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Cocktail Culture

THE DUNGEON In New Orleans: If These Walls Could Talk

The Dungeon in the New Orleans French Quarter has everything to satisfy a wild hair: cages in place of tables, a heavy metal jukebox and ghost stories.

In the Crescent City, “similarity” is a dirty word. Every hotel, bar or restaurant has niche elements used to develop a vibe incomparable within the city. World-renown hotel Le Pavillon has complimentary PB&J’s served to guests before bedtime. The Bulldog gives away beer glasses to patrons on Wednesdays. Camellia Grill has some of the most entertaining grill-cooks this side of Benihana.

But there’s nothing niche about the The Dungeon, located in the French Quarter on Bourbon and Toulouse. The bar itself is unequaled in legend and feel.

The Dungeon is inspired by a mysterious New Orleans ghost story regarding the mansion at 716 Dauphine Street. It seems that during the Civil War, the French Quarter manor a block and a half away from the present location of The Dungeon was rented out to a wealthy Turk by the name of Suleyman. Upon claiming the home as his residence, Suleyman began to throw lavish parties with many of the excesses made famous in lascivious New Orleans. After a neighbor reported that the house had grown quiet for an extended period of time (imagine that), the police investigated and found that everyone in the home had been brutally murdered. It’s suspected that Suleyman’s brother, who actually was a Sultan of a middle-eastern country, had instigated the killings. Since the murders, residents have reported numerous ghost sightings inside the residence.

More than a hundred years after that bizarre chain of events, The Dungeon opened up shop as an unusual tribute to the excesses of Suleyman. A battle-ax inscribed with the name of the bar hangs over the narrow opening on Toulouse Street. The bar warns patrons that they are “entering The Dungeon of the Prince.” And stepping through that slim corridor, mild claustrophobia sets in. You feel as though you’re being led to the gallows, not a bar.

The thin passageway opens into a beautiful New Orleans courtyard which quickly spills into a dimly lit bar, skulls and bones adorning brick walls. A jukebox featuring heavy metal deities Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Motorhead sits just across from one of the cages. Yes, that’s right. Cages. Feel free to enjoy your drink on a bench inside of them. There’s even a library on the first floor, which masks a secret door leading into the bathroom. When the upstairs portion of the bar is open (weekends, primarily), a trip up the narrow well leads into a large room with piercing heavy metal music, two bars, more cages, a surprisingly large dance floor, and some of the most garishly demonic art you’ll see this side of Dante’s Inferno.

Technically, The Dungeon doesn’t open until 10:30 pm and it isn’t open on Mondays. But there’s a more conventional bar next door called “The Front of the Dungeon” that opens at 6 pm, which contains similar elements to the original. But if you want the real experience, wait until 10:30. That’s when you’ll find that nothing in New Orleans is quite like The Dungeon. With specialty drinks like Dragon’s Blood, Witches Brew and Midnight Potion, how could it be?

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