The dive bar scene in New Orleans is the stuff of legends. There are dozens of dimly lit bars off the beaten path with cheap drinks and exceptionally wobbly locals that make it seem that you’ve stepped into a Tom Waits song. Last year’s list stirred up some readers' feelings in a very passionate way, so it seemed only right to relax my previous dive bar standards and permit dives with websites, thereby including two of the most well-known dive bars in a city where “well-known” and “dive bars” together is not (necessarily) an oxymoron.
The granddaddy dive of them all -- this French Quarter bar is insanely popular but still feels like a dive. It’s like a mystical, magical paradox that makes the Chart Room so special... Along with surly (but with hearts of gold) bartenders, cheap drinks, and shots, shots, shots.
Everyday is Christmas at Snake & Jake’s, if your Christmases consist of drinking cheap bourbon until 5am. Barely more than a shack, the low ceilings and sketchy construction are mitigated by the fact that it’s super dark inside, lit only by Christmas lights (what you can’t see can’t hurt you right?). Enjoy some $2 Schlitz beer with your shots, and for the love of all that is holy, do NOT sit on the couch.
There is no sign, and there will be no bull tolerated, from either side of the bar. Once you get buzzed in, you’ll enjoy cheap drinks, a great jukebox, and awesome people.
Twenty-four-hour bars are scattered throughout New Orleans (and this list), and they are havens for people who don’t work in the 9-5 world but still need to get their drink on and socialize. Brothers III on Magazine St just past Napoleon is a bit different from the art galleries and pho places slowly encroaching upon it. Finding a dive bar this embedded in Uptown is a blessing. The low ceilings envelop you when you walk in, and are not for the claustrophobic. It's got ancient video games, poker machines, and pool tables to occupy the mind while you're drinking cheap, strong whiskey.
Melvin’s is perfect for when you need to chill out from the scenes happening at the Hi-Ho, Kajun’s, Siberia, or the Allways Lounge. Or whatever else those crazy Marigny kids are up to. Just duck in there and hang out. It’s friendly, it’s mellow, and it’s a favorite of several local musicians. Also, Gene’s Po-Boys is right next door, so the elegant pairing of a hot sausage po-boy and cold, cheap beer is easily attainable.
Irish Channel/Garden District
This is a great place to get your dive on while watching the game or if you’re itching to play a game of pool. This bare bones bar is slightly out of place on the Washington to Louisiana stretch of Magazine St, but if you’re not looking for it, your eyes just slide past it. In addition to its dark, divey wonders, it’s also a great place to get a drink to go while shopping or to people watch others shopping.
Enjoy the dim lighting and stiff drinks of this neighborhood hole in the wall in the uptown neighborhood of Touro. It’s a perfect respite from Mardi Gras parade crowds, and has a well-used and well-loved pool table.
A 24-hour joint in the Decatur St Dive Zone along with The Abbey, Aunt Tiki doesn’t have any tiki drinks, much to the chagrin of the new tiki fanatics that stumble in here between stops at Latitude 29 and Cane & Table. The Halloween decor is helpful in destroying that illusion, though. Kinda sketchy, but very friendly, Aunt Tiki makes a strong crossover as one of New Orleans’ Bad Decision Bars.
Things got real a few years ago when Ms. Mae sold this legendary dive and drink prices doubled from $1 to $2. However, it’s still the cheapest bar in town, and anyone can put that to the test at any time of the day or night; seriously, go ask about the 24-hour challenge, in which you have to drink at least one drink an hour for 24 consecutive hours. Be warned: if you pass out, you may end up on “Ms. Mae’s Wall of Shame.”
Central Business District
The sign out front proclaims that Chuck’s is open “Damn Near 24 Hours,” which is a rarity in the CBD, where most of the action takes place in the 9-5 world -- though despite that, and the fact that it now takes credit cards (!), it still keeps the suits away.
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Nora McGunnigle is a New Orleans based writer who has been in hiding from regulars at her previous dive bar list for writing about them in a national publication. Follow her adventures on Twitter: @noradeirdre
1. Chart Room300 Chartres St, New Orleans
2. Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge7612 Oak St, New Orleans
3. Pete’s Out In the Cold701 6th St, New Orleans
4. Brothers III Lounge4520 Magazine St, New Orleans
5. Melvin's Bar2112 Saint Claude Ave, New Orleans
6. The Rendezvous Tavern3101 Magazine Street, New Orleans
7. Mayfair Lounge1505 Amelia St, New Orleans
8. Aunt Tiki's1207 Decatur St, New Orleans
9. The Club Ms Mae's4336 Magazine St, New Orleans
10. Chuck's Sports Bar510 Gravier St, New Orleans
The Chart Room is a cash-only dive that has managed to withstand its position as a must-visit even in the touristy French Quarter. This dark, cool outpost on Chartres Street remains unhurried, unworried, and unlikely to ever bow to a single trend, ever. Also in the “some things don’t change” department: you’ll be entertained by the video poker devotees, the old-timer regulars with their elbows on the bar, and happy tourists singing off-key to the music wafting out of the open front doors.
Snake and Jake’s is a ramshackle, tin-roof shack on an otherwise-sleepy stretch of residential Oak Street and remains an unrepentantly divey, small, late-night neighborhood bar. After the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Vice, and the Huffington Post have sung its praises, the lore can overtake the reality. Happy hour starts when the bar opens at 7 ... expect to see college kids, neighborhood folks, tourists on a pilgrimage, people in search of the best dive bar in the world.
There is no sign, and there will be no bull tolerated. Once you get buzzed in, you’ll enjoy cheap drinks, a great jukebox, and awesome people.
One of the city's most beloved dive bars, Brothers III serves up cold brews, cheap drinks, and pool.
Melvin’s is perfect for when you need to chill out in a laid-back setting. Just duck in there and hang out. It’s friendly, it’s mellow, and it’s a favorite of several local musicians. Also, Gene’s Po-Boys is right next door, so the elegant pairing of a hot sausage po-boy and cold cheap beer is easily attainable.
Just as its name suggests, this old-style tavern is perfect for a rendezvous with friends. Built for beer, billiards, and general imbibers alike, the Rendezvous Tavern is a favorite sports bar among the locals as well as a place for tourists to get a taste of some local flavor.
Enjoy the dim lighting and stiff drinks of this neighborhood hole-in-the-wall in the Uptown neighborhood of Touro. It’s a perfect respite from Mardi Gras parade crowds, and has a well-used and well-loved pool table.
This French Quarter dive bar is popular for a number of reasons, three of which are their cheap drinks, their awesome jukebox, and the fact that you'll rarely find tourists crowding up the place.
Ms Mae's is a 24-hour dive bar that is known around town for its $2 well drinks, which college kids can cop for half-price on Thursday nights, and is a quintessential New Orleans institution, a beacon on the corner of Magazine and Napoleon. Inside, you’ll find pool, air hockey and foosball, and drinks served in plastic cups. You’ll find big groups and singles, older folks drinking during the day, college students hooking up at night, and maybe that rare soul boldly embarking on the Ms. Mae’s 24 challenge: finishing one drink per hour every hour for a full day.
The sign out front proclaims that Chuck’s is open “Damn Near 24 Hours,” which is a rarity in the CBD, where most of the action takes place in the 9-5 world. A dive bar through and through -- which keeps the suits away -- Chuck's will keep you trapped in the warm embrace of heavy-handed drinks and the resulting joy and comfort.