French Quarter

New Orleans, Louisiana

There's more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street and thankfully these dive bars ring the French Quarter with divey drinking options.
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
Finding a tourist-light, dripping-with-authenticity dive bar in the middle of a neighborhood best known for beads and 3-for-1 drink specials is no easy feat. Couple that pursuit with the fact that said neighborhood just happens to be in the tourist capital of the southern United States and the search becomes even more problematic.

New Orleans’ French Quarter provides an interesting challenge because of those factors and others, one of the world’s best-known places to drink overrun with bars and restaurants that exist solely to attract and monetarily drain tourists. To be sure, New Orleans authenticity shines through because a city this steeped in culture finds its way no matter the venue, but it takes a special spot in the French Quarter to channel the vibrancy of the city completely.

Luckily, places like Chart Room and The Abbey, stretching from the heart of the French Quarter to the edge of the French Market, anchor drinking options that sure, may never be totally bereft of sweating tourists, but keep just enough edge to feel like true tenants of one of the world’s most trafficked neighborhoods.

The Stops

1. Aunt Tiki's

1207 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Google Map
(504) 680-8454
Web Site Link

There can be no better place to start, flirting with the edge of the French Quarter just steps from densely packed lines of tourists waiting for powdered sugar-covered carbs. Aunt Tiki’s and its neighbors (see below) provide a welcome respite from the French Market crowds, a stretch of dives and diners commanding a block just far enough to thin out the tourist throng. The interior is impeccable, from the neon volcano to the vintage New Orleans prints, there is no shortage of visual stimulus safely disconnected from the world outside Aunt Tiki’s doors.

2. The Abbey

1123 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Google Map
(504) 523-7177

And if there’s a little too much daylight in your walking tour through the French Quarter, The Abbey is the perfect antidote, a dive bar where light seems to disappear among the black walls and stained glass-styled decorations. The original jukebox, worn black booths and vintage, padded bar make for a perfect retreat from maybe tourists, maybe your family, no judgment.

3. Molly's At The Market

1107 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Google Map
(504) 525-5169
Web Site Link

Why not go for the trifecta and hit Molly’s, a mixture of faded tile flooring, worn wooden tables and a handful of signs paying tribute to dive bars lost to history. It’s fair to say there’s a dose of Irish pub to Molly’s, a venue that may not have The Abbey’s black hole lighting or Aunt Tiki’s eclectic display, but provides a dive bar launching off point to the rest of the Quarter.

4. Coop's Place

1109 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Google Map
(504) 525-9053
Web Site Link

Laying a food foundation after three dive bars in quick succession is a sensible choice, and though there are many food options in this part of the French Quarter, Coop’s Place feels the most like a dive bar crossed with a diner. Zagat once referred to Coop’s as “where the not so elite meet to eat,” a fact the diner displays proudly on the Coop’s Place web site, and if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I’m not sure what is. The etouffee is highly recommended.

5. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop bar

941 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Google Map
(504) 593-9761
Web Site Link

And now we travel a little further inland, braving some of the more tourist-friendly parts of the Quarter. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop walks the line between authentic dive and tourist money extraction machine, a fact underscored by the stiffly alcoholic purple frozen drink served within. But this is a building that feels ripped from the days when Lafitte was actually here, planning smuggling runs, presumably drinking heavily. Recreating that experience is worth the slight trade off seen in Lafitte’s slow embrace of the wandering hordes.

6. Pirate's Alley Cafe

622 Pirates Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
Google Map
(504) 524-9332
Web Site Link

You’re forgiven for ducking into a few spots along the way, but finding this alley dive bar just past Jackson Square is a godsend for those that need a cold beer break from the crowds. Next door to where Faulker wrote his first book, this tiny corner of a dive occupies a cobblestone-lined alley that at least feels hidden, so much so that some tourist maps of the area don’t even include the alley itself. Prepare for nautically-themed décor and some pretty damn pleasant outdoor seating.

7. Chart Room

300 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Google Map
(504) 522-1708

Finally, the dive bar king of the French Quarter, the Chart Room coexists with the rest of the Quarter just a couple of blocks off of Bourbon. Doors flung open to those passing by, a line of padded bench seating broken up into mini-snugs lines one interior wall, making it one of the most surprisingly comfortable places to drink in the Quarter. Chart Room is cash only, open until 4 AM and worth the journey across the French Quarter to find it.

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