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These Are New Orleans’s Essential Bars

From posh to dissolute, here are 19 of New Orleans’s best bars

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Napoleon House
| Brasted/Eater NOLA

With one of the highest bars per capita in the country, choosing New Orleans’s most quintessential watering holes is no easy feat.

And with a range of venues spanning from posh to dissolute, the field is wide open. Fierce loyalties exist and surely any list will arouse passionate fingers in the air or indignant arms folded across the chest. How could you not include...?

This list represents a broad sampling of bars: dives, hotel bars, cocktail bars, beer bars, Irish pubs, and bars with live music — although the spots mentioned here are first and foremost bars, not music venues or restaurants.

So if we missed one of your favorites, take a deep breath and nominate it for consideration on our next update. As always, this list is organized geographically, not by rank.

- Allison Alsup

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Pal's Lounge

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Pal’s encapsulates much of what distinguishes New Orleans’ drinking culture from the rest of the country: pride of place smack in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood, a classic corner bar architecture and long bar, a quality drink for a fair price, and regulars who fill its stools with friendly banter. Specialty cocktails run $7-9. Other pluses: air hockey and a men’s room plastered with vintage Playboy pics from a pre-silicone era.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

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With bright and jazzy murals covering every square inch of its colorful exterior, the Mother-in-Law shouts out its pride of family and music and the neighborhood that connects them. Founded by local musician Ernie K. Doe and named for his 1961 number one hit “Mother-in-Law,” the bar and patio now continues its musical stewardship under trumpet legend Kermit Ruffins who regularly plays here. Come for the vibe, not craft beers or cocktails; free crawfish boils on Fridays when they’re in season. 

Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge/Facebook

Finn McCool's Irish Pub

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Stephen and Pauline Patterson first opened Finn McCool’s in 2002, about a decade after settling in New Orleans during travels from Northern Ireland. It was wrecked not long after in the Mid City flooding following Hurricane Katrina, but the couple’s swift rebuild and reopening in 2006 is often credited with helping catalyze the neighborhood’s comeback. Finn’s is an Irish pub in the truest sense with devoted neighborhood regulars who gather to drink beer on tap, watch sports, play pool or darts, compete in Monday night trivia, and eat stick-to-your-ribs pub fare, including fish and chips. Because Finn’s is the city’s premier soccer viewing spot, it also draws the city’s international residents. A great place for either buddies or the solo drinker. 

Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Twelve Mile Limit

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Despite being heavily lauded among mixologists, owner T. Cole Newton has managed to keep Twelve Mile from becoming either precious or overly self-aware. Don’t be put off but the unassuming exterior, step inside and you’ll find a neighborhood joint that offers considered, crafted original cocktails and local drafts. Latin inspired brunch and dinner from Que Pasta offers a welcome respite from the usual barfare.

Within shouting distance of both Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter and housed beneath the Royal Street Inn, the classic corner R Bar sees its fair share of both locals and tourists. With its dim lights, pool table and reasonably priced drinks, this is the probably the most authentic New Orleans dive bar experience. NOTE: R Bar is currently closed (as of Mid April), but owners have said they will reopen when bar capacity increases in New Orleans.

Markey's Bar

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Since 1947, family-owned Markey’s has been a Bywater social anchor, one proud of its working class, Irish roots. In the last years, this corner spot received a major cosmetic overhaul that reflects the neighborhood’s scaling up; nevertheless Markey’s remains a quintessential Ninth Ward watering hole and pass time with TVs, shuffleboard, darts. 27 draft beers include local and regional options plus full bar.

The exterior of Markey’s bar, a deep red building with a shabby white sign. Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Bar Tonique

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Before the onslaught of craft cocktails came rolling into New Orleans post-Katrina, Bar Tonique was the first to specialize in a new wave of well-made drinks, and they still do, along with an unpretentious vibe that’s made this bar a standout among the city’s best. This where folks that sling drinks come to get drinks — always the sign of a good spot.

Bar Tonique
Brasted/Eater NOLA

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

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There are old buildings in the French Quarter and then there are old buildings. Now coming up on its 300th birthday, Lafitte’s is reputed to be the oldest building in the U.S. used as a bar. The iconic brick and beam Creole cottage construction is a standout even in a neighborhood of standouts, and is believed to have been the storehouse of New Orleans privateer, read pirate, Jean Lafitte. The bar continues to attract less for its cocktail program than for its candle lit, rustic, and piratey atmosphere. And while Lafitte’s gets bustling come night, its lower Bourbon location puts some breathing room between it and the strip club scene. Keep the drinks simple here, and try to purple drink.

Nora McGunnigle/Eater NOLA

Black Penny

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Chances are your eyes will need a minute to adjust when you step into this ambiance- heavy corner spot on the French Quarter’s edge. The Black Penny’s dark vibe evokes a pre-Thomas Edison era that remains true to the building’s 1830s roots. Buyer beware: don’t come to the Penny seeking wine or umbrella drinks. Here the order of the day is canned beer (a choice we applaud in a city that still lacks glass recycling); the multi-page menu divided by type and tastes encourages experimentation, so consider sharing several rounds with a friend. A curated selection of brown goods caters to those seeking the stiff stuff. Occasional sidewalk food pop-ups.

