There's a strong beer culture in New Orleans, and beer and Carnival go together like red beans and rice; king cakes and plastic babies; gold, green and purple (always together) and — everything. Being on a parade route doesn't limit you to whatever lukewarm swill you can pick up from a vending cart or convenience store.
I blog about Louisiana beer on my website, The Beer Buddha (www.thebeerbuddha.com), and I'll give you the lowdown on where to find good beer near parade routes, and a few places to stock up.
French Quarter/Faubourg Marigny
If you're visiting for Mardi Gras from outside New Orleans (or are a local with friends visiting from out of town), the French Quarter is likely where you'll spend much of your time. The neighboring Faubourg Marigny is a good post-parade destination for music and food.
1. Industry Bar & Kitchen (240 Decatur St., 581-6969) — This corner bar is a common destination for service-industry workers. It has a decent tap list of beers like Stone, Sierra Nevada, NOLA Brewing and Abita, as well a varied list of bottles.
2. Rouses Supermarket (701 Royal Street, 523-1353; www.shop.rouses.com) — This is a grocery store, but it's got a great selection of beer including a wide variety in cans. Remember: You can walk on the streets with beer in your hand, but it must be in a can or plastic cup (no glass).
3. d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 942.3731; www.dbabars.com/dbano) — If you're looking for good music, go to Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny. If you're looking for good music and good beer, go here:
Owned by the late Ray Deter, d.b.a. New Orleans is similar to the one in New York. The one on Frenchmen Street, however, seems to focus more on music than beer. It still has a good beer selection, though.
In the area bounded by Canal Street and the Pontchartrain Expressway, the Mississippi River and South Claiborne Avenue, not much is going on beer-wise, but here are my picks:
1. Gordon Biersch (200 Poydras St., 552-2739; www.gordonbiersch.com) — If you want to get away from the crush of crowds, this is a great place to get fresh beer and good food.
2. Cochon Butcher (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-7675; www.cochonbutcher.com) — With its great food and a nice beer selection, this place is a must-go. I recommend the Cubano sandwich with the Bayou Teche LA 31 Biere Pale.
3. Rouses Supermarket (701 Baronne St., 227-3838; www.shop.rouses.com) — This is a fancy-schmancy Rouses near Lee Circle. It has a good cold beer selection, and it's a great place to pick up a quick sixer or case of your favorite brew.
There is more to Uptown than just Uptown, but to make things easy (and in deference to the Uptown parade routes) we're going to use the term "Uptown" to include a wide area from Lee Circle to Carrollton Avenue.
1. Avenue Pub (1732 St. Charles Ave., 586-9243; 5538 Magazine St., 897-4800; www.theavenuepub.com) — This is the best place to watch parades bar-wise: You can catch almost all the parades from right there and have a choice of some of the best beers in the city. These beers will be served in plastic cups.
2. Stein's Market and Deli (2207 Magazine St., 527-0771; www.steinsdeli.net) — If you're looking for a great selection of brews to take back to your base of Carnival operations, look no further than Stein's (unless it's Monday, when the store is closed). You can't drink on the premises, but you can stock up here. My favorite sandwich is the Rachel.
3. Slice Pizzeria (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437; www.slicepizzeria.com) — Damn good beer selection and even better pizza. And it's located right on the parade route.
4. Squeal (8400 Oak St., 302-7370; www.squeal-nola.com) — This barbecue joint has a very nice selection of craft beer and also serves some kick-ass barbecue. The barbecue tacos kick major ass.
5. Whole Foods Market (5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoodsmarket.com) — The Arabella Station store on Magazine Street has a great beer selection. Perhaps one day it will have beer on tap like Whole Foods stores in New York.
6. Breaux Mart (3233 Magazine St., 262-6019; www.breauxmart.com) — This small, locally owned grocery store on Magazine Street (one of five in the metro area), has a diverse selection of craft beers and imports. It even has a section devoted solely to Louisiana beers.
7. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104; www.cooterbrowns.com) — This legendary tavern and oyster bar has a good beer selection on tap, and a huge selection of bottled beer. I recommend the cheese fries, Radiator's Special and the NOLA Philly.
8. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; www.bulldog.draftfreak.com) — There's a large selection of beers on tap and a decent bottle selection. The outdoor patio is a great place to pass the time (and people watch) during good weather; check out the patio fountain made from taps. Be sure to try the Crawfish Banditos.
9. Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 897-3448) — This neighborhood bar and can get rowdy at times. You can get NOLA Brewing on tap here, and if you go on Thursday night, you can sip it while listening to the Soul Rebels Brass Band.
10. Midway Pizza (4725 Freret St., 322 2815; www.midwaypizzanola.com) — I really dig this place. It has a great beer selection, and I enjoy the pizza. It's not quite deep-dish, but similar and tasty and it has a pizza lunch buffet.
11. The Club Ms. Mae's (4336 Magazine St., 218-8035) — Oh yeah, I did. There is no better place to get your cheap beer (and well drinks!). Get your Miller High Lifes while you wait for the 610 Stompers.
12. The Irish House (1432 St. Charles Ave., 595-6755; www.theirishhouseneworleans.com) — An authentic upscale Irish pub with great grub and an amazing beer list? Yes, please. And no, it isn't just Irish beer. The restaurant has options like Mikkeller, Lindeman's, Stone and Delirium Tremens, as well as local favorites like Abita, NOLA and Heiner Brau.
13. Rendon Inn (4501 Eve St., 826-5605) — It's got a great beer selection, although J'anita's closed recently so I can't comment on the food. I recommend a NOLA Hopitoulas.
14. Boucherie (8115 Jeannette St., 862-5514; www.boucherie-nola.com) — Upscale Southern cuisine with a fantastic beer list? Check. A bread pudding made from Krispy Kreme donuts? Check.
If you're in Mid-City during Carnival it's probably because someone enticed you (or vice versa) to see Endymion. Make the most of it; here is where to go:
1. Cork & Bottle Wines (3700 Orleans Ave., Suite 1C, 483-6314; www.cbwines.com) — This small store is focused mainly on wine but also has an interesting beer selection.
2. The Bulldog (5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; www.bulldog-midcity.draftfreak.com) — See The Bulldog listing in the Uptown section. The difference here is there is a lot more space. Crawfish Banditos still apply.
3. Bayou Beer Garden (326 N. Jefferson Davis Pkwy., 302-9357; www.bayoubeergarden.com) — Near Cork & Bottle on North Jefferson Davis Parkway, the beer garden is in an unassuming double shotgun house with neon all over the place. There's a great beer selection and satisfying food options. I recommend Disco Fries with an Abita Andygator.
4. Crescent Pie & Sausage Company (4400 Banks St., 482-2426; www.crescentpieandsausage.com) — Ah, pizza and beer. It seems to be a recurring theme, but this place isn't just a pizza shop. It's a Bart Bell-owned restaurant complete with Bad Bart's Black Jambalaya, pizza and a wide array of sandwich options. The shop also has homemade sausages and a great craft beer selection.
If your plans include watching Carnival parades along Veterans Memorial Boulevard, here are my picks of where to drink.
1. Lagers (3501 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 887-9923; www.lagersmetairie.draftfreak.com) —This place is like The Bulldog's kid sister. It has a great beer selection and, oh yeah, Crawfish Banditos.
2. Phil's Grill (3020 Severn Ave., Metairie, 324-9080; www.phils-grill.com) — Possibly one of the best burger joints in the area, at Phil's Grill you can create your own burger. The Beer Buddha Burger would be 100 percent Black Angus beef on an onion roll with Creole aioli, beer-sauteed onions, bacon and Havarti cheese served with locally brewed beer.
3. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; www.martinwine.com) — Right on the Metairie parade route, Martin Wine Cellar has the best beer selection out of all the locations. While you're there, grab some gourmet grub. I recommend the boneless pork loin with some Havarti. And yes, you can drink in the deli.