The Best Bars In New Orleans
Our favorite places to drink cocktails, dance, and have a great night in New Orleans.
While New Orleans is known for a lot of things—beignets, swamps, and gumbo to name a few—the bars and nightlife are just as crucial to experience while you're here. And part of the fun about going out in this city is seeing where the night takes you. You can stumble into a bar in the Marigny to see a band that plays both rockabilly and soul covers, sip some well-made drinks in the city that popularized cocktails like the sazerac, or pick out a nice bottle of chilled red and hang out in a spacious garden.
This guide has all of that and more, including the spots we consistently rely on for an excellent evening out in New Orleans. Also, yes, you will have a better time on Frenchmen over Bourbon Street, but we understand if you need to see the madness for yourself.
The Best Classic New Orleans Restaurants
photo credit: Saint-Germain
This fun wine bar that’s in a small house on St. Claude in the Bywater is great for a quiet romantic night or a group hang over glasses of gamay. They do a reservations-only, five-course tasting menu in a dining room that feels like your friend’s cozy apartment, but the garden patio is an equally enjoyable place. There’s plenty of room to stretch out and the wine list is gigantic, with both affordable options under $70 to older Bordeaux vintages if you’re looking to ball out. You can get some snacks in the back garden too, like pomme frites and crudite.
Located in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, the Sazerac Bar has barely changed since it opened in the 1930s. No, the namesake drink wasn’t invented here, but they do make great cocktails and it’s a bar that feels like it’s seen a lot, partially because of the bullet hole in the wall from an attempted hit gone wrong. This place is regularly filled with everyone from local politicians to bachelorette parties, and it’s a great spot to start a night before taking the inevitable walk down Bourbon Street.
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Cane & Table
It’s hard to tell if Cane & Table is a restaurant with great drinks, or a fancy cocktail bar that serves surprisingly good food. Either way, it’s one of our favorite spots in the French Quarter and their big back courtyard is the perfect place to escape the chaos of nearby Bourbon Street. They have one of the most diverse cocktail menus in the city and serve a mix of great small plates and entrees for when you get hungry. Whether you need a place for a big group or somewhere for a date, Cane & Table has you covered.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge
Yes, this bar is built into an actual moving carousel inside the Hotel Monteleone and also yes, it’s a little gimmicky. That said, it’s still a fun place to grab a drink. At all hours of the day, you’ll find a mix of tourists draped in beads and hotel guests pre- and post-gaming weddings, all of whom are enamored with the bar that spins slowly enough to barely notice until you’re actually seated on one of the stools.
Bar Tonique is a cocktail spot just three blocks from Bourbon Street where you can sit at a big U-shaped bar, enjoy a well-made drink, and breathe for a minute. The bartenders here take their cocktails very seriously and, as a result, each drink requires a few minutes to make. At the same time though, they have a daily $6 cocktail, meaning you can have two mai tais or moscow mules before paying the same amount for one daiquiri at your next stop down the street.
Located just west of downtown in the Lower Garden District, Barrel Proof is a spacious whiskey bar that serves lots of cocktails and $1 High Lifes. Really though, you come here for the 288 varieties of whiskey that they carry. If you get hungry after a few drinks, they serve food until midnight, Wednesday through Saturday, and host local pop-ups the rest of the time, too.
The Bulldog is a beer bar in Uptown with a big patio and some of the best bar food in the city. It’s far away enough from the French Quarter that you don’t have to worry about too many bachelor parties or herds of tourists taking over, unless they come specifically to check out the big beer selection, of course. If you’re looking for a chill night during your next visit to New Orleans, make sure to spend a night on the patio here.
Parleaux Beer Lab
In recent years, New Orleans has seen a lot of new craft breweries pop up, but our favorite is Parleaux Beer Lab. This brewery-meets-beer garden is located at the far end of the Bywater, near The Joint and Bacchanal, and, along with serving plenty of seasonal beers, it hosts different food trucks most nights of the week. Stop by for a few brews and some food, or you can even catch a yoga class here in the morning if you want.
At the far end of the Bywater, you’ll find Bacchanal, a weird little wine shop that evolved into a wine garden utopia and one of the coolest places you can spend a night in New Orleans. After you pick out a bottle, head outside to the big backyard where you can drink, order cheese and charcuterie, and catch live music every night of the week. There’s also a semi-secret cocktail and wine bar upstairs, which is the perfect place to take in the scene and survey the backyard for available seats.
Le Bon Temps Roule
After you get out of a show at Tipitina’s, walk up to Le Bon Temps Roule to play some pool, catch another show, or just drink until morning. This dive doesn’t close, ever, and is always filled with locals at any hour of the day, so regardless of when you need a shot or a beer, or just want to ask someone in the know what “lagniappe” means, come here.
Saint Bar & Lounge
New Orleans is full of late-night bars, but The Saint Bar and Lounge in the Lower Garden District has both a big back patio and a foggy dance floor with DJs until 4am. It feels a little bit like a cross between a biker bar and an actual cave, but it’s great for when you feel like drinking cheap beers and dancing with like-minded strangers until dawn.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
There are roughly 582 bars on Bourbon Street, and most of them aren’t worth your time, unless your goal is to end up on stage with an AC/DC cover band. Rather than give your friends the pleasure of watching you do that, head to Lafitte’s instead. It’s one of the oldest bars in America, and their frozen daiquiris provide all the energy you’ll need to bob and weave through the mix of bachelor parties, college kids, and tourists that clog the street each night.
Maple Leaf Bar
The Maple Leaf isn’t a bar you’re going to randomly stumble upon, but if you’re looking for the best place to check out some local brass bands, make the trip to the Carrollton neighborhood in Uptown. This place hosts nightly shows that typically go way past when other spots have turned on the lights. If you want to dance with a bunch of locals and Tulane alumni trying to relive their college years, this is the place to go.
Almost every place on Frenchmen hosts lives music each night and it’s easy enough to just bar hop up and down the street until you find one you like. Most likely, though, that’s going to be the Blue Nile. On any given night, you can hear funk, blues, jazz, or brass, depending on what time of the night you stop by. It can get pretty packed inside since they tend to host the bigger brass bands, but this place also has a large balcony on the second floor where you can still hear the music and drink, but without being stuck in the crowd.
There’s no shortage of places to see a show in New Orleans. Seriously, just walk to Frenchmen Street, close your eyes, and point. But Tipitina’s in Uptown is an institution and one of the best places to go for music in the whole city. Stand wherever you feel like, but we suggest the balcony, which has a great view and easy access to a bar. National acts regularly play here, but look for a night with a local brass band instead.
Apple Barrel Bar
The Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street looks like the blueprint for any “New Orleans-style bar” that you’ve ever been to elsewhere. There’s random artwork of musicians, money is stapled to the wall above the bar, and everything sort of looks secondhand. But it’s also one of the most low-key bars on the street, and since it’s smaller than the rest, the shows there feel way more intimate than elsewhere on Frenchmen.
Going to a divey bar for some live music and a watery gin and tonic is great and all, but if you’re looking for something a little swankier, try Bar Marilou. It’s in The Warehouse District, a mere ten minutes away from Bourbon Street, but the floor-to-ceiling red drapes, creative cocktails, and towering bookshelves feel a world away. It’s a great place to start your night while you plan your next move over a martini or whatever frozen cocktail they have.