Manolito

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Manolito is the French Quarter Havana-inspired bar and cafe opened by a trio of top New Orleans restaurant and bar proprietors, and the vibe and drinks reflect the expertise behind it. The main attraction at Manolito are the frozen cocktails, including its signature Jazz Daiquiri — made with Jamaican rum, lime, agave nectar, Creme de Cacao, and coffee beans, but try anything seasonal or on special.

Manolito’s founding partners at the bar
Katherine Kimball/Eater NOLA

Erin Rose

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Just a few steps off Bourbon’s mayhem, the Erin Rose offers a pocket of cozy respite. Slim, unpretentious, and outfitted with a classic long bar, this perennial local favorite evokes a small Irish pub. Grab a pint or a whiskey and transition from day to night or refuel with banh mi from the Killer Po’boys window in back before heading out into the night. Or drink like a local and stay for hours while catching up with an old friend. The $4 and under “Wake Up and Live!” specials include bloody Marys and frozen Irish coffee.

Napoleon House

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Originally built as a refuge for Napoleon Bonaparte, this 200-year old townhouse exudes the sort of exquisite, romantic decay that epitomizes the French Quarter. With Napoleon House’s peeling plaster walls, exposed beams, classic polished bar, and opera arias playing in the background, time seems to stand still here. It’s easy to see why the building has been the subject of countless photographs, including photo spreads for Anthropologie. Opt for a cool Pimm’s Cup or classic Sazerac or Old Fashioned.

Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Arnaud's French 75 Bar

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Once a space that was only for men, the James Beard Award-winning French 75 continues to evoke the upper crust masculinity of an intimate, upper crust English club. A gorgeous polished bar, circa late 1800s, runs the length of the room. A high quality French 75 (made old school with champagne and cognac) tops the short but eclectic menu of inventive cocktails, all a good value for an upscale venue.

Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

The Carousel Bar & Lounge

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The Carousel has been a cherished local landmark for 70 years, a must-visit classy spot in the Hotel Monteleone since back in the day. The bar is lit up and shaped like a carousel, and yes, it does turn, though at one revolution every 15 minutes. Consider splurging on a slow sipping cocktail like a Sazerac, or the delightfully potent house original, a Vieux Carré. In addition to the bar, arrangements of posh club chairs in the spacious lounge accommodate groups, and should appease even the snootiest of relatives and friends. Some live music afternoons and evenings.

Everything You Need To Know About Tales Of The Cocktail Right Now Paul Broussard

Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29

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When tiki historian Jeff Beachbum Berry opened this oh-so-fun upscale lounge in the Quarter in 2014, the cocktail world rejoiced. This is one of the best bars in New Orleans — with dozens of resurrected tiki drinks on the menu, from Sinatra’s favorite sipper to crazy communal wonders — run by the world’s leading authority on tiki culture.

Latitude 29
Brasted/Eater NOLA

The Crown & Anchor

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It’s hard not to feel at ease in this unassuming and pint-sized English-style pub nestled in tightly-knit community of Algiers Point. Outfitted with rafters, hanging steins, and framed old pictures, the Crown and Anchor offers a decidedly more ye olde tavern feel than the typical corner bar. Whether drinking alone or grabbing a few rounds with friends, this quaint and homey spot welcomes, and is worth the occasional drive or ferry ride for those living across the river. A small selection of local and international beers on tap generally run $6; cans around $3.50; a solid scotch and whiskey menu includes several modestly priced options.

Avenue Pub

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Known for its vast beer selection, the Avenue Pub is the place to come to experiment. A changing menu features both local breweries as well as relatively unknown, seasonal, and artisanal ales from around the world. Bartenders are knowledgeable and ready to help the uninitiated. Downstairs, a cluster of high tables means the room can get crowded come dark; here the focus is on beer and pub grub. Upstairs you’ll find a smaller bar with an impressive selection of brown goods: bourbon, whiskey and rye, as well as a wrap around balcony overlooking the streetcar line. 

New Orleans has always been a serious cocktail town, even when overly sweet drinks and cheap liquor ruled bars elsewhere. Even so, cocktails here went through a renaissance of sorts after Cure opened on Freret Street in a cavernous and beautifully renovated former fire station in 2009. A good spot for those placing a premium on ambiance, inventive combinations, and craft ingredients.

Columns

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Though new owners have rebranded historic hotel and bar to just “Columns,” the elegant spirit and vibe at this St. Charles Avenue destination endures. In mild weather the shaded front porch tables are ideal for sipping an iced cocktail or glass of wine while watching the streetcar pass beneath the oak trees. Come winter, multiple rooms inside, replete with soaring ceilings, jewel tones, and ornate plaster trim, make for prime hot toddy or Irish coffee sipping spots.

