Ranking the 50 best bars in New Orleans is a bit like picking the 50 best crawfish out of a 500-gallon boil. Still, it was an assignment Gambit Weekly writers accepted with zeal and great reverence. The task was to distill, from untold evenings of liver-quivering research, the creme de la creme: the very best drinking establishments this very thirsty city has to offer.
It was a sobering task metro New Orleans has more than 2,000 establishments with Class A liquor licenses. For sanity's sake, we set a few parameters. First, no cover charges. If a music club has a bar that you can enter without a cover charge and, more important, if the club's bar stands on its own, without the live music, as a classic watering hole then it was considered. (Our favorite local music venue bars get their own spotlight.) Second, while New Orleans has some great wine-pouring establishments, if you can't deliver a Jack and Coke on demand, you weren't eligible for consideration as a "bar." (Butwe do have a survey of "alternative" drinking spaces.) And finally, the sheer quantity (and quality) of college joints and late-night haunts warranted separate features on those genresas well.
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What remained? Only a thousand-plus worthy candidates.
We cast a wide net, seeking out not just the obvious French Quarter jewels and neighborhood icons but also the hidden gems, from the West Bank to Covington. And while we freely admit that our rankings are subjective, we tried to be ecumenical in our tastes. Thus, you'll find not only geographic diversity in our rankings, but also a wide range of dress codes and vibes.
Each time we thought we had finished, a second read revealed additional contenders. Needless to say, we had some spirited discussions in the course of making this list. The one constant throughout was our choice for No. 1, which was a near-unanimous selection from the start. We hope you have as much fun reading our inaugural 50 Best Bars issue as we had putting it together.
This is one time that the subject of alcohol should not be consumed in moderation.
1. Mimi's in the Marigny
2601 Royal St., 872-9868
Any place that rates top honors on a list of New Orleans' best bars had better be one memorable watering hole. In the case of Mimi's, it's actually two: upstairs, the funky dancehall, with a multi-colored ceiling, lots of exposed brick and an eclectic collection of local art; downstairs, the disheveled dive, strewn with cozy chairs, pool paraphernalia and a collage of downtown happenings spilling over a bulletin board. Both offer a good collection of domestic and exotic wines, beers and liquors. Behind the bars, you'll find an equally eclectic gallimaufry of Bywater hippies and Marigny hipsters who are just surly enough to earn your respect and just quick enough on the pour to keep it. Ask 10 regulars why Mimi's is their favorite local bar and you'll likely get 10 different answers. Frugal gourmands crave the $6 tapas; dancers dig DJ Soul Sister's crates of dusty vinyl; and self-conscious scenesters just pretend they discovered the place. Most nights, the crowd is barely thick enough to drown out a conversation, and the vibe is always more house party than hotspot. Always, Mimi's exudes an inherent warmth like a pair of rooms you wish you had in your house. It all adds up to the best drinking experience in New Orleans, which, if clichés count for anything, just might make it the best damn bar in the rest of the country, too.
2. Napoleon House
500 Chartres St., 524-9752; www.napoleonhouse.com
Classic and classy, the Napoleon House offers one of the world's unique imbibing experiences a timeless retreat from the cares of the day in an 18th-century French Quarter landmark. Where else can you enjoy a definitive Pimm's Cup to the strains of Beethoven while people watching in one of the world's most interesting neighborhoods? Owned by the same family since 1914, the storied café's original resident (one-time Mayor Nicholas Girod) offered it to the exiled Napoleon; hence the name. Ever since, writers, artists, tourists and others seeking refuge have found safe harbor here along with a simple menu of consistently good local fare. The wait staff is as classic and understated as the music, making any visit to Napoleon House a memorable event.
3. One Eyed Jacks
615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.net
On any given night at the former Shamador, the crowd of Quarter folk congregating at the open bar on Toulouse Street might seem blissfully unaware of the superlative rock shows happening just behind the hulking frame of Fayard, the imposing-in-image-only bouncer/fixture at the top of the stairs. It's no surprise, given that the intimate front space awash in a gothic red glow and almost always populated by regulars could compete for a bar crown even absent its better-known club counterpart in back. Having both under the same roof elevates One Eyed Jacks from simply a high pair to a winning full house.
