Hippest Happy Hours

August 01, 2016
Some U.S. cities would just love to be referred to as “hip.” So, what is “hip?” with characterizations like off-beat, unconventional, retro, and even trendy… New Orleans has apparently always had that descriptive terminology applied to it, so visitors and residents here are used to the expression. When one thinks of “hip,” the reference could apply to just about anything sensory: music, art, fashion, décor, bars, eateries, people, neighborhoods and experiences.

Our focus here will shine on drinks and food because they often go hand-in-hand –literally! –and represent a major part of the vibe that draws people to the Quarter whether from nearby Mid-City New Orleans or Marseilles, France. So let’s get with it and visit the French Quarter’s “Hippest Happy Hours!”

SoBou, 310 Rue Chartres (504) 522-4095

A spirited restaurant, bar and lounge south of Bourbon Street, SoBou is prized for its “Happier Hour,” a fun time from 3-6 p.m. daily with drinks and eats from $3 to $6. Stop by this exciting Creole saloon and meet Bar Chef Laura Bellucci, who will make a drink that is bound to please!

Happy Hour specials include Sazeracs with either brandy or rye, Tom Collins, half-price daily punch, highballs, well drinks, and gin & tonic. Happy Hour wines are $4. and an Abita Amber Draft goes for $3.

“It’s a party mood,” said Bellucci, who moved to New Orleans from her native Massachusetts three years ago.

The $3-$6 Happy Hour snacks from Executive Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez and his talented cuisine team include crispy chicken on the bone, shrimp and tasso pinchos, smoky pulled pork taco with house-made pickles and Chef’s daily gumbo. Also, the pork cracklins are always only $1 per cone.

While not part of the Happy Hour special, classic cocktails like Ramos Gin Fizz, Corpse Reviver, Jack Rose Manhattan, Boulevardier and more are also available. And for those adventuresome cocktail fans, Bellucci and the bar staff like to “play” and have created some very special creations, such as “A Sidecar Named Desire,” inspired by celebrated author/playwright Tennessee Williams, with Cognac, apricot, lemon & bitters.

Also, Parakeet Nordine – named after 1960s jazz poet, Ken Nordine, with gin, pamplemousse, Chartreuse and lime, which won an award as the Best Gin Cocktail in America; Honey Buzz Milk Punch; Karma Alarm Clock; a Nam Chim Gimlet and many other sterling surprises also appear on SoBou’s regular bar menu.

However, SoBou has a pop-up “happy hour’’ directly called, “When it Rains, We Pour!” Bellucci notes, “When it’s really raining hard, no matter what time of day, we place a pair of colorful rain boots on the bar, and as long as it’s still raining, ALL drinks are 2 for 1, or 1/2 price for a single drink.” This other happy hour continues as long as it’s pouring rain; only for drinks currently appearing on the printed menu; and service is only available at SoBou’s bar!

Bombay Club, 830 Rue Conti, 504-577-2237

The look: A mahogany-walled room, overstuffed leather chairs and sofas, complete with bookshelves and a library of volumes fit for someone’s private office or den. Or stepping out into the private, enclosed courtyard with its fountain, statues, iron grillwork patio furnishings and lush garden for sitting, sipping or viewing. The venue is both a “hot spot” as well as a somewhere back-in-time bar. Welcome to the Bombay Club, hidden at the end of the covered driveway within the Prince Conti Hotel.

The clubby surroundings are not fussy but welcoming; definitely masculine, yet relaxing and comfortable for women. The bar staff is among the most accomplished in a town famous for outstanding cocktail-making talents.

Blake Kaiser, genial bar manager and mixologist par excellence, has a way with a shaker and can not only make a definitive version of your favorite cocktail, he can also tell you a bit of the history of the drink and suggest alternative ingredients or techniques. On the other hand, he can follow directions, assuming you know exactly what you like and how you like it.

