In the age of smartphones and Square, the days of “cash only” at restaurants and bars are coming to an end. Even some of the divey-est bars, as well as longtime holdout Hansen’s (although they will charge you extra for each item charged), have succumbed to the plastic revolution.
But there are still several places that resist the switchover for a variety of reasons, like low average check (beignet stands like Morning Call or Cafe du Monde; ice cream at Creole Creamery; drinks at Ms. Mae’s) or they’re so steeped in tradition and “The Way We’ve Always Done Things” that it just isn’t worth it to them to upgrade their entire point-of-sale system (see: Casamento’s.) Or, they know they’ve got something great going on and people will comply (like Slim Goodie’s).
These places should all have ATMs on site or nearby for those caught out without cash-money.
Morning Call at City Park and Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter
Both these beignet-and-powdered-sugar pushers are open 24 hours, both are businesses that go back decades, and both serve a signature item that costs under $3. Even if you add in a cafe au lait, the average check is well under ten bucks. Cafe du Monde, especially, is insanely busy with hundreds of visitors every day. So bring a $5 or $10 bill with you for some fried treats and/or New Orleans’ signature chicory coffee drink.
Guy’s, located at 5259 Magazine St., is an old school neighborhood po-boy shop. They’ve got the standard roast beef, fried shrimp, and fried catfish; get ‘em dressed, and they are enormous. Try the pork chop po-boy if you’re in the mood for something different, and check out the tasty but often overlooked daily specials. Po-boys are available in large and small sizes, so the amount of cash you’ll need will depend on your appetite, though $10-20 should do.
Killer Poboys in the Erin Rose Bar
Where Guy’s is old school, this is a new school po-boy joint for patrons 21 and up, since it’s located in the back of the Erin Rose bar. Their po-boys (filled with deliciousness like perfectly grilled shrimp, homemade meatloaf or rum-glazed pork belly) blend high-quality ingredients, culinary technique, and the city’s traditional sandwich. One of the best in New Orleans. Prices max out at $11 for a po-boy, so bring a Jackson, which is also a fitting ode to the French Quarter location.
At the Spotted Cat, the lack of having a tab is liberating.
Stepping into this family-run uptown oyster bar is like traveling back in time. The marble and tile decor alludes to an era gone by, the menu is the same, it closes in the summer (a nod to the old days’ issue with keeping such a perishable product fresh without refrigeration), and they do not take credit cards. The oysters on the half shell, fried oyster loaf, and seafood gumbo all make any annoyance with this slight inconvenience disappear. Plan to bring about $50 to cover the cost of plenty of raw ones plus aformentioned fried oysters and gumbo.
This super popular breakfast and lunch, diner-style joint doesn’t take cards and doesn’t need to, based on the line outside its door every weekend morning and afternoon. If you like eggs and crawfish etouffee, you are in luck, because those two ingredients are featured heavily throughout the menu. But try an overstuffed omelet, a Slammer, or one of the many variety of pancakes or French toast. The portions are enormous, and the coffee is hot and keeps on coming. About $10 could feed an army, so it’ll probaby feed you, too (remember to bring extra for tip).
One of the most consistent dive bars in the city, this hole in the wall still doesn’t have a website, do social media, sell merchandise, or accept credit cards. Never has, and hopefully never will. It’s one of the lone holdouts right in the middle of the French Quarter where if you don’t like it, leave. Service industry folks, tourists, and residents all congregate over super cheap cans and bottles of beer or super strong well drinks.
This much-beloved ice cream parlor and staple of Prytania Street serves unique local flavors like Steen’s Oatmeal Cookie, Bananas Foster, and Green Fairy. No, they don’t take plastic, but c’mon, it’s ice cream. A humble Lincoln will work for a single scoop ($2.75); two scoops costs $5.25.
If you’ve passed this place at night (especially on the weekend) you can see why it makes no sense for the Frenchmen Street music club to accept credit cards. The bartenders work fast and furious to make drinks and open beers for throngs of music lovers and thirsty types who maybe stay for a song or two and move on. It’s crowded, but the music and dancing contained within (which often spills over into the street) makes it all worthwhile. And the lack of having a tab is liberating.
Another classic dive bar, Ms. Mae’s shocked the community by doubling its drink prices from one dollar to two. Don’t bring a credit card here. (Also, don’t fall asleep or you might end up on the Wall of Shame). Open 24 hours.