3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; www.thedelachaise.com
As gastronomical watering holes go, the Delachaise is perhaps unparalleled in New Orleans. Its Gouda, after all, is older than many taverns' top Scotch. Setting aside Chris DeBarr's adventurous menu of wild-boar patés and duck fat pommes frites, the real draw at "le grand comptoir" is the spirited variety of distilled grains available, which tower over the shotgun bar in adult-beverage cubbyholes where every shelf is a top shelf. So, you want a whiskey. What kind? A 12-year-old Irish. Ahem, what kind? Forgive the snooty service it ain't exactly easy for a place flanked by two universities to pretend domestic beer doesn't exist.
Cooter Brown's Tavern
509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104
Cooter's gives sports fans what they crave beer, food and lots of large-screen televisions yet it goes far beyond the usual light beers, chicken wings and football games on the weekends. The kitchen serves up quick and delicious sandwiches like the "9th Ward Special," po-boys, burgers, Mrs. Wheat's meat and crawfish pies, and hot boudin. The bar won't let you come up for air with 42 draughts, all powered by a nitrogen-and-CO2 mixture with no oxygen. If you fancy a bottle or two, consider charting your course with a map Cooter's offers more than 200 beers from 35 countries.
618 Frenchmen St., 942-3731
The booths in the converted storefront picture windows of d.b.a. make a great perch to watch the world go by, but stay there long enough and it may seem like the Frenchmen Street scene actually revolves around the bar. The popular spot's dimly lit interior of polished dark wood is a sleek and minimalist setting for an over-the-top selection of drinks from Belgian-style beers to American microbrews, and top-shelf options in everything from rum and tequila to scotch and vodka. On top of that, the bar books music from chanteuses like Linnzi Zaorski and Ingrid Lucia, to bluesmen like Little Freddie King and Cedric Burnside to local and traveling rock and jazz bands.
7. Maple Leaf Bar
8316 Oak St., 866-9369
With regular shows by musical legends like the Rebirth Brass Band, legendary past performances like James Booker's "Spiders on the Keys" and Rockin' Dopsie Sr., and the more recent generator-powered, post-apocalypse "Yes World, We're still here" by Walter "Wolfman" Washington in October 2005, the Maple Leaf is arguably one of the city's best music clubs. But the bar offers so much more than the melodies bouncing off the pressed tin ceilings and walls. This has been a neighborhood watering hole for more than 30 years, with an inviting full-length bar up front and a backyard patio that holds a bar, pool tables and the ashes of the establishment's poet laureate, Everette Maddox (epitaph: "Poet, 1944-1989. He was a mess.") And what a fine mess this is!
8. Rivershack Tavern
3449 River Road, 834-4938; www.therivershacktavern.com
If the Rivershack Tavern were any closer to the Mississippi River, it would have to be regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers. This classic roadhouse on River Road and Shrewsbury Road in Metairie has an ambience all its own, from the live bands on weekends to the walls plastered with memorabilia, from its proudly displayed "tacky ashtray" collection to the vintage ads painted on the exterior weatherboards. All that and great bar food plus a crowd that runs from bikers to young professionals to old-timers make the Rivershack a must for locals and tourists alike. The 50-cent glass of Boone's Farm is just one of the Tavern's many inside jokes.
9. Mother-in-Law Lounge
1500 N. Claiborne Ave., 947-1078; www.k-doe.com
In the "we can't make this stuff up" category is the outlandishly odd Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge in Treme. The glitzy eccentricity of the bar's namesake a New Orleans R&B legend who billed himself as "the Emperor of the Universe" is captured in memorabilia that covers the walls and, most curiously, in the smiling, life-size, oh-so-realistic effigy (commissioned by his widow Antoinette after his death in 2001) that has become this bar-cum-shrine's most popular attraction. Enjoy live music on weekends, a K-Doe song from the jukebox and a drink poured by Antoinette herself on any night after 5 p.m. or rent out the place to throw your own K-Doe-style bash.
