For locals and those in the know, the R Bar is one of the coolest lounge scenes in all of New Orleans (and the South for that matter). The R tends to attract trendy, rougher-cut neighborhood types and a minimum of idiot tourists. If you want the crazy show-your-tits / falling-down-drunk / vomit-in-the-street scene (and who doesn’t), head six blocks west. For those wanting something more, check out the R. Bar aficionados will especially appreciate the funky interior, cool crowd and intriguing decor.
The R Bar is located in the in the Faubourg Marienui between Esplanade and Elysian Fields Avenue, on the east end of the French Quarter. The bar itself comprises the first floor of the Royal St. Inn – making the entire structure a “Bed and Beverage.” From $90 to $130 a night, you too can experience the eclectic feel of lodging in this 1890’s corner-store front, with each of the rooms coming with two complimentary cocktail cards. And, the Royal St. Inn is allegedly haunted, just like every other bed and breakfast in the city.
Step through the doorway and into the R, where the thin set of wooden doors are rarely shut, and feel a vibe uniquely New Orleans. A set of airline seats is to your left, along with a barber’s chair, right in front of the “L”-shaped bar. The bar itself has everything lounge lizards could ask for: little white votive candles, a headless zebra-striped bust, plenty of local Abita beer on tap, an upside down skeleton band mounted on the ceiling, high-backed vinyl bar stools, R Bar t-shirts available for sale, practicing voodoo priestesses tending bar, and a giant red “R” mounted on the ceiling (next to the motorcycle). The picture is completed by the red-painted wood paneling, video poker, a giant shark, an ATM, framed New Orleans posters, and a pool table.
I once beat a professional pool player, less in part due to my superior fictional pool-playing abilities, and more to do with the crappy break I made that barely moved any of the balls. The professional never recovered from his initial dismay. On that same night, a friend of mine almost got into a fight with an off-duty cop because he beat him at pool. Done playing pool? Head to the loungey couch seating on the right side of the bar, or take a breather on one of the stools surrounding the posts in the middle of the room.
During my first visit to the R Bar (Jazzfest ’98), I was with many friends and there was a great vibe when, according to my friend Mark, “Mr. New York City – Jimmy Pappas, with his black painted toe nails, stepped on my toe to pick up a large (fat) chick, all to no avail. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship.” Mr. Pappas then unsuccessfully tried to pick up a girl with the intriguing name of “Gaty,” and a few days later almost got yours truly fired from his job when he left a message for me at work implying that I was looking for work with a competing firm.
Even with occasional patronage from undesirables like Mr. NYC, the R Bar is balanced enough to also attract the likes of Trent Reznor every now and then, and is not compromised by pretension. Check the place out after midnight for additional amusement. As Citysearch: New Orleans puts it, “The R Bar boasts one of the most agreeable vibes in town—almost an anti-vibe, really.” On your next trip down to the Big Easy for Jazzfest (the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival), Mardi Gras, or just for drinking, make sure you pay a visit to the R Bar. For further information, check out the Royal Street Inn website. Mmmm, hmmm. Mark rocks!
“Stop by for a shot and a haircut”