Haircut, place to stay, $2 High Life, why leave?
Just like having that brief moment on every vacation wondering “why don’t we live here,” all of us have had a moment of insanity pondering living above, near or next to our favorite dive bar. How convenient it would be, we rationalize, to pop over to the bar for a quick High Life just a few steps away whenever the whim strikes. Of course, this is a terrible idea ruined by what can mostly be lumped together as ‘things other people do’ but New Orleans’ R Bar may be an exception, a dive bar crossed with a hotel that somehow pulls off both roles.
And if that description prompts you to do a little investigating, go with the knowledge that R Bar is referred to about 15 different ways online and off, ranging from ‘R Bar’ to ‘Royal Street Inn’ to some kind of mashup of the two. Anyway the name is sliced, this is a corner neighborhood dive bar in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, bar on the first floor, lodging on the second. The role of barber shop is also added to that description once a week, a visiting professional utilizing a permanent barber’s char in the center of the bar’s main room to dole out neighborhood haircuts ($10 buys a haircut and shot).
There is nothing quite as inviting as a neighborhood bar on a New Orleans corner with the doors open wide and R Bar embodies that image in every way. Outdoor seating stretches around the angled front entrance on the point of the building’s corner, all protected by the second floor overhang typical to New Orleans architecture. The space inside is a black & red, deep colored vibe of a place, hanging chandeliers, dim accent lighting all adding to the ambiance of a lounge-like refuge from the New Orleans sun.
As the bar’s web site proudly proclaims, despite the beautiful inn upstairs and the refreshed paint job inside, $2 High Life is still on the menu, along with a pretty extensive selection that can be found on a chalkboard behind the bar. An L-shaped bar commands the back wall of the main room, a series of framed photos (and a rabbit costume head on this reviewer’s last visit) adding a little character. The screen that hangs above the bar always, in my personal experience, features just the right kind of B-movie fare to accentuate the experience (Cheech & Chong on last visit).
The space feels cavernous as New Orleans dive bars go, ample room that feels like an extension of the neighborhood more than a hole in the wall to duck into. Tall tables and stools ring the bar area, the New Orleans-standard video poker machines taking up residency in one corner. A vintage looking “Royal Street Hotel Tap Room” sign is easily the most dive-beautiful piece in the space, again underscoring the duality of this dive bar slash inn.
On the lodging side of things, the marketing can’t be beat as the materials associated with the hotel refer to the space as a “bed & beverage.” And before any image of a run down, ramshackle, dark room holding a bad with a busted spring comes to mind, the inn upstairs is anything but divey. Five rooms span the second floor, ranging from standard-sized rooms to suites that feature decorations and layouts on par with any option in the city. Sonos speakers, in-room espresso, a balcony, drink tokens, the inn upstairs is legit.
New Orleans is great at many, many things, and the neighborhood dive bar is one such strength. That R Bar can smash together a first-floor dive and a second-floor luxury hotel without feeling inauthentic is a true accomplishment, a testament to the building’s feel as true extension of the residential Marigny location.