813 Bienville St., 523-5433; www.arnauds.com
Oh, French 75. Why do we love you so? Is it your monkey lamps? Your eleganza Left Bank atmosphere, nestled alongside Arnaud's Restaurant, half a block off boisterous Bourbon Street? Your selection of champagnes and cigars? Your old-wood, mirrored bar and your comfy divans? Your ceiling fans with milk glass? Your serious barkeeps, who prepare definitive French 75s, Sazeracs and Corpse Revivers? Your timeless feel that takes us back to a day before "Milky Way martinis" and other mixological horrors? Yes, it's all these things but we really love you because daiquiri-slopping tourists in tank tops peek in your door and keep on going. Thank you, French 75.
11. Old Point Bar
545 Patterson St., 364-0950; www.oldpointbar.com
All the old wood lining the walls and framing the high rafters is not only beautiful to look at, but it also makes this Old Algiers Point club an acoustic gem and a favorite venue for local musicians. Guitarist Marc Stone has been making it his lair of late, hosting gigs with a wide range of upcoming and old-school blues talent. Jazz jams on Monday nights and early sets on Sundays before sunset make it an over-the-top, over-the-river destination for laid-back musical outings.
Swizzle Stick Bar
300 Poydras St., 595-3305; www.cafeadelaide.com
Bar chef the term typically screams pretension. Not so at Café Adelaide's high-falutin' sister saloon, where Lu Brow and her team of mixologists have earned their red vests and vetted titles. The jagged block behind the bar from which ice cubes are hand-chipped is just the tip of the proverbial berg: specialty concoctions such as the Swizzle, a sparkling daiquiri with a secret ingredient, commingle in a cocktail cookbook from Commander's Palace's Ti Martin, whose famously naughty Auntie Mame is the café's namesake.
13. Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge
214 Royal St., 523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com
Another French Quarter classic, the Carousel is so named because patrons sitting at the bar literally revolve around the bartenders while seated in their stools exactly once every 15 minutes. Situated just off the ornate lobby of the historic, family-owned Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel is a visual and sonic treat and a throwback to a bygone era. Locals in the crowd tend to be 40-plus, but after a few classic cocktails, you'll swear the spinning bar is really a time machine and that guy in the corner really is Louis Prima. Live piano music completes the experience, which will leave you dizzy, but delighted.
14. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
941 Bourbon St., 593-9761
We'll leave it to historians to determine exactly when this brick-and-post, colonial-era icon was actually constructed. All we know is Lafitte's has an ageless ambience that has drawn generations of loyal devotees. It's cool in the summer, and, best of all, no matter what the blinding sun is doing outside, it's dark inside just the way the brothers Lafitte wanted it when, according to popular myth, they opened the place as a front for their, ahem, extra-legal activities. Ever since, many a New Orleanian has sidled up to the piano bar to drink and sing till the wee hours of morning, when it's almost as dark outside as it is inside Lafitte's.
The Columns Hotel
3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; www.thecolumns.com
Lazily sipping a Bloody Mary as you take in the grandeur of a lush, tree-lined Uptown landscape from the porch of your very own St. Charles Avenue mansion is a pleasure you may never experience on your own dime. But, for the price of a drink, you can live the dream (without the mortgage) at the historic Columns Hotel. Belly up to the massive mahogany bar in the Victorian Lounge imposing with its 15-foot ceilings and 12-foot, 300-pound solid mahogany doors, yet decidedly inviting with its dimly lit nooks and corners or enjoy table service from the hotel's stately porch. On weeknights, happy hour drink specials are followed by live music with artists like Ricardo Crespo and Fredy Omar.
1931 St. Claude Ave., 945-9654; www.sweetlorrainesjazzclub.com
An unassuming storefront on North Rampart Street marks this 30-year-old jazz supper club, hardly hinting at the warm elegance inside knotty pine walls, towering ceilings, black velvet curtains on the bandstand and fresh flowers on the tables. Even the lighting under the bar top flatters patrons with a golden glow. The home base for the Black Men of Labor Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Sweet Lorraine's presents live contemporary jazz on weekend nights and open-mic spoken word Tuesdays.
