Tuesday, May 07, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 24

Bars, Booze, and Broads—Bourbon Street

                Okay, let’s face it. NOLA is known for Bourbon Street and for “laissez les bon temps
rouler,” or “let the good times roll!” While incredible, interesting, and historic bars can be found all over New Orleans, many a once innocent soul has spent the night just on and around famous—and infamous—Bourbon Street.

                People come from near and far for bachelor parties, birthday parties—especially that major leap of 21—and every other kind of party you can possible think of. I mean, that is, when New Orleans isn’t having a party to which the world is invited, and the city itself has all kinds of parties—remember Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest, Mardi Gras, etc.

                It’s where folks come to let loose and hang out and drop in on a bar or two. Or three or . . . .

                Well, you get the drift.

                But, you can have it your way, too. One of my most charming friends I’ve made in NOLA, an entertainer on Bourbon Street, has also been a member  of AA for years and years—and he still has fun. So, try out some of NOLA’s cocktails, or watch the slightly inebriated while sober yourself, which, of course, can be just as much fun.  It’s not always what you choose to drink but where you choose to go to drink-- whatever it is that you’ll drink--which is the fun.

                Getting down and dirty.

From the minute you start down Bourbon—say you’re strolling from Canal Street to Esplanade (toward Esplanade, you’ll start to find something of a residential section) you’ll see all manner of establishments vying for your tourist dollar. As you walk you come across establishment after establishment, bars and strip clubs. The beautiful hotel Royal Sonesta is at 300 Bourbon, and of course, it offers a bar, too. You’ll move on down and there will be a bar, and there will be a strip club—and then there will sometimes be people in the middle of the street warning you with big signs that say “Repent! Lest you go to hell,” or “God hates gays.” While I must admit it’s not like you’re preaching to the crowd here, I’m dying one day to go up to one of the redeeming souls and tell them that I’ve just spoken to God and God says that gays are just fine—He’s not sure about people in the middle of a street telling others how to live.

Those holding the signs are often in front of a well-known strip club.

One day . . . .

Ah, wherever you go, you’ll hear music.

And it’s getting nice and varied again!

Right after the summer of storms, you could hear different lines of the same Journey song coming from many bars—they needed to try for what they thought was most commercial. Now, you’ll hear pop, rock, jazz, and blues. It’s all back.

A number of people will suggest that you see Pat O’Brien’s. I concur. The place has a great history. Pat O’Brien was running a speakeasy. When prohibition was lifted in the thirties, he went legitimate. So, Pat O’Brien’s has been serving legitimately since 1933. Many people go to Pat O’Brien’s to try out their famous Hurricane. We do prefer the drink to the storm. But
there’s more to Pat O’Brien’s. They provide wonderful entertainment. My favorite part of Pat O’Brien’s is the courtyard. It is brick; it has scattered tables--it takes you off the craziness of Bourbon Street into a little sanctuary of craziness. It has a lovely fountain. If the temperature drops there are heaters.

                The entrance is actually at 718 St. Peter Street, but you walk down Bourbon and turn the corner and you’re there, but I love the bar so we’re counting it in.

                Booze and broads. You’ll find them every few feet and I’m not going to try to list them all; you’ll want to go where a sign attracts you and decide if you’re favorite piece of a wild night or not. But, I’ll throw in a few!

                Want to ride a mechanical bull? That’s at Bourbon Cowboy. (241 Bourbon) What fun watching as others try to stay on—and what a contest if you’re up to it! What to sing karaoke? That’s down at the Cat’s Meow. (701 Bourbon Street)  The Cat’s Meow is on the corner of St. Peter Street so you can easily hop from Pat O’Brien’s on over or vice-versa. They start nice and early—around five. There’s one karaoke song and a host song and a karaoke song and a host song . . . that gives the place time to make sure the next performer is on hand—and that he or she hasn’t wandered
off down the street.

                Are you a beer lover? There’s Beer Fest at 409 Bourbon.

                Bourbon Pub, Bourbon Oh!, Bourbon Street Blues Company. There is absolutely no way for you to walk down Bourbon and not find a pub that intrigues, a band that draws you in for the street—or a solicitor on the walk offering you a two-for-one deal that you can’t refuse.

                Strip Clubs? Oh, there are plenty. Rick’s Cabaret, Larry Flynt’s Hustler’s Club, Penthouse, Barely Legal . . . the list goes on.

Burlesque? Stop by the see a show by the legendary Chris Owens at 500 Bourbon. Chris started her club in the 1960s and as I write this, she’s still going strong. Customers rave about the great time they’ve had there.

Tropical Isle often offers a rock band I love. You’ll find it at Bourbon and Orleans or 721 Bourbon. They’re also the home of the “Hand Grenade.” Amazing how we love to come home with funny-shaped drinking vessels that we can refill. The same owners offer up the Funky Pirate—get your hand grenade there, too.

So thirty you can’t stand it? Entrepreneurs have ice-filled beer, etc., carts out in the street often enough, especially at really busy times.
No one wants you to have to wait!

A bit off Bourbon at 811 Conti is Erin Rose. Friends and I have met there many times. They offer excellent Irish beers and whiskey and more of course, have a nice and friendly staff, and it’s a place many of the locals head.  They also have a little menu of food to go with your drinks.

Remember, too, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Bar is on Bourbon at 941. Throw a little history in with your bar-hopping.

You really can’t go by what I say. You have to explore.

Everyone will have their favorite place to visit on Bourbon—or close off! Whether you’re a drinker or a teetotaler, gay or straight, male or female, any visitor should take at least one stroll down Bourbon.

And then, of course, some shudder at the thought of going near it.

But that’s something you have to decide for yourself. 

It’s like an experience badge.

Ah, yes! I’ve walked down Bourbon Street . . . .

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