7 Bars to Visit in New Orleans
As I mentioned in my brunch review of The Court of Two Sisters, my team spent Saturday exploring the bars on Bourbon Street. Each evening after the conference we met partners and new teams at different bars before gathering for dinner.
While I didn’t gather enough imagery to write first impressions of each of these bars, we did visit some well-known locations that I’d like to go back to. Here’s my top 7 bars to visit in New Orleans.
7 Bars to Visit in New Orleans
Big Easy Daiquiris has four locations in New Orleans — two on Bourbon Street and two on Decatur Street. We stopped into the Bourbon Street location on Saturday night.
Big Easy Daiquiris made this list of bars to visit, for a variety of reasons:
In NOLA, you can carry your drinks in the street (if they’re not glass) — which means large slushy containers are popular.
It’s hot and humid in New Orleans. It was in the 70s and low 80s when we visited. Locals told us that this weather was the coldest of the year for them, which means icy daiquiris are a popular drink to cool off with.
While you can find the classic Daiquiri cocktail (with its Cuban origins) in New Orleans, Big Easy Daiquiris is a play on this classic drink. “Daiquiris” in New Orleans generally refers to any frozen/blended drink with fruity flavors and high alcohol content. Most restaurants and bars will offer daiquiris on their menu. Which means part of the New Orleans experience is to have daiquiris.
The interior of Big Easy Daiquiris is for tourists. The room was neon and open for large crowds. The wall behind the bar was a spinning row of slushy machines. Large labels said the daiquiri flavor and the alcohol. They offered:
Virgin Peach Bellini or Strawberry
In the end, I carried a small daiquiri (which still felt like half-a-gallon) of Piña Colada to all the other bars we visited. It was a refreshing, sweet drink — but you couldn’t taste any of the alcohol. I imagine many college kids (like the ones visiting for the local football game) — would be surprised to find themselves drunk after one or two of these giant Styrofoam cups.
Trying a daiquiri in New Orleans is one of the must-have drinks you’ll find on this list of 7 bars to visit.
Pat O'Brien's has two locations in New Orleans (Pat O'Brien's Bar and Pat O's Courtyard Restaurant). There is also Pat O'Brien's in San Antonio, Texas and Orlando, Florida.
We visited the Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street for a fellow company’s party.
Pat O’Brien’s was a large bar (compared to some that we visited). I loved the different spaces it offered.
We started at the back of the courtyard and walked past a beautiful fountain, down some steps to the outdoor bar. That bar served Hurricanes and frozen drinks. Plant and trees framed the courtyard with greenery. Large triangular canopies overlapped one another above our heads. They provided cover from the rain. Black iron tables filled the courtyard where the mobs of conference attendees didn’t take up.
A dark stone and wood hallway led you into the Pat O’Brien’s building. Up a step and to the right, was a quiet, traditionally designed bar. Two flat screen TVs had the local football games on mute with captions. A long wooden bar to the right, was served by one bartender in his early forties. A jukebox on the wall near the doorway allowed you to flip through and select songs.
Back into the hallway and up a step to your left was a loud room packed with people. The waitstaff gathered wide plastic trays of tall, frozen drinks and squeezed between the standing visitors to deliver them to the tables.
The dining room was full of tables, packed with people facing the stage with two dueling pianos. A woman at each piano played whatever song was written on the napkin provided by the guest in the dining room. She then played and sang the song, as the audience sang along. Both bars had ceilings full of beer steins.
Overall, I thought Pat O’Brien’s had the best variety of spaces. It was nice to have a beautiful courtyard to sit in, or a rowdy bar to sing along with — or something in between.
On the evening of the Pat O’Brien’s party, we walked a few blocks over to the main party at Saints and Sinners. Two of our industry partners planned their annual party at Saints and Sinners, and rented the entire building.
Saints and Sinners was a narrow two-story building with a fenced in yard, front porch, and two second-story balconies. It almost looked like a residential home, if it wasn’t sandwiched between the bars on Bourbon Street.
The interior of the building was narrow with wooden floors and vintage touches. As I later learned Saints and Sinners was, “Styled after the famous red-light district bordellos and burlesque halls of New Orleans’ Storyville era.” It’s owned by actor Channing Tatum and business partner, Keith Kurtz.