1113 Decatur St.
Kitschy Cold War shtick notwithstanding, Pravda could be the hottest new bar in town. While the rest of Decatur Street ages ungracefully, the little-communist-manifesto-that-could is fomenting a renaissance of lower Quarter bacchanalia. Exhibit A: order an absinthe and the barkeep might inquire, "Legal or illegal?" He'll then spill your green fairy of choice over a sugar cube, set it afire and wait, ever so slowly, while a latticed dispenser from turn-of-the-century Montmartre dribbles icy-cold water into the clouding louche. Moulin Rouge, meet Baton Rouge.
18. Finn McCool's
3701 Banks St., 486-9080
Undercover intellectuals from all corners of the Crescent City turn out in droves for Finn McCool's Monday trivia nights get there two hours early or you don't get a seat. Teams like "Dick in a Box" and "Touched by an Uncle" crowd into this Irish Mid-City establishment, arming themselves with ice-cold buckets of beers as they vie for the night's prize usually a sack of potatoes or an old Tony Little butt workout tape. The homeless-looking guy you saw outside Flora's? Turns out he can parse Latin verbs and knows the lyrics to Def Leppard's "Love Bites."
19. Polo Club Lounge
300 Gravier St., 523-6000; www.windsorcourthotel.com
Admit it, sometimes you want to dress up and order good champagne and wine while rubbing elbows with movers and shakers from across the city and the globe. Whether you're warming up at happy hour before a stylish night on the town or winding down after a glitzy charity gig, the Polo Club Lounge in the Windsor Court Hotel always makes you feel as though you've walked into a posh private club and you've been a member forever. The turn-of-the-century equestrian accoutrements (check out the George V Cup behind the bar, awarded to the winner of the 1910 Ascot Races) are perfectly complemented by live music from the grand piano, excellent food from the adjacent restaurant (via a limited menu), and attentive staffers who have a knack for remembering your name and your favorite drink, all of which round out the clubby atmosphere.
20. Vaughan's Lounge
800 Lesseps St., 947-5562
Sure, Vaughan's is a Thursday night hotspot with Kermit Ruffins, red beans and smoking barbecue but the rest of the week it's an iconic, funky Bywater neighborhood bar. CNN's Anderson Cooper once broadcast his show from there, just to drive home the point. With tree-stump seating and big tables on the outside for seasonal crawfish boils, and bartenders buzzing in patrons to the split-level interior (which boasts a Ping Pong table on the lower level and an affordable bar on the upper deck), Vaughan's is typically peopled with interesting locals and respectful out-of-towners and it's Big Easy to see why.
21. St. Joe's Bar
5535 Magazine St., 899-3744
The former home of the Club, which years ago relocated a dozen blocks down Magazine, this long, narrow Uptown watering hole is now adorned with enough crosses, mirrors and recycled church pews to send a vampire scampering for the nearest coffin. But this is no Goth bar. The crowd is alternately collegiate and young, stylish and professional and usually sipping superior mojitos. The rear courtyard is one of the most seductive in town, with a design falling somewhere between Asian temple and Storyville bagnio.
22. Circle Bar
1032 St. Charles Ave., 588-2616
The Circle Bar's gritty charm has survived since Lee Circle was a homeless hangout to its more tony current demeanor with the Ogden Museum as a reputable neighbor. Through it all, a giant K&B clock still hangs face down from the tiny, oddly shaped bar's ceiling, barely registering the change in times. Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can is still dirt cheap, and second-hand smoke is all free. It's hard to imagine that any club in town has come up with better music bookings per square foot through the years.
23. Saturn Bar
3067 St. Claude Ave., 949-7532
As a mainstay of the St. Claude Avenue corridor, the Saturn Bar may as well be located at the outer edges of the universe for locals who prefer to do their drinking Uptown. Downtown dwellers, however, know the place well as a venerable dive bar with a long and storied history, one that's even been known to attract a wandering Hollywood star or two over the years. Decorated like your grandparents' basement in the 1960s, Saturn's funky, outdated atmosphere is just as likely to serve as a backdrop to a Saturday night mod dance party as an early evening destination for a post-work PBR during the week.
