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Defender Picks


NoDef Nods

Top 10 Bars in 2010, Top 11 Bars in 2011

No one appreciates a bar, drinkery, saloon, lounge, or gin-joint more than the people of New Orleans! In 2010, we saw some classics reemerge, one close, and a few great new bars open. In the world beyond High Life, cocktailing and wine really took off. This new star continues to rise into 2011.

The new year also brings us some standouts on the dive-side, new (& reopened) venues for live music, and even a place at ‘da Dome.



TOP 10 (BARS) in ‘10


  1. Lost Love Lounge - With dive bar looks and nerd-alert ethos, this Marigny bar seems to be the right fit for a Franklin St. spot that’s had as many owners in the past few years as the Mother-in-Law has had car accidents. Nightly drink specials, a jukebox stocked with rock ‘n soul, and just the right lighting and book collection for a living room feel make this haunt attractive to the legions of Marigners dotting the Nuevo NOLA landscape, and locals looking for stool space alike. The bar hosts a weekly spelling bee, comedy show, and viewing of Sunday night HBO shows. One summer Saturday, we even saw a Mardi Gras Indian tribe getting in some practice there. Add in choice Vietnamese food served up by Pho King in the rear, and the formula only seems to be winning.
  1. Candelight Lounge  - Some might say this cafeteria-style Treme watering hole had quite the year. This place has seen a whole lotta change in the past few years, but nothing to turn a small neighborhood spot upside down like getting national attention from HBO. Seeing the Treme Brass Band went from free (plus a piece of birthday cake, which seems to always be flowing on the band’s regular Wednesday night gig) to five bones, and having space to slip and slide on the beer-splattered floor has gone from arm-spreading dance spinnin’ to sweaty shoulder swingin’ and elbow ebbin’. But we’re not complaining...
  1. St. Roch Tavern - The key to understanding this St. Roch neighborhood institution is getting to a place that most people never will: beyond the dogs and hagglin’. After all there’s a reason the infamous “gutter punks” feel welcome there. There might as well be someone at the door to greet all comers with a big hug upon entry. The drinks aren’t fancy, but the laid back atmosphere creates a place where DJ Rusty Lazer can lay down a serious Bounce set on Saturday nights, and the neighborhood talent can tickle the ivories like he was Longhair in the afternoon. We trust that the St. Roch Tavern had about the same attitude before the current scene descended on it, and we’re hoping that ensures it’ll never lose its charm, hidden as it may be.
  1. Bar Tonique - In New Orleans, the much-vaunted bar experience usually involves as few frills as possible. After all, how could the walls talk if they keep getting covered up with hip decorations? Bar Tonique, however, brings the experience to the drinks themselves. Serving up classic cocktails like the Sazerac and Gin Fizz (Dead Huey Long still asks us for it whenever we awaken him from the crypt), the bartenders at this N. Rampart St. spot bring class from black T-shirts. The best part is getting the chance to watch them in action, as the multitude of ingredients is laid out in plain view. The real chore at this bar isn’t fitting in with any sort of high-end scene. It’s deciding what to have.
