This is the second of two posts on New Orleans foodie travel...my first post was focused on eating well while visiting the Big Easy. This one is all about enjoying your beverages and the nightlife just as much as the food! I have to give credit where it's due on this one though, my friend from business school and New Orleans native, Dave Heap, provided almost every single one of the recommendations below. Trust me on this...when it comes to drinking and having a good time, Dave is your man so I'm confident that we are all in extremely good hands with this inside source.
Have any favorite spots to imbibe of your own in NOLA that you don't see listed here? If so please share! Otherwise, happy drinking...and as Dave said to me, "be safe and have fun out there. But not too much fun....we want you back in NOLA for more!!"
- Pat O’Brien’s - most famous bar in the city...you know, this is where you go to get your Hurricane. Sit on the patio and enjoy a hurricane or mint julep or if there isn’t a line, check out the piano bar and make a request.
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop - oldest continually operated bar in the country. Original proprietor was a pirate and the atmosphere is just so cool. The picture from my first New Orleans post is of Lafitte's.
- Anais St. John at the Hyatt - one of the best jazz singers in town. Every Friday and Sat night along with a dessert buffet if you're interested. That's right, a buffet just for dessert.
- Jeremy Davenport at the Ritz - old-style crooner. Think Harry Connick Jr., but better. Every Thurs, Friday, and Sat night.
- Preservation Hall - If you really want to get in make a plan...three shows nightly at 8:15, 9:15 and 10:15 and there is usually a line that starts forming an hour before each show. Worst case take turns standing in line while the rest of the group gets a drink across the street at the Boondock Saint. Note: this is a pure music venue - no food or alcohol served
- Tommy's Wine Bar - fantastic wine list and live music most nights. Fri and Sat Latin jazz.
- Vaughan's Lounge - this one takes a bit of effort to get out to the Bywater neighborhood, but it looks like it's worth it. Every Thursday night musician and chef Kermit Ruffins (also from the HBO show Treme) makes an appearance with his Barbecue Swingers and puts on a show while cooking up BBQ to feed the crowds. Sounds like a party!
Hotel Lounges & Bistros:
- Polo Lounge at the Windsor Court Hotel - live jazz band, expensive drinks but you won’t need more than 2 or 3. Classy atmosphere that allows for conversation along with good drinks and music.
- Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone - round and round and round we go....wait, where are my friends? Yup, this is the city's only revolving bar. Actually, not sure I've really seen this in any other city either!
- Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel - many cocktails are rumored to have been created in NOLA, and the sazerac is one of the first.
- Arnauds Jazz Bistro - Old school New Orleans at it's best with a Jazz trio playing from 6:30 to 10:30 every night and a pretty full menu in the bistro.
Karaoke, Cover Music & Dancing: St. Anne's Street is known to have the best spots for dancing, but here are a few specific spots to check out if you can't manage to pull yourself away from Bourbon Street...
- Razzoo Bar & Patio - good old fashioned dance club fun with 3-for-1 specials, shot girls and a packed dance floor.
- Bourbon Blues Company - another classic club complete with dance competitions and a mix of live and DJ music.
- Cat's Meow - the self-proclaimed "world's best karaoke bar"...head here if you're sick of listening to live music and are ready to make some of your own.
Local Beverages: whenever I travel I like to keep an eye out for drinks and foods that give you a taste of place. You know, those things that are harder to find where you live but seem to be prevalent where you're traveling. A few beverages to keep your eyes peeled for while in New Orleans:
- Old New Orleans Rum - check out the distillery in the 9th Ward to see how the rum is made on one of their daily tours. Of course, also keep your eye out in bars to request your rum-drinks be made with this local spirit.
- Dixie Brewing Company - while the brewery itself closed down after being severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina the beers are still in production...Dixie Lager, Dixie Jazz, Blackened Voodoo and Crimson Voodoo to name a few.
- NOLA Brewing Company - this one has only ben around since 2008 but they have quite the line-up of microbrews. Hurricane Saison, 7th Street Wheat, Flambeau Redand and more...
- Abita Brewing Company - while many of these beers are in national distribution, they are the most well known to come out of Louisianna. Some of the brews include Purple Haze, Jockamo and Turbo Dog. Some of the seasonal brews are a Lemon Wheat, Bock, Fall Fest and also some Harvest Ales like Pecan Harvest Ale, Strawberry Harvest Lager and Satsuma Harvest Wit.
And finally, a few tips and tricks to live by while living it up in NOLA...
- Above all...be safe. Use common sense: if you are heading down a street that has no street lights and no people on it, turn around and head back to the noise. Tourists who get into trouble have had too much to drink and/or are in a place they shouldn’t be.
- Go-Cups are....drinks you can take with you. It’s technically against the law to drink a beverage in a glass or metal container on public streets. Sure, you might see plenty people doing it, but you don’t want to be the one who gets busted. Every bar you walk into will have plastic or Styrofoam cups at the door into which you can pour your drink and take it to go. So just follow the rules and use a Go-Cup.
- New Orleans is an adult fantasy land, so enjoy yourself. However, rules of manners and decorum still apply. Act like a kindergartner and they won’t care. But act like a jerk, expose yourself, urinate on the street, get physical with another partier (fights or intercourse) and you will spend a couple nights at the threshold of Hell...the Orleans Parish Prison.
- Never, ever, EVER eat a Lucky Dog. Doesn’t matter that it’s 4am and you’ve had 3 Hurricanes. Do yourself a favor and just don’t do it.
Happy travels, eating and drinking in New Orleans. I hope you enjoy this great city as much as I always do!