the northernmost point in the Caribbean, and nothing embodies that geographic relationship better today than Cane & Table. They’ve got a great happy hour menu with food, cocktails, and beer, notably a “shot + beer” selection along side a great variety of Caribbean-inspired drinks. Note that this is not a tiki bar: it’s the kind of bar the captain goes to, not the crew.
Speaking of tiki bars, there’s Latitude 29, located on North Peters Street as part of the Bienville House Hotel. This place also has a great happy hour and delicious food (see a trend yet?). Once again, this is as much a restaurant as a bar, but the bar is plenty. Browse their large menu of tiki-style drinks and choose whatever suits your fancy. It’s all good, all of it, as long as you like rum. Please note that this isn’t just some kitschy half-assed place where the bartenders consult the menu before making your drink: Latitude 29 is a bonafide tiki bar with professional mixologists. You’re in for a treat when you visit!
A relative newcomer to the constantly shifting French Quarter drinking scene (bar economics are as volatile as they are mysterious) is Black Penny. Located on Rampart Street at Dumaine Street, it’s in the very back of the Quarter, across the street from the edge of Armstrong Park. It’s a low-key bar with a fantastic beer selection, and bartenders who can make you any cocktail you can dream up. It’s the kind of bar that features a selection of complimentary roasts simmering in bar-top crock pots on Christmas night (this really did happen to us). Black Penny has quickly become one of our go-to spots in the Quarter, especially because we walk home often these days (for the exercise) and Black Penny is on the way no matter which route we take. It doesn’t hurt that the $2 cans of Tecate and PBR for happy hour (right up our alley) make for perfect walking beers.
Finally, our last but most trusted watering hole in the French Quarter is The Chart Room. This is a classic dive bar, nothing special. The owners change now and then, but the bar never does. The scene is well-visited by locals and tourists alike, all kinds of things going on here. When we’re lucky, we’ll snag one of the two tables up in the open doorways and hold court in the breeze of escaping air conditioning. The drinks are cheap by any standard, but especially by French Quarter standards. It’s pretty bare bones feature wise, and so is the drink menu; keep your tastes simple and straightforward and you’ll find you enjoy the cheap stuff more than ever. Also, remember to bring cash because that’s all they take here.
There you have it: five recommended bars in the French Quarter. We visit them often, too often, and have lots of fun in the process. These aren’t the only bars of course, and they aren’t the only good bars, they aren’t even the best bars. These are the bars we keep finding ourselves in, the bars in which the conversation comes easy and the people are open and friendly. These are the places that we feel best summarize the New Orleans drinking culture, which is far, far bigger and more complicated and way more amazing than the limited offerings within the French Quarter. The group presented here is just a solid start. They fall all over the French Quarter map, so you’re sure to be staying or sightseeing near at least one of them when you visit. Speaking of visiting, next time you’re in New Orleans, stop by one of these bars, and if you don’t happen see us, please be sure let us know how you liked them! Cheers!