The Bombay Club has embarked on a year-long program with a featured drink each week. New Orleans’ own Sazerac is, of course, front and center, along with “adopted” drinks, the Pimm’s Cup and French 75, among hundreds of others. We don’t even need to mention that the Bombay Club has for years been New Orleans’ main destination for great Martinis.

What’s a classy Happy Hour without incredible nibbles? Bombay Club has a restaurant overseen by a great New Orleans chef. That means Phillip Todd most assuredly brings his “A” game to your culinary experience. For the Happy Hour, 4-7 p.m., Boudin Rangoons, Black-Eyed Pea Hummus, Cajun Poutine, and a House-Made Pretzel are just a request away.

The Rib Room Bar, Omni Royal Orleans Hotel
Royal Street at St. Louis Street 504-529-5333

The phrase, “In the Heart of the French Quarter” is heard so often that it’s perhaps overused. The Rib Room and the Rib Room Bar in the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel truly are at that exact place. For almost 60 years, these destinations have hosted locals and world travelers not only because of the welcoming ambience, but also thanks to several architectural features, mainly the huge floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a view out to the ever-changing panorama of life in this famous neighborhood.

The Rib Room Bar prepares cocktails with care, and the variety is as varied as one would expect. Cobblers, Gimlets, Manhattans, Old Fashions, Martinis, Margaritas, Collins, a Texas Greyhound, Blueberry Tea Lemonade, Cosmopolitan 25, Negronis, Sours, Mules and Swizzles, are just the beginning of the entire gamut of adult refreshments.

Seasonal specialties are also featured using fresh ingredients harvested from the generous offerings of the surrounding region, like blueberries, strawberries, oranges, peaches, watermelon, and more.

The Bar is located immediately adjacent to the vaunted Rib Room and certainly, customers would expect the light snack selection to be special. As it turns out, you would be right.

Delicious Smoked Beef Ribs, Chicken Caesar, Rib Room Burger, Prime Rib Debris Po-boy (an only-in-New Orleans experience), Smoked Salmon Pate, the Royal Club, House-Cut Fries with Truffle Aioli, Southern Fried Catfish Fingers, and a daily selection of Artisan Cheeses and Charcuterie Board are some of the menu’s offerings.

Happy Hours are seven days a week, 4-7 p.m.; and Tuesday through Friday, there are featured artists playing your favorite tunes. If they aren’t playing your song, request it. After all, it’s Happy Hour!

Latitude 29 - 321 N. Peters Street 504-609-3811

Just about the time that New Orleans appears to have extended itself on the Outrageous Scale about as far as it can go, along comes another place with a concept that pushes the envelope even further towards the edges. While Tiki as a culture and an adult diversion that came in the 1950s and stayed through the ‘80s, Latitude 29, created by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, has made the genre not just current, but “cool,” again. Berry, after penning more than 6 volumes about what Tiki means and how it came to be, transplanted himself to the city that he thought could properly serve as a backdrop to the décor, the food and the drinks of the faux South Sea lifestyle.

The Tiki Happy Hour kicks in every Saturday through Thursday at 3 p.m. - 6:00 p.m., and on Fridays starting at noon. Polynesian drinks, laden with fresh fruit, exotic syrups and tinctures, and rums from every part of the Caribbean, are dispensed at special prices and served in strange and intriguing vessels. There are the definitive Mai-Tai, Nui Nui, and Navy Grog alongside Hawaii 504, the Mississippi Mermaid, Espresso Bongo and the Bum’s Rush.

As for food, don’t pass up the Banh Mi, Happy Hour Wings, Sesame Green Beans, Rumaki, or a regular order of the best pork ribs in the Quarter.

Assisting Jeff with drink creation is Brad Smith. In the kitchen Chef James Rivard heads up the culinary team. Working side-by-side with Jeff at Latitude 29, and in life, is Annene, his patient and supportive wife.

Latitude 29 is Tiki culture as only the French Quarter can do it. It feels so right, and so real and finally …“hip again!”