24. Old Absinthe House
240 Bourbon St., 523-3181
Patrons have been sipping vintage New Orleans concoctions at the copper-topped bar here since long before those drinks became cocktail-menu antiques. A case in point is the Absinthe House frappé, a venomous green tipple invented here in 1874. If that's not your cup of wormwood, the bar staff at this 200-year-old tavern can also whip up a mean Ramos gin fizz, Sazerac or brandy milk punch. The spillover crowd from Galatoire's is enough to prove that this is a downtown watering hole for New Orleanians, but if you need further proof, drop in to see who's who on the Friday afternoon before Mardi Gras.
840 Lamarque St., Mandeville, (985) 626-9748; www.rubysroadhouse.com
Some music clubs spend millions attempting to fake the roadhouse-funk that Ruby's oozes naturally, from its graffiti'd ceiling to the sedimentary layers of memorabilia on the walls. On a warm summer night, it's a neon oasis of smoke and A/C, a vision from a Mary Gauthier song. Weekdays, grab an Abita and chill with bikers, business folk and barflies; weekends bring live music (blues, zydeco, oldies) and an even more eclectic crowd. Ruby's has been slinging booze since FDR was president and the Northshore was mostly piney woods. Its off-road charm is both a throwback to those halcyon days and a perfect antidote to "St. Tammanard" strip mall anti-culture.
26. The Bulldog
3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; www.draftfreak.com
The original on Magazine Street was ground zero for the Uptown post-Katrina drinking scene, and today it retains all the essentials for strip-anchoring authority: a torch-lit patio replete with a 50-inch plasma TV, doggie door and beer-tap fountain; a short-order kitchen serving up a smorgasbord of fried, malt-friendly snacks; and, not least, a draft and bottle list that reads like a rich kid's passport, from triple-fermented Canadian brews to heady Belgian Trappist ales and every Samuel Adams or Smith in between. The Canal Boulevard location offers Lakeview denizens the same vibe without the long drive home afterward.
27. Le Bon Temps Roule
4801 Magazine St., 895-8117
Under one roof, a tale of two bars. Up front, the place looks like a dusty New Orleans corner joint, with regulars shooting pool and leisurely deciphering the collected ephemera decking the walls. The second room, however, reveals a hopping music hall. There is rarely a cover charge, and the reliable weekly schedule of bands can get the small space rocking. Regulars never seem to outgrow Le Bon Temps, and the crowd ranges widely in age and attitude.
28. Markey's Bar
640 Louisa St., 943-0785
A black-and-white headshot of Mickey Markey still grins down over the long, dark-stained wooden bar at his cozy, casual corner shack. Bywater hipsters have long since taken over the barstools once occupied by the working-class neighborhood Irish clientele, but it's still a laid-back joint perfect for a pint or two and a game of pool, darts or shuffleboard. The new, expanded all-day menu features juicy, hefty burgers and homey daily specials.
29. Parasol's Restaurant and Bar
2533 Constance St., 897-5413; www.parasols.com
When New Orleanians think about a classic corner bar, Parasol's is the vision that likely fills their heads. It is smaller inside than its reputation would let on. The room is always packed when the Saints are playing, and it is the regional hub on St. Patrick's Day, when the surrounding streets are overwhelmed with revelers. Parasol's also is home to one of the city's best sloppy roast beef po-boys, prepared from a recipe that has been passed from one generation of owner to the next.
30. Bridge Lounge
1201 Magazine St., 299-1888
The gritty-meets-artsy vibe of the semi-gentrified Lower Garden District has its apex at the Bridge Lounge. Slick but unpretentious, it's a draw for the after-work crowd from the funkier side of the CBD (think the CAC and the Ogden Museum) who dig the black-and-white photography on the walls and the tall, icy mojitos. Most of the photos are portraits of man's best friend, which is fitting since the Bridge Lounge is one of the city's most dog-friendly bars.
1201 Burgundy St., 522-9715
Always cool, dark and quiet, Cosimo's is an off-the-beaten-path French Quarter gem that forever remains a well-kept secret. Maybe that's because, despite its Quarter location, it's primarily a place for locals seeking to avoid tourists. Over the years, it has been a favorite of local professionals and characters from Clay Shaw (the only person ever tried for the JFK assassination) to various underworld and media types (it's a short two blocks from the back gate of WWL-TV). The jukebox has been digitized, but otherwise everything remains vintage New Orleans. If you grew up here, chances are your dad drank at Cosimo's and they're even greater he won't want to tell you everything he saw or did there. That's okay; you can make your own memories now.
