Top 5 New Orleans Dive Bars
It’s a little like picking a favorite child
Setting out to not just select but rank five amazing dive bars among the options available in New Orleans is a foolish task. In a city so tied to its history and its unique confluence of cultural forces, it comes as no surprise that the dive bars within are plentiful, diverse, authentic and, in a good way, ancient. The concentration of amazing dive bars in New Orleans is intense, making the selection of just a handful nearly impossible.
But the overall goal in visiting a city as layered as New Orleans is to break past the touristy exterior shell and get into the bars and restaurants and cultural institutions that dominate everyday life in the city. And every block here has a neighborhood haunt, a natural extension of the New Orleans neighborhood it inhabits where locals have been congregating for decade upon decade. The selections here may be our subjectively chosen recommendations, but keep an eye out for the unexpected discovery that awaits on almost every block.
The list below captures our favorites, but New Orleans is full of great options, all of which can be found in our New Orleans Dive Bar Travel Guide.
1. Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
7612 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118 | Google Maps
The competition for best dive bar in New Orleans is akin to a discussion about the best dive bar in America, and Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge has a strong argument for both distinctions. Though little actual representation of the holiday is obvious within the shack-like confines of the New Orleans dive bar, red Christmas lights provide the only illumination, bathing the space in a rosy glow.
Off hours can sometimes mean unique visitors, Snake & Jake’s 7 PM to 7 AM schedule a perfect example. Outside of the house dog that sits at the bar, all manner of drinker can be found under the tiny corrugated metal roof in the middle of an otherwise quiet New Orleans neighborhood.
2. Vaughan’s Lounge
4229 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70117 | Google Maps
Vaughan’s, in a lot of ways, feels like a bigger, slightly brighter version of Snake & Jake’s, albeit on the opposite side of town. With an exterior covered in faded, peeling paint, Vaughan’s commands a corner of the Bywater neighborhood just along a bend in the Mississippi from the French Quarter. Bywater bars are neighborhood New Orleans dive bars catering chiefly to locals and that vibe is what makes Vaughan’s such a comforting, relaxed spot to grab a beer.
Opened in 1959, the bar traverses a few different levels inside, allowing those sitting at the original bar to look out across the space and its intense amount of decorations, photographs and, for lack of a better word, miscellaneous ‘stuff.’ As an added bonus, Vaughan’s plays host to local jazz musicians on occasion, one of the more authentic ways to immerse into the music scene without fighting a tourist crowd.
3. Brothers Three Lounge
4520 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115 | Google Maps
Unmistakably yellow, this icon of a New Orleans dive bar along well-trafficked Magazine Street is impossible to miss. After the bar’s owner passed away, the location fell dormant before reopening and allowing local drinkers to breathe a sigh of relief. Walking into Brothers III feels like walking into a low ceiling shotgun of a dive bar, like drinking in a shoebox. In a good way.
The space extends inexplicably deep into the city block, a long and narrow showcase for no frills drinking in a part of town that can come with some unneeded frills at times. The main bar area gives way to a pool area which doubles as a place to complete the perfect dive bar entertainment combination, cold beer and a Ms. Pac-Man machine.
4. Mayfair Lounge
1505 Amelia St, New Orleans, LA 70115 | Google Maps
Some of the best New Orleans dive bars are the ones almost hidden by the neighborhood that would otherwise envelop the building. Parking at Mayfair Lounge, the people I was with couldn’t see it and openly wondered why we were parking in the middle of nowhere. But the search is worth it, the ceiling decorations inside Mayfair Lounge more than making the dive bar worth the visit alone.
Mayfair Lounge lives and breathes the city of New Orleans, every inch of the space covered in what looks like the remains of a city street after a Mardi Gras parade goes by. Beads make an appearance, of course, but so do all manner of yellow, green or purple everything, like some kind of New Orleans-themed tornado swept through the space.
5. Out In The Cold
701 Sixth St, New Orleans, LA 70115 | Google Maps
There were days when Out In The Cold featured no sign and really no obvious indication that the space was inhabited by a New Orleans dive bar in the Irish Channel neighborhood of the city. Today, the bar has succumbed to putting up a sign, but the tradition of having to buzz to enter the dive bar remains intact.
A narrow, white, corner building that seamlessly fades into the neighborhood around it, Out In The Cold opens up to be a timeless dive inside, complete with legitimate jukebox that plays, gasp, physical media. A patio area has expanded the space, but at its heart, Out In The Cold is drinking in your grandma’s New Orleans living room in the very best possible way.
To reduce New Orleans to a list of five is overly reductive, of course, given the city’s status as one of the dive bar capitals of the world. At every turn, a Chart Room (your best bet for a French Quarter dive) or a Bar Redux (the Bywater’s second best dive) can be found, allowing for some immersion into the real New Orleans, far away from an overly-priced beignet. Visiting as many New Orleans dive bars as possible is, of course, the only logical answer, a worthy reason to fully explore the city.