New Orleans and jazz go together like beignets and powdered sugar, so it comes as no surprise that the French Quarter is brimming with saxophones and trombones. But while there’s no wrong way to listen to live music in the Big Easy, you may want to considering veering off the beaten path to check out some of the city’s more underrated bars and clubs. Each of these venues is locally loved, and you won’t find a single one on Bourbon Street.
Photo Courtesy: bensmith1984
Located in the charming Carrollton neighborhood, the Maple Leaf Bar is perfect for anyone craving a good old-fashioned New Orleans jazz experience. Not only does the spot feature live performances, but the bands often play until sunrise. You’re likely to see some local legends perform here, and you never know who might take the stage. Bruce Springsteen once popped in to play with The Iguanas, and Bonnie Raitt has performed with Jon Cleary. The tin ceilings and vintage Mardi Gras photos will take you back in time.
Photo Courtesy: Three Muses
Three Muses has managed to combine the classic New Orleans jazz experience with a modern menu consisting of farm-to-table food and handcrafted cocktails — and it works. Located in the Marigny neighborhood, the crowd is a mix of locals and tourists. New Orleans isn’t exactly known for its healthy fare, but the kale salad here comes drizzled with champagne dijonette, and it’s incredible.
Tofu rice bowl, Gulf fish tacos, gumbo, Miss D’s sweet potato pie, Three Muses pommes frites
Photo Courtesy: prime_example_jazz
Craving an evening of smooth live jazz with a side of gumbo? Look no further than Prime Example, a triangular-shaped club in the heart of the 7th Ward. This hidden gem is open Monday-Saturday and you’ll want to bring your appetite. Chef Germaine Gaines grew up in New Orleans and started cooking with her family at a young age. She’s now a culinary school grad, and her classic Creole cuisine is both delicious and affordable.
Gumbo, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, Big Easy Special, beer
Photo Courtesy: escography
You’ll find this inviting little dive bar in the historic Treme neighborhood, and while it’s a favorite amongst loyal locals, you’ll also receive a warm welcome as a tourist. Old school brass bands and local jazz legends play the stage; paired with strong drinks and an upbeat atmosphere, it’s a winning combo. As for food, you can’t go wrong with red beans and rice (for free, no less), charbroiled oysters, or any of the other rotating specials on the menu.
Friday fish fry, baked spaghetti, a “set-up” (a half-pint of liquor, ice, and a mixer)
Photo Courtesy: Le Bon Temps Roule
This historic uptown bar is owned by a heavy metal musician, and the stage here is dubbed the “House of Dues” since so many local bands play here before they go mainstream. Save your Hurricane order for the next place — you won’t find those typical tourist-friendly speciality drinks here, although you can indulge in free oysters on Fridays and happy hour deals until 8pm on weekdays.
Bloody Mary, Knob Creek shots, Scarburger, free oyster Fridays
Photo Courtesy: mikeymanville
In 1994, a rhythm and blues singer named Ernie K-Doe opened this lounge, which instantly became a beloved local hangout. Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed it, but with the help of the Hands on Network, it was able to reopen. Both Ernie and his wife have since passed away; nowadays, the Mother-in-Law Lounge is owned by Kermit Ruffins, a talented local musician who performs here. The lounge is dedicated to Ernie’s memory, and the history alone is reason enough to visit.
Red beans and rice, fried chicken, boiled crawfish, beer
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