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Cocktail Culture

New Orleans Dive Bars: Uptown and Downtown

New Orleans may have plenty of cocktail bars tended by mixologists, but there are plenty of fun dive bars around town, including these five gems.

New Orleans is a great place for drinking. With actual bike tours dedicated to the craft of cocktails, we take our alcohol pretty seriously. While there’s no shortage of high-brow bars around town, with their award-winning mixologists and vintage liquor cabinets, sometimes you just want simple. So for those craving an authentic local New Orleans experience with some cheap beer and great conversation with some real New Orleans characters, we’ve rounded up the top neighborhood dives, from Uptown to Downtown.

Uptown Dive Bars

Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, University Area

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The Uptown Christmas shack known as Snake and Jake’s in the daylight (Photo from Flickr by Will Gurley)

No compilation of NOLA dive bars would be complete without a shout-out to Snake and Jake’s. One of the city’s most recognizable dives, this smoky, seedy bar is located in the University District of Uptown and was declared “best dive bar in the country” by the Huffington Post.

Although still off the beaten path for visitors, the unassuming atmosphere and precariously slanted roof of the joint (rumored to be an auto repair shop in a past life) attracts celebrities seeking anonymity, among those including George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Jude Law.

Speaking of anonymity, it’s total darkness inside, and you might have to feel your way around a little. The amazingly cheap beer (order a Schlitz!) and tabby cat bartender make it all worth it. When in doubt, just keep calm and head for the big squashy couches.

Happy hour specials run from 7 to 10 p.m. nightly, including—you guessed it—on Christmas.

Brother’s III Lounge, Magazine Street

Don’t be fooled by its busy Magazine Street location, this gem of a lounge offers a great peek at some New Orleans locals and serves as a great reminder, if you ever needed one, that you’re in the Deep South. An old-school jukebox playing 45s of Willie Nelson and other classic country greats is waiting inside the lounge, and you can usually catch an episode of Duck Dynasty on the bar’s TV set while you’re there.

Most importantly though, Brother’s III is a budget drinker’s paradise. The bartenders here serve up some stiff drinks at incredibly low prices. You’ve been warned.

Besides its drink selection, perhaps one of the lounge’s best features is that it’s open 24 hours a day, so after you get your shopping fix on Magazine, stop in for an afternoon pick-me-up and enjoy this great Uptown dive. Cash only.

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Brother’s III on Magazine Street, open 24 hours! (Photo by Paul Broussard)

Downtown Dive Bars

Claire's Pour House - a dive bar in the French Quarter
Claire’s Pour House is known for their jukebox, cheap libations and funny signs

Claire’s Pour House, French Quarter

A dive bar that doubles as a gathering place for local dogs and their owners might be a tall order in other cities, but not here in New Orleans!

Claire’s Pour House in the French Quarter might just be one of the friendliest watering holes in town, with visitors and first-timers equally as welcome as the local die-hards, who consider Claire’s a true home away from home.

You’ll be glad to hear that this bar offers a great selection of libations at very reasonable prices.

Although rare for a dive, Claire’s serves up some fantastic mixed drinks — including frozen “frou frou” drinks — in addition to straight-forward beer and hard liquor.

Equally rare for a bar, Claire’s jukebox does not overpower the establishment’s noise level, making it quiet enough for you and your date to have a conversation.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Claire herself, who is wildly entertaining and can spin a mean yarn about some of the local ghosts that are rumored to haunt the Quarter.

The Friendly Bar, Marigny

This is a fabulous neighborhood dive that is LGBTQ-friendly, with an eclectic, mostly local, patronage. An older crowd with some great stories frequents the place during the day, whereas more young people from the nearby French Quarter and Bywater areas flock to the Friendly Bar at night.

This dive is by far the most sparkly of the list, with pretty seasonal decor like dazzling disco balls during Easter and twinkling Christmas lights jazzing up the interior.

A daily happy hour features specials on both liquors and wines from 4 to 8 p.m., with an exclusive Tuesday happy hour special offering three-drink bundles that’s a “can’t-miss.”

Ever heard of BYOM? Wednesday night is “bring your own meat” night at the Friendly Bar, where the employees break out the grill and cook up some laid-back eats outside. This is a great opportunity to have a drink, watch the characters who walk down Chartres and just hang out.

Missy is the establishment’s rockstar bartender and doesn’t disappoint.

BJ’s Lounge, Bywater

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BJ’s Lounge entrance (Photo by Elizabeth Pearce)

Recently featured in a New York Times Travel article, BJ’s name may be getting more traction, but this lounge hasn’t lost any of its divey atmosphere and or personality.

This dive is located in the Bywater, a great bohemian neighborhood, with restaurants offering everything from New York-style pizza to sophisticated cheese and charcuterie plates.

BJ’s is a hot spot for great local acts, like King James and the Special Men, and gives props to a wide range of musical genres, from punk to jazz, depending on the night. Couples will feel at home dancing up front, while single patrons can relax on BJ’s comfortable bar stools and talk dirty about the Saints.

The atmosphere is exactly what you’d expect from a neighborhood dive. Described perfectly by Yelp user Eddie E., “The decor is what you would expect to see if an old Metairie bowling team and fifty lounge lizards crashed into the back porch of your grandma’s Arabi cottage.”

‘Nuff said, now it’s up to you to go see for yourself.

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