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Wine + Spirits + Beer

Eight Great Neighborhood Bars in New Orleans

The last time I visited my favorite neighborhood bar in New Orleans, I thought the bartender had misunderstood me. I explained that I was paying for the whole round, not just one drink. He reminded me that this is New Orleans, and drinks really are that cheap here. Head to these local spots to sample the unbelievably budget-friendly beverages—and to meet the regulars eager to share the stories behind the drinks.

Across the street from the legendary Café du Monde, Tujague’s Bar attracts both tourists and locals.


1. Cosimo’s

Tucked way back in the Quarter, this corner spot has been a neighborhood favorite since the 1930s. Bordering on languorous, Cosimo’s has an easy way about it—so relaxed, in fact, that I recently noticed the name of the bar misspelled on the sidewalk chalkboard that announced drink specials. No matter. Inside, the mood is friendly, and you can choose from a long list of beers (including five different types of Abita, the local beer of choice), play pool, and listen to a rickety upright piano while catching up on gossip with the locals. 1201 Burgundy St. (504-522-9715)

2. Old Absinthe House

Of all the bars lining gaudy Bourbon Street, this may be the only one a local would be caught dead in. Located just a couple of steps (or stumbles) from the esteemed Galatoire’s, Old Absinthe House is the ideal place to convene after a notoriously long, boozy lunch at the restaurant. Ties are loosened and dinner jackets are slung over bar stools, while Saints football helmets dangle from 200-year-old cypress beams above the bar. Through some gymnastics of logic, Absinthe House claims to be the oldest bar in the city. And with an exterior that makes you believe it, it feels only right to order an Old-Fashioned or a Sazerac. Plus, drinks are never wasted, because the law allows you to take them with you wherever you go. 240 Bourbon St. (504-523-3181; oldabsinthehouse.com)

3. St. Joe’s

Just a sliver of a bar, St. Joe’s sits catty-corner to the old bus barn, now converted into a Whole Foods. It’s just one sign of the changing neighborhood and the influx of younger residents, which has flooded this ten-year-old bar with a new clientele. The narrow space leaves just enough room for someone to slide past the long row of stools to get the pool table and pagoda-themed patio out back. Crosses and religious artifacts decorating the room come across as almost cheerful in a bizarre, only-in-New-Orleans way. The bartenders keep the bottles of Abita nicely chilled and for some reason are always eager to mix Mojitos. 5535 Magazine St. (504-899-3744)

4. Tujague’s Bar

Tujague’s Bar (pronounced “TWO-jacks”) is at the crossroads of the French Quarter for locals and tourists. Across the street from Café du Monde, this bar is the perfect stop for people who want something a little stronger than coffee to chase their beignets. And it’s around the corner from St. Louis Cathedral, just in case you’re in the mood for a post-mass tipple. Despite all the foot traffic, time can stand still here as you drink Brandy Milk Punch (an icy drink with brandy, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg) and spy on the other patrons in the towering, ornately framed mirror behind the cypress bar. 823 Decatur St. (504-525-9676; tujaguesrestaurant.com)

5. Columns Hotel

Here you can pretend you’re sitting on the front porch of your own St. Charles mansion, watching the streetcars hum by and sipping cold drinks in the lazy heat. Heavy white iron chairs and large tables line the deep porch (which is surrounded by, yes, columns). The Bloody Marys—served with spicy pickled green beans instead of celery—have enough heat to wake you up but not so much that you choke. I once made the mistake of ordering something other than a Bloody Mary; my waitress responded, “Prosecco? Is that a cocktail?” 3811 St. Charles Ave. (504-899-9308; thecolumns.com)

6. Le Bon Temps Roule

Dubbed “The Bon Temps” by locals, this Uptown joint is the place to hear a band if you’re not committed to making music the main event. In front, there’s a bar for drinking, playing pool, and talking. Down a narrow corridor, there’s a loud, sweaty performance space with lineups featuring brass bands like Soul Rebels and other local favorites. Cover charges usually max out at $5 ($10 during Mardi Gras), and oysters are free on Fridays. 4801 Magazine St. (504-895-8117)

7. Mayfair

A bar can get away with a lot of sins if it has character. And in the case of Mayfair, that character comes in the form of Miss Gerty, the seventy-something-year-old owner who can outlast the youngest patrons at the bar. The buzzer on the door gives the place a speakeasy feel, although there’s nothing hushed about the interior: It screams with tinsel and Mardi Gras beads hanging from the ceiling. There are no fancy cocktails, but if you stick around late enough you’ll find yourself egged on to do all kinds of naughtily named shots with the proprietress herself. 1505 Amelia St. (504-895-9163)

8. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge

At the far end of night, the time that most refer to as morning, the scene is just picking up at Snake and Jake’s. Located between residential homes on an Uptown street, the bar is easy to pass up, especially since it looks like an abandoned shed. But you’ll know it by the wreath of Christmas lights that hangs above the door. The holiday theme is carried through inside, with an eerily seedy twist—the only light comes from strings of red tree lights and a few votives—but the initial shock and fear wear off as you befriend the gumbo of local personalities (they really are nicer than they may first appear) who inhabit the place 365 days a year. 7612 Oak St. (504-861-2802; snakeandjakes.com)