  1. Molly’s At The Market - A neighborhood bar for anyone fortunate enough to live in the Upper Quarter (no jealousy here!), and a comfortable setting for visitors who don’t feel like dealing with all of the lights, Jim Monaghan’s institution on Decatur maintains its character as a classic NOLA bar in that it probably hasn’t changed much -- and isn’t likely to anytime soon. Anything that originated in Ireland is probably the best thing to order. When it’s open, the kitchen serves great sammies, and the newspaper clippings and Mardi Gras artifacts on the wall provide a feast in themselves.
  1. Finn McCool’s - It would be impossible to ignore this Mid-City sports-loving spot in a year that saw the Saints go all the way, and World Cup soccer draw record viewership on U.S. shores. Even when it seemed that no one else would fit inside for the U.S. soccer team’s opener against England, the bar enabled the faithful to spill onto picnic tables just outside. The beating heart of this place is crunk, and their willingness to host dart leagues and ladies arm wrestling only adds to the charm. Like Molly’s, the drinks of choice here are Blarney. But the charm of the place really lies in getting pumped.
  1. Cure - Tonique’s Uptown cousin, Cure grants the cocktail artform status. Nestled in an unmarked storefront on Freret St., first-timers are guaranteed to drive by at least once. The entrance might as well be a passageway to Manhattan, as the bartenders call themselves mixologists, and there’s no such thing as a well price. Still, there’s something about wearing your identity on your sleeve that vibes with this town, and the mix of surprising ingredients (black pepper and strawberries?) and lack of ravaging self-seriousness (one cocktail is named the “i heart negroni”) make the place just bold enough to try. Then, of course, you have to go back and try them all.
  1. Sazerac Bar (Roosevelt Hotel) - When we told Dead Huey Long they were renovating the Roosevelt Hotel, he told us to check his old suite for the deduct box where he kept campaign contributions from state employees. Walking into the Sazerac Bar just off the hotel’s lobby, you’d believe it’s still there. Right down to the white coats and huge cup that was probably a horse-racing trophy, the remakers have gone at pains to make the experience of the bar as the Kingfish would have had it. While bars like Cure and Tonique serve the classic New Orleans cocktails as part of a wave of upstarts looking to update the trends, the Sazerac Bar serves as a reminder of where they came from. To top off the experience, a mural with Louisiana political events dating back generations provides a vehicle to get completely lost in history.
  1. Bridge Lounge - If there’s one place placing class in the L.G.D., it’s Bridge Lounge. Not only does this downtown Magazine hotspot know how to make a damn good Mojito (or ten of them), their cocktails and mixed drinks are plenty to write home about as well. What we like about this place is the activity- BL has stuff going down multiple nights a week, from ‘Bling’ Mondays and Trivia Nights Tuesdays, to the DJ/Brass Band mashup dance parties. Accomodating Outdoor accomodations and warm wooden interior, come with your best friend, your best group of friends, your mom, or your dog; either way, you won’t be alone.
  1. Mother-in-Law Lounge - Although Mother-in-Law’s doors have been shut since March when a car crashed into the front of the building, their memory will live inside the city of New Orleans forever. Named after Ernie K-Doe’s hit song of the same name, the bar held many last hurrah’s this year, including a garage sale, before the doors officially closed in December.


