Skip the beignets, grab the beer(s).
The French Market in New Orleans is probably most closely associated with heaps of powdered sugar on volcanically hot pastries accompanied by chicory coffee that tourists pretend to enjoy. But mercifully for an area so close to tourist apocalypse, the French Quarter, the French Market district plays host to a string of not-yet-gentrified dive bars and diners that add authenticity to an area that just a few blocks away devolves into something less so.
Molly’s At The Market, along with nearby Aunt Tiki’s and The Abbey, anchors this stretch where the French Quarter begins to end and neighborhoods a little farther flung begin. With the entrance to the French Market itself a couple of short blocks away, the crowds can sometimes miss this stretch of dive bars, which is of course a good thing for day drinking with locals rather than tourists looking for a Hand Grenade.
The area is New Orleans beautiful, brick building, iron terraces above, shuttered doors and windows lining the building across the street. Here, where the area transitions into the kind of ‘in-between’ area that starts when the French Market’s outdoor market ends, the streets are a little more open, the sidewalks a little less packed. And Molly’s is the spot to duck into, an Irish bar with a reputation for a particularly potent Irish coffee (which looks a little bit like a Swiss Roll crossed with a smoothie).
Below a blue sign that proclaims the space to be “A Free House” and through a curved brick archway, Molly’s is a one-room schoolhouse of a dive bar. Closed only for the hours between 6 AM and 10 AM each day, the space sits somewhere pleasantly between empty and crowded for nearly all of those hours. The room is opened to the street through routinely open windows and doors, making it feel connected to the activity outside. And that’s really the best drinking combination, full but not crowded, touching the world outside but pleasantly removed from it.
The decorations that line walls and ceiling run a pretty diverse gamut, from what look to be the reclaimed wooden signs of fallen Irish bars to a metal sign that once adorned a “pleasure coach” gifted to a lucky recipient by Larry Flynt. Stained glass sits over the doorway adjacent to the bar, simply proclaiming “Molly” in green lettering. And all manner of faded photograph line the opposite wall, documentation of drinking days gone by with only a seemingly loose connection among them.
High top tables jut out of the wall opposite the bar, wooden stools surrounding them, little outcrops of drinking locations to break up the single room. Behind the bar, the dense decoration story continues, beer signs, stained glass lamps and tiny statues intermingling with the liquor bottles.
And while The Abbey is a little grimier and Aunt Tiki’s is most definitely divier, Molly’s At The Market is a welcome addition to an area that can never feature too many high quality dive bars. Sure, there’s a signature tourist-friendly drink and the company that owns Molly’s has a couple of other concepts in New Orleans, but at its heart, this is a dive bar opened in 1974 that just happens to be tourist-adjacent and takes advantage of that fact without mortgaging the spirit of the building.