If cheap eats are a good thing, are free eats even better? For the budget conscious bar-goer, that’s a resounding “yes!” and if free eats are of interest to you, then you’re in luck. Here in New Orleans have not only a wide range of cheap eats, but we also have many ways to get free meals in this city. Most of the time it involves grabbing a meal at a local watering hole, but regardless, New Orleans’s offering of free eats is varied and rather impressive. Nearly every night of the week you can find something tasty and interesting out there.
Where to Find Free Food in New Orleans
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness on Esplanade Avenue has been serving free vegetarian Indian cuisine meals to hungry New Orleanians and visitors alike for years. For those who care to join in before the meal, the day’s festivities start at 5:30 p.m. and conclude at 7:30 p.m. with the meal, called prasadam (spiritual food; gracious gift). The Krishna house is located conveniently on the NORTA Bus route No. 91 or can be reached via the Canal Streetcar, just a few blocks down Esplanade from the line terminus at City Park.
Start your week off right in Mid-City, just a few blocks off Canal Street, and head to Twelve Mile Limit on Telemachus Street. While they have a kitchen that serves great barbecue on other evenings and brunch on the weekends, Mondays feature what they call “family meal,” a free meal served at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. In the recent past they’ve served dishes like curry, pizza, chicken alfredo pasta, hot dogs and nachos. It’s pretty standard bar fare on Mondays for the most part, but chef Chris Shortall, who owns/runs the Shortall’s BBQ located inside Twelve Mile Limit, is an excellent cook so think of it more as elevated bar fare. Twelve Mile Limit is only five blocks off the Canal Street streetcar line, which makes for a pretty easy trip up from the Quarter.
Take a trip Uptown on Tuesdays to visit Il Posto on Dryades Street. Along with their happy hour beer and wine specials, they offer free snacks to patrons that typically include bruschetta, roasted Brussels sprouts, and veggie chips. The best part is that they run their happy hour from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., a late hour happy hour that’s a rarity in this city. They also repeat this happy hour on Wednesday evenings as well. Il Posto is easy to get to and is located just three blocks off the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line (get off at the Napoleon Avenue stop).
Banks Street Bar, located just two blocks off Canal Street on Banks Street at the corner of South Alexander, offers free BLTs to bar patrons on Wednesday nights starting at 10 p.m. The BLTs are supplied by Major Bacon, the blues band that regularly performs on Wednesday nights at the bar. Additionally, Banks Street Bar offers red beans and rice to patrons on Mondays during the regular South Jones band (rock music) show, starting at 9 p.m.
It’s worth another trip back to Mid-City to take advantage of the meals made available to bar patrons at Mick’s Irish Pub on Bienville Street, just two blocks off the Canal Street street car, almost up near the terminus at the cemeteries (get off at either the North St. Patrick or North Anthony stops). While Thursday isn’t the only night they serve food, it is the day that they serve their lovingly named “White Trash Poboys.” These are served on French bread from Dorignac’s grocery store and topped with sliced turkey, ham and American cheese. Besides the Thursday meal, they also serve red beans and rice on Mondays, hot dogs and chili on Tuesdays, and pasta with meat sauce on Wednesdays. Note that while the red beans and rice are typically served around 5 p.m., on the other four days of the week, the food is typically out by 1 p.m. so this may be more of an afternoon snack or early dinner type of meal. Bonus: during football season, they also serve free food during Saints games.
While only a seasonal offering, on Fridays during crawfish season (roughly December to May) The Royal Street Inn and Bar, known simply to most as the R Bar, offers a free crawfish boil. As the full name indicates, the R Bar is located on Royal Street, just one block into the Marigny from Esplanade. The R Bar typically offers two rounds of boiled crawfish, one at 6 p.m. and the other around 7 p.m. While the crawfish boil is free to bar patrons, it’s typically considered good form to tip the boil man, Mr. Red.