God bless the dive bar.
In New Orleans, the city that invented the cocktail, the place where the Sazerac came of age, where the Ramos gin fizz was first shaken into foamy perfection, dive bars are the antidote to overwrought cocktail curation.
Granted, the city famous for its go-cup cocktail option has an impressive cotillion of craft cocktail makers. It also hosts the annual Tales of the Cocktail event that draws rock star bartenders from around the globe. But sometimes you don’t want a drink muddled and informed by artisanal tinctures and slowly steeped bitters. Sometimes you just want a PBR and a shot.
Which is why these five seedy dens of (over) consumption and rambling conversation deserve your full attention. Venture hence, and you’ll find cheap drinks, adept bartenders, zero hipsters and a cash-only policy. What you won’t find is beer on tap or drinks with more than two ingredients. And here’s a lagniappe: runners up include The John, Chuck’s Sports Bar, Vaughan’s, Ms. Mae’s and Brothers III Lounge.
300 Chartres St., French Quarter; (504) 522-1708
This dingy spot on the corner of Chartres and Bienville pours the cheapest drinks in the Quarter, for starters. Yes your feet will stick to the floor, but retreating into the Chart Room’s dark confines is the best way to dodge happy hordes of tourists (bless their hearts).
2484 Burgundy, Marigny; (504) 267-5869
When Mark Hoerner bought the old Smitty’s in 2011 and renamed it Marie’s for one of his father’s girlfriends, colorful regulars Wolf and Matt came with the deal. The bar is that kind of long time neighborhood place, a friendly spot to throw back $1.50 beers, shoot some pool and if so inspired, grab a condom or three from the fishbowl near the bar. Life is good.
701 6th. Avenue, Irish Channel; (504) 895-8993
There’s no sign outside this desolate looking Irish Channel haunt, a place way under most people’s radar. But step to the door and you’ll be buzzed into paradise. A former speakeasy with a surprisingly handsome bar that dates to 1931, Pete’s is owned by a retired fireman turned bar keep, so you know the drinks are strong and cheap. Besides a good jukebox and a couple of TVs, Pete’s comes with a delicious sense of hiding out from the world.
3067 St. Claude Ave., Bywater; (504) 949-7532
This quintessential Bywater dive predates the current St. Claude Avenue trending by decades. Hell, Mick Jagger partied here before he was eligible for Social Security. The place always looks closed, but don’t let the Boo Radley exterior scare you off. Inside you’ll find feisty bartenders, grand graffiti, and on one Saturday a month, an epic Mod dance party.
7612 Oaks St., Riverbend; (504) 861-2802
It may look like a falling down shed from the outside, but Snake & Jake’s is a shrine to cheap drinks in the dark, tripping hazards and regulars challenged in the dental department. The beer is in cans but not in an ironic way, and the well drinks are $2.50. Legend has it a guy got shot here years ago and now he drinks free at the bar for life. Enough said.