TOP 11 (BARS) in ‘11


  1. 2227 St Claude - Across from Hi-Ho Lounge, this upstart rock venue doesn’t have the benefit of being an actual bar. But with most of the downtown rock and metal scenes migrating down St. Claude from Saturn Bar, the place is as ready as any established haunt to take local music by (snow)storm. Moose antlers and mountainscape murals offer a hunting lodge feel, but the dudes with face tats are a reminder that the Caucasus are still thousands of miles away. This year’s highlhts were sets by Quintron, Big Freedia, and the New York noisemen Unsane. Look for this place to keep throwing out plenty of great bills for not a lotta dollaz in the New Year.
  2. Eiffel Society - Eiffel Society mixes the perfect blend of live music and performances in an atmosphere mixed with fine food and cocktails. Percussionist Kevin O’Day leads the Eiffel Society Jazz Band on a stage that also offers various events ranging from fashion shows, ballroom dancing, movie screenings, comedy nights and burlesque performances. But the entertainment would be nothing without the dining experience Chef Ian Schnoebelen creates with a modern style of New Orleans cooking that uses fresh herbs grown from Eiffel Society’s organic urban garden. Coupled with Alan Walter, New Orleans Magazine's 2009 Bartender of the Year,  who creates cocktails by combining home grown organic herbs, exotic spices, with fresh fruits, Eiffel Society is the one to watch along St. Charles Avenue in 2011.
  3. Brothers III Lounge - We all know Uptown can get a little stuffy, what with upscale establishments like Ms. Maes and 45 when you need a break from the glamour and glitz, Brothers III is the jam. Exciting yellow exterior, super laid-back, dimly red-lit interior, Jukebox atuned, pool tabling, friendly staff, 24 hours a day. It’s a place for regulars,  but first-time customers shouldn’t feel uncomfortable checking out the digs. Don’t head to BIII if in the mood to rage, but head on down if you’re down to chill.
  4. Twelve Mile Limit - Though only open for upwards of a month, Twelve Mile Limit offers high-end cocktails for a price that wont break your bank. The bar resembles the feel of a neighborhood dive, with prices to match, yet, no authentic drink quality was harmed in the opening of this fine young bar. Try Cole Newton's 'Great Idea', 'Juarez', or the obvious 'Twelve Mile Limit'.
  5. Cosimos - Off the beaten path from Buffa’s and less populated with leggings than Starlight by the Park, this Burgundy Street bar is refreshing for the French Quarter. That is to say, you don’t have to wait until the other side of Esplanade to make fun of tourists out loud. There’s few drinks out of the ordinary, and on weekends the sound system is blaring the same Top 40 you’d hear anywhere else. Yet, as ever, the lack of frills offers the opportunity to do whatcha wanna, and apologize to no one. Chill back room with couches (a rare treat) and a new food menu (pizza and subs) that’s getting the thumbs up.
  6. The Kingpin - The just-off-Prytania Uptown spot hits the mark between dive bar (lots of locals, sports on TV) and destination (good beer selection, SHUFFLEBOARD!). The mix of baseball viewers (yes, we said baseball) and post-college groups swapping sass serves as an anecdote to other bars in the area that get labelled “college” or “local.” Friendly service only helps the cause.
  7. Donna’s (ReOpen) - Located on the no-man’s land betwixt Treme and the Quarter, Donna’s had long been a showcase and incubator for Brass Bands. However, as, we know down here, it don’t come easy, and we were all saddened, but understanding when Donna and her husband had to get out of the bar biz this year. We are thrilled to learn that new owners have taken over the space and plan to reopen it with tradition (and even name) intact. Once again, we have a daily! outlet for the brass that fuels the City of Dreams. Some long overdue repairs are in the works, and the joint should be hopping again this winter.
  8. Champions Square - With the Saints winning the 2010 Superbowl, marking this the official year of “Lombardi Gras,” super fans now have a place to congregate in hopes of a repeat championship title this year. Champions Square has just opened as the official tailgating hot spot for New Orleanians and will offer much to fans in 2011. Sponsored by Verizon, the Square will host live entertainment, street vendors, and some New Orleans style eateries.  
  9. Bouche - Located in the Warehouse district, Bouche is a wine bar that offers exotic drinks (a la nitrogen martini) wrapped in a swanky lounge style living room. The wine bar offers 95 labels of wines to choose from along with a wine menu that changes monthly. But no worries, wine isn’t the only thing on the menu, New Orleanians can enjoy food and desserts compliments of the dining areas within the wine bar. Most notable about this wine bar, is if one desires to puff on a cigar, there is no need to step outside. Bouche includes a cigar lounge, complete with big leather chairs,  to make anyone feel like the Don.
  10. Pravda - Absinthe, anyone? There are many reasons to take a step off Decatur’s curb and enter the velvety plush (blood) red interior of this Russian FQ bar. Whether longing for that in-demand absinthe shot, a reasonably priced mixed drink (for the area), or a ice cold bottle of Dixie, Pravda will hospitably transport you to a different world, with its unique decor and authentic soundtrack. To feel more at home, take a stroll out back to one of the many cast iron tables in what’s one of the most pleasant hidden patios the quarter has to offer.
  11. Capdeville - Ever in the mood to be in one of those classic London social houses, but don’t know where to go? I know, us too! Fortunately, Capdeville (named after the infamous industrious Paul Capdevielle, Mayor of NO for the Twentieth Century’s first four years) has got us covered. A place for the convivial, this new spot on Capdeville St has quite a food/drink balance; some might even define the place as a restaurant. We’re throwing them into our bar list, however for the substantial selection of beverages has us listening, from ‘Mayor’s Suggestions’ cocktails, wine by the glass or bottle, and a sizable beer list, many of which are drafts. Seriously, when’s the last time you sipped Kronenbourg 1664, on tap?



*Wait! Check out the NoDef "Music" , "Places to Eat", and "Artist" Nods too!

Brilliant! Thanks a million

Thanks a million to whoever wrote the review for Finns
What a brilliant surprise

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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