407 N. Columbia St., Covington, (985) 892-4578
Étoile anchors the center of downtown Covington's gallery district, which is still rustic enough to have a feed store around the corner. Like the neighborhood, the bar splits the difference between playful and sophisticado, with vivid mosaics, multi-cultural bistro cuisine, and cheerfully off-kilter art courtesy of co-owner James Michalopoulos. At the bar, there's Old New Orleans Rum and a great wine selection (much of which can be purchased next door at the Louisiana Star wine shop), but the big draw is the fancy-but-still-casual atmosphere; if Étoile were a woman, her style would be jeans worn with a piece of good jewelry.
33. F&M Patio Bar
4841 Tchoupitoulas St., 895-6784
The famous pool table which doubles as a late-night dance floor at F&M's has starred in a memorably bleary New Orleans night out for tens of thousands of neighbors, students and music fans after a night out on the town. The jukebox keeps the good times going and the kitchen turns out the kind of after-midnight snacks fried and dripping with cheese perfect for soaking up the cocktails. Hanging out on the sprawling back patio feels like being on a beach vacation in the middle of Uptown.
34. Winston's Pub and Patio
531 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-8705
It's no surprise to find the Beatles on heavy rotation on Winston's jukebox, where the Fab Four fit well with the post-Imperial British motif running through the place. Padded leather armchairs and sofas are arranged in little tea party circles, even if the drink of choice is likely to be Bass Ale rather than Earl Grey. The rear deck makes a good perch for small gatherings and offers the added thrill of seeing and feeling freight trains barrel past on the adjacent tracks. Good bar food, too.
Dos Jefes Cigar Bar
5535 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-8500
There are dozens of choices for the smoking enthusiast in its well-stocked humidor, but Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar is about more than just cigars. Excellent selections of wines by the glass and single-malt Scotches complement a menu of upscale pub food. (Try the stuffed olives.) And while Dos Jefes offers live music nightly with regular appearances by jazz piano man Tom Hook, zydeco master Sunpie Barnes and guitar virtuoso John Fohl there is never a cover charge. You can also play a game of pool or socialize out on the patio where the outdoor bar has swings instead of barstools.
36. Friendly Bar
2301 Chartres St., 943-8929
This laid-back, gay-friendly joint is a popular spot that buzzes most nights of the week with Marigny and French Quarter neighbors looking to chill. Plentiful drink specials and generally friendly prices make it a fine spot to spend some quality time on a barstool, and spontaneous dance parties have been known to erupt when patrons crank the volume on the jukebox.
37. Kingpin Bar
1307 Lyons St., 891-2373; www.kingpinbar.com
Take an Elvis shrine, put it in New Orleans, apply a thick handful of rockabilly hair grease and throw in a few former debutantes on benders mixing it up with "Who Dat" sports fans and you have the scene at this unlikely Uptown haunt. The jukebox is classic and the shuffleboard table running nearly the length of one wall provides the cause of many heated competitions. The cluster of nearby restaurants brings Kingpin a substantial pre-dinner business as well as a late-night crowd after the kitchens close.
38. Tommy's Wine Bar
752 Tchoupitoulas St., 525-4790; www.tommyswinebar.net
Thanks to an extensive renovation a few years back and in stark contrast to the more modern décor of neighboring warehouse spaces converted to art galleries and restaurants Tommy's Wine Bar has a kind of polished vintage, elegantly plush feel. Big, comfortable armchairs are just right for relaxing with a glass of wine and piano music adds to the sophisticated atmosphere. There's a good selection of wines by the glass and bottle, as well as a full-service bar with an extensive cognac, Scotch and bourbon list. It's a good rendezvous spot before or after dinner, as they serve cheeses, pates, appetizers and desserts from proprietor Tommy Andrade's other establishment, Tommy's Cuisine, which is conveniently located right next door.
