By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com New Orleans Nightlife Blogger
There is more to partying it up in New Orleans than Bourbon Street.
The rest of the French Quarter is good for quenching one’s thirst for fun and a New Orleans-style experience.
This is a look at the bars off Bourbon Street, fun places that are good for mixing not only with visitors but also spots that are favorites of locals.
A locals’ dive, Coops, is a small place with brick walls, a brick floor and wood tables, it can boast to having New Orelans’ Best Bloody Mary and Best Margarita. The latter is made by Faye, who works only Thursdays-Saturdays. The former is served by a skinny bartender who smokes and wears a beret and plays in a band. He works Sunday-Wednesday. The food is great – big burgers, tasty red beans and rice with fried chicken and the heartiest gumbo in the city. Order off the big menu on the wall, not the printed menu.
Another bar that’s one of the Best French Quarter Hangouts Not On Bourbon Street is a small place called The Alibi Bar & Grill. Located on Iberville just off Bourbon, it is where locals in the lower Quarter go to hang. It has the city’s most extensive international beer selection – Germany, England, Scotland, Canada, just to name a few represented countries – and it’s casual style attracts waitresses and bartenders from the nearby restaurants who come in after work. The Alibi is also one of the few places in the Quarter that serves food past 11 p.m.
The food is meodicre, the service suspect and it’s in a total tourist location – on Decatur right by Jackon Square – but at least the owner of The Corner Oyster Bar & Grill has had the foresight to hire the city’s Most Outstanding-Looking Staff, How good-looking: They sell a calendar of the bartenders and waitresses.
O’ Flatery’s is a mellow Irish club with music and dancing.
Over on Chartres Street, some of the cheapest drinks in town are served at The Chart Room. Not to be at all confused with that upscale American restaurant chain with a similar name, the Chart Room is an old bar that looks like it will fall down. But it’s a popular locals’ spot for Happy Hour and mid-to-late nights. It’s a classic local bar – cold, cheap beer ($2.50 for imports), patrons who look likely to have their heads on the bar before too long and a bartender who has probably been there since the place opened.
A couple of blocks up the street (at St. Louis) is one of the most historic buildings in town. Napoleon House, which was built for but never lived in by the famous French leader, is both a bar and a restaurant. Classical music plays in a classical setting. The bar area is open to the street and the restaurant has the kind of patio one envisions when thinking of New Orleans. It is a good place for a few drinks or a meal but be prepared for the very deliberate French service.
Toulouse Street, about halfway down Bourbon, has four good bars (go toward the Mississippi River).
The Gold Mine is a weekend-only late-night dance club. Try the Flaming Dr. Pepper.
The Dungeon could almost be my favorite New Orleans bar. It’s neat and funky. The entrance is a narrow hallway that opens up into a small patio with a tiny waterfall. Upstairs has a bar and dance floor that plays kickass rock and punk tunes of the patrons’ choice. It is black and dark and has the feel of, well, a dungeon. But it also has this Big Brother thing to it. You can’t do shots with the bartender/music girl, photos are not allowed and there are Secret Service-style security guys with headsets watching over everyone as if they are suspected terrorists. At least there’s no trouble in the place, a contrast to its past when the bikers from the bar across the street used to come in and act like drunken bikers.
For live music, locals once loved to love the Shim Sham Club. It’s currently The Joker, which has live music, often with a heavty cover charge. We include it mainly for nostalgia purposes; the original had awesome local bands, some of which din’t even go on until 3 a.m. Whenever the Shim-Shamettes took the stage, the place went nuts. These 20 girls put on an old-style striptease show.
Business casual people in search of a martini find them in abundance at Bombay Club. It’s a classy piano bar with a menu of smooth and sensational martinis.
For live music – and people here love to hear live music – is Tipitina’s and the House of Blues. There are two Tipitina’s locations: the one at 233 N. Peters is the original and the one on Decatur Street is only open when bands are playing. Tipitina’s generally hosts wildly popular local bands such as The Radiators and The Neville Brothers, all of which have an almost cult following.
The House of Blues books name national rock acts. On Mondays, it’s SIN Night (Service Industry Night) and while there’s no band, the place is packed with locals from other bars and restaurants enjoying a night off from work.
For those wondring about Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe it is, unfortunately, permamently closed. Or perhaps temporiarly permamently closed as Buffet might have said.
Next Stop On The New Orleans Party Bus: The Bars Locals Love!
PubClub.com covers nightlife, bars, festivals and party events around the world. I have been to New Orleans – and the French Quarter – many times.