I like taking visitors to Pat O’s but I don’t really think of it as a bar for locals. However, in a Goldilocks-like quest to find the game day viewing spot that's "just right," Pat O’Brien’s beat all comers in an impromptu crawl.
The flaming fountain courtyard, beer stein collection hanging from the ceiling and dueling pianos bar have helped Pat O's to sell more alcohol per square foot than any other place in the country. Pat O’Brien’s is also home of the Hurricane, a super-strong rum drink in a giant hurricane glass invented in the 1940's when World War II interfered with liquor importing. Bar owners were forced to buy 50 cases of rum in order to get one case of scotch or whiskey. In a when-life-gives-you-lemons moment, the Hurricane was born with its deceptive fruit punch sweetness disguising the 4 ounces of high octane rum. It's been knocking people on their asses ever since.
However, that Hurricane has also become an icon for tourism in town. The gift shop and takeaway souvenir glasses add to the corporate feel: more TGIFriday's than French Quarter flavor. I wasn’t optimistic about it being the perfect fit for game day. I'd already bailed on three previous bars and only ducked into Pat O's because I couldn't make it to the next bar before the next play. Walking through the beautiful courtyard, a friendly green and white clad employee offered me a free chili dog. I'm a sucker for free food and the hot dog lent a backyard bar-b-que feel to the popular tourist attraction. The service was efficient and friendly whether ordering a round of beers or dealing with the washroom attendant.
There were seats open right in front of the GIANT screen and the beer was half the price of most other places. Much of the clientele for game day were locals or local-adjacent, coming in from across the lake or river. Though the dress code is fairly lax in the French Quarter, on game day, wear Saints gear or stand out like a disloyal thumb.
Pat O'Brien's may cater to a record-setting quantity of tourists, but they understand that locals are their lifeblood. Their welcoming approach to game day provided a surprising oasis in a sea of rowdy Bourbon Street bars. Like Cafe du Monde and Preservation Hall, there are places in the Quarter known as tourist haunts, places for locals to turn their noses up at while wandering toward Frenchman's. But, the fact is that we're privileged to have Preservation Hall and it's generations of outstanding musicians and, yes, the beignets at Cafe du Monde really are heaven on a plate. For a fun time with great folks, a gargantuan screen, free food and cheap beer all served with a smile, lower your nose and head to Pat O's.
Located at 718 St. Peter, Pat O'Brien's hosts the Saints at Tampa Bay game on the 17th with free hot dogs and $2 beer from 11 am until an hour after the game.