39. The Saint Bar and Lounge
961 Saint Mary St., 523-0050
Even the people who consider themselves "regulars" at the Saint probably couldn't tell you what, if anything, goes on there before 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. This dim and sometimes shady Lower Garden District haunt is a favorite end-of-the-night stop for service industry workers, doom rockers, neighborhood hipsters, plausible poseurs and other tattoo-prone types. You'll find amenities such as a jukebox, a Harley-Davidson pinball machine, a Ms. Pac Man arcade game and a photo booth as well as bands and DJs on an irregular basis.
40. Bullets' Sports Bar
2441 A.P. Tureaud Ave., 948-4003
Bullets (which is the affable owner's nickname) offers an only-in-New Orleans scene of neighborhood familiarity and old-school good cheer. Waitresses ferry pails of ice, pints of liquor and mixers to the crowd of middle-aged regulars across this long, low barroom so they can mix up their own drinks. There's often a barbecue truck parked just outside and, on the busiest nights, roaming freelance vendors hawk flowers, peanuts, pralines and sweet potato pies inside. Kermit Ruffins plays a happy-hour show on Tuesdays.
41. Yuki Izakaya
525 Frenchmen St., phone n.a.
The strange, crimson aura inside New Orleans' only izakaya a traditional Nippon-style pub "n' grub beckons Frenchmen Street club-goers to stop and sample one of the only things you won't find on d.b.a.'s chalkboard: shochu, an alluring, clear-yet-viscous liquor perhaps best described as sake with a kick. Yuki offers at least three varieties, from straight to citrusy to, um, sweet potato-y. They're all delicious, particularly when paired with the kitchen's crispy French fries and creamy barbecued eel.
42. Pal's Lounge
949 N. Rendon St., 488-7257
Air hockey, cheap drinks and ornate, old- fashioned wallpaper are just a few of the reasons why Pal's makes for a cozy neighborhood bar. A great getaway from big, crowded social scenes year-round, Pal's new summer cocktail menu with drinks like Vava Vanilla Margarita or Sugarcane Punch makes this Mid-City watering hole all the more enticing as a cool, low-lit hideout from the season's heat.
43. Kajun's Pub
2256 St. Claude Ave., 947-3735
The jukebox may seem a little schizophrenic, jumping from thumping rap to thrash metal to country twang, but the mix accurately reflects Kajun's clientele on any given night. This friendly if gritty Bywater bar gained some acclaim by stubbornly staying open throughout Katrina's aftermath, but periodic live music and day-to-day bargains are its calling cards now. The $2 Bud pitchers on Tuesday nights sound like a college bar special, albeit one found very far off campus.
44. Balcony Bar and Café
1104 Harmony St., 895-1600
The wraparound balcony with cast iron furniture lets everyone entering the bar know that there's something beyond the typically rowdy and noisy saloon space downstairs, which swirls with constant action around the pool tables fueled by a lineup of 40 beers on tap. The upstairs bar is relatively nicer in decor and the second floor features several rooms perfect for a gathering to takeover perhaps one of the reasons the Balcony is a popular post-shift hangout for many restaurant workers. But plum seating on the spacious balcony overlooking a cluster of bars, coffee shops and restaurants is what makes this a popular destination for so many.
45. 45 Tchoup
4529 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9066
Don't be alarmed if you can't find any trace of the old Shiloh at 4529 Tchoupitoulas St. The dark, DJ'd former nightspot has been supplanted by a par exemplar neighborhood bar with a jukebox populated by criminally obscure punk rockers like the Humpers and the Supersuckers. Tuesdays are $2 Mexican Beer Nights, which means that for twin George Washingtons you can sample any number of south-of-the-border suds or just pound Coronas by the six-pack and risk the wrath of Woody, the wily jefe manning the spouts.
46. Pat O'Brien's
718 St. Peter St., 525-4823; www.patobriens.com
Sure, it's the A-number-one tourist magnet complete with a flaming fountain, but forget that for a minute and remember that Pat O's has one of the loveliest courtyards in the French Quarter. It's been sending folks home with their (emptied) oversized souvenir Hurricane glasses since Prohibition was repealed, but there's no need to scuttle yourself with the powerful potion. Locals still slip into the piano bar, with its dueling baby grands, and the smaller front barroom across the carriageway.
