Best Bars in the French Quarter

Best Bars in the French Quarter
Photo courtesy of The Bombay Club on Facebook

The numbers don’t lie: According to 2010 U.S. Census results, New Orleans has more bars per capita than any other city in the nation. And according to our unofficial calculation, the lion’s share of those bars are concentrated in the French Quarter. With watering holes of every type and persuasion harkening from the corners, alleys and thoroughfares of the Vieux Carre, how is one choose the best drinking option?

We’ve narrowed down the selection to stand-out bars in a few categories. Choose your favorite and check it out…or get a drink to go and hit up several.

Jazz club: Bombay Club (830 Conti Street)

Let’s face it: you came to New Orleans to hear great music, eat great food, and drink—and in this old-school jazz and blues club, you can accomplish all three. Settle yourself into a curtained booth or deep leather chair, order a classic martini and charred hanger steak and savor the smooth sounds of trad jazz.

Dive bar: Aunt Tiki’s (1207 Decatur Street)

You know you’ve spent too long at this 24-hour bar when morning light begins to filter through the dirty plastic strips that serve as a door. But it’s an easy mistake to make when the bartenders pour heavy and the Halloween decoration-filled interior is dark as night. You won’t meet many fellow tourists in this cash-only joint, but you will find cheap drinks and a good time. (P.S. Contrary to what the name may suggest, Aunt Tiki’s is definitely not a tiki bar.)

Gay bar: Oz (800 Bourbon Street)

If you’re looking to dance, take in a drag show, and unwind in a LGBTQ-friendly space, walk past the strip clubs and three-for-one beer stands until you arrive at this two-story dance mecca. If the dance floor gets too packed for your liking, head to the second-floor balcony for some air and quality people-watching.

Best Bars in the French Quarter
Photo courtesy of Tiki Tolteca on Facebook

Tiki bar: Tiki Tolteca (301 N. Peters Street)

Frozen daiquiris complete with tiny paper umbrellas, a bamboo canopy bar, dim lighting and icy-cold air conditioning—what more could you ask for from a tiki bar? Daily drink specials that include a potent $5 Mai Tai? Well, Tiki Tolteca has that, too. If hunger strikes, ask your bartender for a menu. Felipe’s Taqueria, located downstairs, delivers their signature burritos, chimichangas and more to the bar, and the spicy Latin American fare pairs perfectly with a frosty drink.

Best Bars in the French Quarter
Photo courtesy of Molly’s at the Market on Facebook

Irish pub: Molly’s at the Market (1107 Decatur Street)

Located on lower Decatur Street, steps from Frenchmen Street’s nightlife, Molly’s on the Market serves as an ideal jumping-off point for the evening. With old signs, T-shirts, newspaper clippings and other paraphernalia on the walls, it has the lived-in feel of a longtime neighborhood hang. Try the frozen Irish coffee, but don’t expect a fancy craft cocktail here. Molly’s is a beer-and-a-shot type joint.

Craft cocktails: Bar Tonique (820 Rampart Street)

Located on Rampart Street, right on the streetcar line, Tonique, is a candlelit, intimate place to canoodle with a date over beautifully constructed craft cocktails. There’s also a thoughtful mocktail menu in the weathered, brick-walled bar. On a pretty day, there’s nothing nicer than getting the second round to go and drink it in leafy Armstrong Park, which is right across the street.

Grand Dame: French 75 (813 Bienville Street)
Well, we can’t leave out French 75 from our roundup of great cocktail bars, considering this is a bar that is, hey, named for a cocktail (although interestingly, the French 75 was not invented here – that honor goes to Paris). French 75 has a fantastic cocktail list that includes both New Orleans classics and a line of fruit-inspired goodness – the Lani Maki, which mixes up passion fruit, two kinds of rum, and a garden of juices, is the perfect compliment to a hot New Orleans day. The interior of the bar is as lovely as the drinks that come out of it – this is a true grand dame New Orleans institution, accented in dark woods and elegant furniture such that you feel as if you’re drinking in a particularly well appointed parlor.

Romantic: Sylvain (625 Chartres Street)
Sylvain sells itself as a gastropub, and while the food is excellent, we don’t want to ignore the excellent drinks that are prepared behind the bar. Our favorite is the kick in the face that is the Ikebana, which mixes up lemongrass shochu, Hendricks Gin, habanero bitters and (why not?) chili oil – not a drink for the faint of heart. It helps, of course, that Sylvain has an absolutely lovely courtyard, a deep beer menu, and did we mention the food? Because nothing compliments your drink like their New American rustic fare. Oh, they also serve ‘champagne and fries’ – a bottle of Brut and hand cut fries, which is just perfect.

Great for Groups: Black Penny (700 N Rampart Street)
If you’ve got a big group of friends and need a chill bar to sink beer and cocktails, it’s hard to do better than the Penny, which sets at the edge of the Quarter. It’s a good alternative to some of the, shall we say, louder large bars along Bourbon St – no volume splitting karaoke happening here. It’s also notable for both friendly bartenders, good prices, strong drinks, and a fantastic selection of craft beer (most of which is served by the can). Unlike a lot of Quarter Bars, the Penny is pretty spacious, so you’ve got room to mingle, but there’s booths and seating for those who want to make a more intimate night of it. Worth noting: this spot also happens to have excellent top shelf Scotch, and is publicly and loudly LGBT friendly.

Iconic: Carousel Bar (214 Royal Street)
One of the most iconic of New Orleans bars, the Carousel sits at the excellent intersection of old school elegance and off the wall quirk, which is a description that could really be applied across the whole of New Orleans, now that we think on it. The bar, which includes a piano lounge, is in fact a 25-seat merry go round, so hold on to your seat as you hold onto your drink. We’re kidding – the bar doesn’t spin particularly fast, although if you’ve had a few of their stronger libations, you might start feeling dizzy.

Plan your trip to New Orleans with the official French Quarter travel site. We give you the inside scoop on where to eat, stay, and play. Join us for a good time!
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