The lighting’s practically non-existent, the décor isn’t quite chic, and the liquor selection isn’t exactly top shelf — while these may sound like turn-offs, these qualities give our favorite local dive bars special character. They may look a little rusty, but when it comes to dives, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The drinks are cheap and the company’s always interesting. Check out our list of some of New Orleans best dive bars.
New Orleans Dive Bars
1. The Dungeon
There’s no getting around the fact that The Dungeon is a creepy place. The bar is dark and constantly plays hardcore metal music with gory horror films on the television. Oh, and there are cages, too. The staff and its clientele can only be described as “eccentric.” Strangely enough, though, the creepiness makes it charming.
This Marigny dive gets triple bonus points in my book for having a Vietnamese restaurant in the back of the bar. That’s right, you can enjoy a bowl of pho with your always-happy-hour priced beer. Come on a Tuesday night for a free and hilarious showcase of local comedy.
The number one thing you need to know about the Candlelight Lounge: Treme Brass Band on Wednesday nights. These guys are New Orleans gold, and certainly worth the $10 cover charge that includes a bowl of red beans and rice. This is a true locals’ hole in the wall, and when you come, be prepared to get up and dance all night.
Day or night, Chart Room maintains a steady crowd. The drinks are cheap and strong, and the conversation spans the whole bar. Be prepared to sit down, settle in and make some new friends. The Chart Room has its regulars, but is also a catch-all net for Chartres Street wanderers and a prime people-watching spot.
5. Erin Rose
Take a seat at the bar to escape Bourbon Street while on Bourbon Street. The place is small and it gets crowded, but order an Irish Coffee and find a way to make yourself fit. Oh, and there are also killer po-boys in the back of the bar. No, really, Killer Poboys serves up some mean sandwiches — try the pork belly po-boy!
6. Ms. Mae’s
You’ll never hear the dreaded last call at the green and yellow Magazine Street corner bar, as the exceptionally cheap drinks are pouring 24/7. It’s by no means a classy establishment, but that’s what makes it a favorite of locals from all walks of life. You’ll find everyone from bikers to suited businessmen to college undergrads. If it’s not your scene, it’s a great place to get your $2 drink in a go-cup.
7. The Abbey
Not far from the French Market, this is another little spooky Quarter bar. Look for the skeleton couple perched on the sign. You’ll find patrons playing board games or Cards Against Humanity at the bar, and you may even spot a celebrity here. Opt for the $5 shot and beer deal and play from the jukebox’s solid collection.
The kitchen of Mid-City Pizza can be found just beyond the stage at this loud and smoky dive, serving pizza by the giant slice while the bar at the entrance pumps out cheap drinks. Get there early to snag the best seat in the house — a sofa directly facing the stage hosting live music for free almost every night of the week. Bonus: Banks Street Bar is dog-friendly, so no one has to be left out.
Being at Mick’s feels like hanging out in your friend’s basement. This roomy Irish pub has a giant, open back room complete with leather couches, darts and shuffleboard. And there’s an arcade with pinball, PacMan and other games in the next room. Grab your cheap drink at the bar and go play.
10. The Saint
It’s past 2 a.m. and all you want to do is dance before making your way home. Look no further than The Saint. DJs are spinning inside, and you can expect a sweaty hipster dance party. Grab a High Life or PBR, dance, cool off on the patio and document your debauchery in the $4 photo booth.
All photos by Emily Herrington