47. Carrollton Station
8140 Willow St., 865-9190; www.carrolltonstation.com
The streetcar barn across the street adds a noir ambience, the well-appointed mahogany bar specializes in rum drinks like the stormy Goombay smash, and the grill serves burgers and Tex-Mex fare. But the main event at Carrollton Station is its wood-lined, acoustically gorgeous stage and music hall. A special draw is the "Covered in Vinyl" series, held the first Saturday of each month, when Susan Cowsill and plenty of friends perform their tributes to classic albums from start to finish.
48. Mayfair Lounge
1505 Amelia St., 895-9163
Getting buzzed into the cozy yet festive lair known as the Mayfair Lounge almost feels like a grand entrance. Hung year-round with holiday lights and shiny bric-a-brac, the atmosphere always has more than a hint of Mardi Gras glare to it. It may be a bit of a sensory overload for newcomers, especially when coupled by a few strong drinks poured by the Mayfair's tiny and lively proprietress, Miss Gertie. Some regulars perch at the bar or video poker machines for long stretches, and others make use of the pool tables. Still, it doesn't take much to get this small bar hopping, which has made it a popular little speakeasy just off St. Charles Avenue for going on 30 years.
49. Half Moon Bar and Restaurant
1125 Saint Mary St., 522-0599
Gratis crawfish on Saturdays isn't the only reason this Lower Garden District staple is held in such high esteem by its regular weekend patrons, but it surely hasn't hurt. Formerly a meeting place for port-industry labor leaders, the cavernous interior now plays host to movers and shakers of a different sort: jukebox feeders dancing politely to someone else's selections while awaiting their Clash song to rock the Casbah. The union plaques that once adorned the walls may be long gone, but the spirit of kinship lives on.
50. Molly's at the Market
1107 Decatur St., 525-5169
At first glance, Molly's looks like a prototypical Irish tavern, with its worn wooden tables, tall bar stools and requisite 30-plus years of memorabilia decorating the walls. But owner Jim Monagahan Jr. has turned this Decatur Street stalwart into a destination location for revelers of all types during Halloween, Mardi Gras and, of course, St. Patrick's Day, as well as a late-night rendezvous for hipsters and their ilk after catching a show downtown.
- Cheryl Gerber
- The vibe at Mimi's in the Marigny is more house party than hotspot and the reasons the bar rates No. 1 in the city are as diverse as the regulars who make it so.
- Cheryl Gerber
- Bartender Bird stands ready to light the fire of an absinthe-drenched sugar cube to make one of the various house specialties at Pravda.
- Cheryl Gerber
- The Old Absinthe House is one watering hole on Bourbon Street where you're most likely to find locals of varying ages gather to sip concoctions from days past and present. Don't forget to leave your business card on the wall.
- Cheryl Gerber
- The shotgun bar at The Delachaise draws patrons who value top-shelf liquors and a top-rated menu.
- Bryce Lankard
- The Victorian Lounge at the Columns Hotel mixes a cozy ambience with just the right amount of history and funk to keep it in the top 15 of our list. You also can enjoy your adult beverages on the large front porch of the hotel overlooking St. Charles Avenue.
- Cheryl Gerber
- Proprietor Antoinette K-Doe makes sure the spirit (and image) of her late husband Ernie whose hit song gave the Mother-In-Law Lounge its name is never far from fans of the iconic hotspot.
- Cheryl Gerber
- Bartender Keith Blanda and bar chef Lu Brow shake up some drinks at Swizzle Stick Bar.
- Theresa Cassagne
- An elegant interior, its attachment to Arnaud's restaurant and top-shelf liquors and the mixologists to do them justice are just a few of the things that place French 75 in the Top 10 of our top bars list.
- Theresa Cassagne
- Artist/co-owner James Michalopoulos provides the artistic dcor and Northshore hipsters fill in the playful but sophisticated atmosphere at Etoile in Covington.
- Cheryl Gerber
- The patio bar at St. Joe's is a seductive place that draws a mix of college students and young professionals to its stylistic Asian temple-meets-Storyville bagnio style.