I liked the layout of the rooms and the access to the second-floor balconies. All the dining room furniture had been removed, so most of the focus was on the bars. Mobs of people filled both stories of the party, that at some points you felt the old floor bend and creak. Here is an image of what the space usually looks like:
I drank Shirley Temples all evening, so I don’t have any opinions about the bartending. Overall, I would say that Saints and Sinners is a unique location to have visited. I would be interested in going back when it is an actual dining room with food to order, and see what the crowd and experience is like.
Anyone who has been to New Orleans has said to visit Lafitte’s, located at the end of Bourbon Street.
As found on their website, Lafitte’s was built between 1722 and 1732 by Nicolas Touze. In the late 1700s, it is rumored that the Lafitte Brothers, Jean and Pierre, used this location in their smuggling operation.
Lafitte’s was a small space with a curved bar. A fireplace split the center of the room. Four-top wooden tables — like those in a saloon — sat sporadically around the room.
Lafitte’s sold Halloween-style daiquiris, black for “witches poison” alongside normal drinks. The interior of the building was filled, so after grabbing drinks, we passed the people lounging outside in the black metal chairs.
Past a bridal party and through a fence was a courtyard. A bar was at the very back, under an overhang. Vine-covered walls separated the courtyard from the building next door. We timed it perfectly to get the last high-top metal table to have a seat and relax.
I liked that Lafitte’s (though it was on Bourbon Street) — was on the quiet end. While the bar was busy, it wasn’t unbearable. The courtyard was quaint so it made for a popular gathering place.
The Bourbon House was the first bar we visited in New Orleans. We stopped by around happy hour to have appetizers and drinks.
I was immediately impressed with Bourbon House. Their building, brand, and atmosphere was gorgeous. The room was huge — with accents of gold and rich wood. A tall whiskey case greeted you from the foyer. Two different bars, one for members and one for everyone else, were packed.
We managed to grab four spots at a community table. My team ordered Sazeracs — the official cocktail of New Orleans. We shared flambeaux rock shrimp with sweet chili aioli and pork belly with a blackberry sauce.
I would love to go back to Bourbon House and experience a full-course meal. I’d highly recommend you visit this location, even if you don’t drink whiskey — it’s a beautiful space to see.
We stopped by Compère Lapin by chance, as we were waiting for a late dinner reservation.
Located in the Warehouse Arts District, Compère Lapin is French for "brother rabbit" and traditional Creole folktales featuring a mischievous rabbit. This bar/restaurant is elegant with its branding and use of the rabbit in its design.
The dining room and bar was packed when we stopped by, so we stood near the decorative table in the foyer and had drinks. The bartender was thoughtful and welcoming. The other staff tending the espresso machine and serving drinks to the dining room were neat and professional.
If I lived in New Orleans, I could see Compère Lapin being a favorite location to visit.
The number one bar we went to, for me, was Manolito. We met one of our close friends in the travel industry at Manolito, as it was one of his favorite local spots.
I loved Manolito’s charm. We stepped through a tall white wooden door and into the bar area. Two bar-top tables sat in front of the glass window looking out onto the street. An antique turquoise dresser held a pitcher of water and some menus against the staircase wall.
The bar was a small L-shape with seven bar stools. The liquor (with a large rum selection) — sat above the bar.
Our group took up most of the bar stools, aside from one couple who sat together near the front window. A few other customers came in throughout the evening, but they sat upstairs.
The bartender/owner spent time with our group making drink recommendations and sharing bars local to New York City that we should visit. Even after closing hours, he made us another round of drinks and told us to stay as long as we wanted.
I loved the welcoming atmosphere, quiet room, and friendly bartenders. They even made my iced tea look like a fancy cocktail so I wouldn’t feel left out!
I’ve read that Manolito has an impressive menu. With over 13 mentions in articles like Food and Wine, Manolito knows what they’re doing when it comes to traditional Cuban food and cocktails.
Do you have a favorite New Orleans Bar?
For my first trip to New Orleans, I’m happy to have visited so many unique locations. Do you have a favorite bar or restaurant that you’ve loved? Tell me about it in the comments!