Columns bar
Columns/Official

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Pal's Lounge

Pal’s encapsulates much of what distinguishes New Orleans’ drinking culture from the rest of the country: pride of place smack in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood, a classic corner bar architecture and long bar, a quality drink for a fair price, and regulars who fill its stools with friendly banter. Specialty cocktails run $7-9. Other pluses: air hockey and a men’s room plastered with vintage Playboy pics from a pre-silicone era.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge/Facebook

With bright and jazzy murals covering every square inch of its colorful exterior, the Mother-in-Law shouts out its pride of family and music and the neighborhood that connects them. Founded by local musician Ernie K. Doe and named for his 1961 number one hit “Mother-in-Law,” the bar and patio now continues its musical stewardship under trumpet legend Kermit Ruffins who regularly plays here. Come for the vibe, not craft beers or cocktails; free crawfish boils on Fridays when they’re in season. 

Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge/Facebook

Finn McCool's Irish Pub

Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Stephen and Pauline Patterson first opened Finn McCool’s in 2002, about a decade after settling in New Orleans during travels from Northern Ireland. It was wrecked not long after in the Mid City flooding following Hurricane Katrina, but the couple’s swift rebuild and reopening in 2006 is often credited with helping catalyze the neighborhood’s comeback. Finn’s is an Irish pub in the truest sense with devoted neighborhood regulars who gather to drink beer on tap, watch sports, play pool or darts, compete in Monday night trivia, and eat stick-to-your-ribs pub fare, including fish and chips. Because Finn’s is the city’s premier soccer viewing spot, it also draws the city’s international residents. A great place for either buddies or the solo drinker. 

Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Twelve Mile Limit

Despite being heavily lauded among mixologists, owner T. Cole Newton has managed to keep Twelve Mile from becoming either precious or overly self-aware. Don’t be put off but the unassuming exterior, step inside and you’ll find a neighborhood joint that offers considered, crafted original cocktails and local drafts. Latin inspired brunch and dinner from Que Pasta offers a welcome respite from the usual barfare.

R Bar

Within shouting distance of both Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter and housed beneath the Royal Street Inn, the classic corner R Bar sees its fair share of both locals and tourists. With its dim lights, pool table and reasonably priced drinks, this is the probably the most authentic New Orleans dive bar experience. NOTE: R Bar is currently closed (as of Mid April), but owners have said they will reopen when bar capacity increases in New Orleans.

Markey's Bar

The exterior of Markey’s bar, a deep red building with a shabby white sign. Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Since 1947, family-owned Markey’s has been a Bywater social anchor, one proud of its working class, Irish roots. In the last years, this corner spot received a major cosmetic overhaul that reflects the neighborhood’s scaling up; nevertheless Markey’s remains a quintessential Ninth Ward watering hole and pass time with TVs, shuffleboard, darts. 27 draft beers include local and regional options plus full bar.

The exterior of Markey’s bar, a deep red building with a shabby white sign. Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Bar Tonique

Bar Tonique
Brasted/Eater NOLA

Before the onslaught of craft cocktails came rolling into New Orleans post-Katrina, Bar Tonique was the first to specialize in a new wave of well-made drinks, and they still do, along with an unpretentious vibe that’s made this bar a standout among the city’s best. This where folks that sling drinks come to get drinks — always the sign of a good spot.

Bar Tonique
Brasted/Eater NOLA

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

Nora McGunnigle/Eater NOLA

There are old buildings in the French Quarter and then there are old buildings. Now coming up on its 300th birthday, Lafitte’s is reputed to be the oldest building in the U.S. used as a bar. The iconic brick and beam Creole cottage construction is a standout even in a neighborhood of standouts, and is believed to have been the storehouse of New Orleans privateer, read pirate, Jean Lafitte. The bar continues to attract less for its cocktail program than for its candle lit, rustic, and piratey atmosphere. And while Lafitte’s gets bustling come night, its lower Bourbon location puts some breathing room between it and the strip club scene. Keep the drinks simple here, and try to purple drink.

Nora McGunnigle/Eater NOLA

Black Penny

Chances are your eyes will need a minute to adjust when you step into this ambiance- heavy corner spot on the French Quarter’s edge. The Black Penny’s dark vibe evokes a pre-Thomas Edison era that remains true to the building’s 1830s roots. Buyer beware: don’t come to the Penny seeking wine or umbrella drinks. Here the order of the day is canned beer (a choice we applaud in a city that still lacks glass recycling); the multi-page menu divided by type and tastes encourages experimentation, so consider sharing several rounds with a friend. A curated selection of brown goods caters to those seeking the stiff stuff. Occasional sidewalk food pop-ups.

Manolito

Manolito’s founding partners at the bar
Katherine Kimball/Eater NOLA

Manolito is the French Quarter Havana-inspired bar and cafe opened by a trio of top New Orleans restaurant and bar proprietors, and the vibe and drinks reflect the expertise behind it. The main attraction at Manolito are the frozen cocktails, including its signature Jazz Daiquiri — made with Jamaican rum, lime, agave nectar, Creme de Cacao, and coffee beans, but try anything seasonal or on special.

Manolito’s founding partners at the bar
Katherine Kimball/Eater NOLA

Erin Rose