Get Your Game Face on at a New Orleans Watering Hole

Photo courtesy of Fulton Alley
By Beth D'Addono, New Orleans Local Expert

Even in a city not known for its restraint, the party gets turned up to 11 on the days the beloved New Orleans Saints are on the field.  A draw for many fans who drive in from nearby states, home games also attract fans of the opposing team who drive and fly in to cheer on their home team. Because parking is at a premium, out of town fans tend to stay as close to the Dome as possible and walk to and from the games. These same fans that fill the arena on home game days generate tens of thousands of dollars in food and beverage revenue for the city, a welcome spike in business for the local bars and restaurants close to the action.  Depending on your taste and budget, you can toss back a few at a dark and smoky dive bar or splurge on raw oysters and bubbly at an authentic French bistro. Typically if a bar allows smoking food isn't served, so be sure to plot your course carefully when serial tailgating. Expect a raucous scene no matter where you go when you're within walking distance to the Superdome, the 13-acre sports venue that defines the New Orleans skyline.

10. Cafe Adelaide
Photo courtesy of Cafe Adelaide

Located in the fab Loews Hotel, the Brennan family-run Café Adelaide is named for colorful Ti Adelaide Martin, co-owner of big sister restaurant Commander's Palace. You'll be happy starting with the bacon and cornmeal crusted fried oysters, and the shrimp and tasso corndog with five pepper jelly is like nothing you'll ever taste at a country fair. The menu is served at the Swizzle Stick bar next to the restaurant, a tasteful homage to Adelaide Brennan, also known as "Queenie" and "Auntie Mame," who did her share of living the good life. The restaurant recently adopted an All American approach to its wine list, with some 200 selections derived from North, South, and Central America.

9. Chuck's Sports Bar
Photo courtesy of Chris Waits

Open damn near 24 hours. That's what's on the tired looking awning outside of Chuck's Sports Bar, a fab dive bar located on a quiet street less than a mile from the Superdome. Cheap, strong drinks, a mostly local clientele, including plenty of bartenders late night and a smoke-away policy makes Chuck's a divey gem. There's a pool table and a digital jukebox, but don't come hungry. No chow is served but you can bring something in if you like. You won't confuse this place for the Polo Lounge at the five-star Windsor Court Hotel two blocks away, but Chuck's is a keeper.

8. Bar Tonique
Photo courtesy of rossination

You wouldn't guess from the spare exterior, but Bar Tonique has it going on. The Rampart Street lounge, situated on the border of the French Quarter and Treme not far from Armstrong park, offers a large U-shaped bar, some banquette seating and an extensive menu of classic and original cocktails. This isn't your PBR slinging dive. but if it's hand crafted cocktails using fresh ingredients and choice rare liquors you seek, sit a spell. The vibe is more neighborhood than hoity toity, and a daily $5 special that includes retro pours like Moscow Mule and Aviation is featured from noon to 5 pm weekdays.

7. Fulton Alley
Photo courtesy of Fulton Alley

Fulton Alley in the New Orleans CBD is a fun locally owned destination for bowling, contemporary Southern comfort food and curated craft cocktails. The setting is sleek and urbane, with local art adding eye-popping appeal. Executive chef Mike Nirenberg is behind the contemporary Southern-influenced menu, delivering the likes of pimento cheese on toasted brioche, crispy chicken sliders and raisin bread pudding beignets right to your lane. Cocktails from the team behind Cure bring a hip night of bowling into perfect focus. The bowling lounge recently expanded to include an array of fun games, from darts and foozball to a full on bocce court and oversized chess on the patio. A creative event staff will customize a party package for your group, including everything and anything from bowling and shoes to tasty nibbles and cocktails from the premium bar.

6. Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Gordon Biersch

Gordon Biersch is a huge place, with 375 seats and a busy sports bar on Poydras Street in the heart of New Orleans. The outdoor patio is a popular spot, but on game day, it's the five plasmas at the bar that take center stage. This is the local outpost of the California-based chain, which has 35 locations in all. Take a brewery tour for before or after the game if you're a beer fan or pony up for beer samplings offered by the Brew Master and staff. At least five German style beers are made on the premises and the food menu is vast.

5. Allegro Bistro
Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com

Situated in the ground floor of the Energy Center on Poydras, Allegro is game-central for the who dat nation when the Saints are playing at the Dome. Whether you want to grab a burger from the grill and have a few cocktails, get pumped up by with some great music, or have a great pre-game tailgating meal from the buffet, Allegro is wildly popular during home games. Generally open only for lunch and happy hour, Allegro's menu features burger and salads along with specialties like barbecue shrimp, chicken Alfredo and crawfish etoufee. Daily lunch specials are posted on the bistro's Facebook page/

4. Borgne
Photo courtesy of Borgne

For a pre-game cocktail, head to Borgne, one of local celebrity chef John Besh's much touted restaurants. Situated on the ground floor of the newly renovated Hyatt on Loyala Avenue, Borgne is great choice for locally sourced Louisian seafood and coastal cuisine. Both Besh and executive chef Brian Landry grew up fishing on Lake Borgne, an eastern Louisiana Gulf-fed body of water teeming with fish. Borgne's menu celebrates coastal Louisiana with a touch of Isleño influence, a throwback to the immigrants from Malaga and the Canaries that settled in New Orleans in the late 1700s. Try the grilled Canary Island goat cheese with mjo verde sauce oyster spaghetti and seafood stuffed flounder.

3. Walk-On's
Photo courtesy of Walk-On's

Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar is located on Poydras Street just four blocks from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, making it a preeminent spot for pre- and post-game food and drinks. Walk-On's has televisions nearly everywhere, including outside on their 2nd floor terraced balcony. The eats go beyond what you might expect for a sports bar, with a nice array of regional specialties, including gumbo, seafood po-boys, fried catfish and andouille-filled quesadillas. The bar area is a great place to be to watch your favorite team in action. Grab a pitcher of ice cold beer and start the party at this engaging locals' haunt.

2. Luke
Photo courtesy of vxla

Fried frog legs for brunch? absolument if it's a truly French brasserie setting you crave with the emphasis on locally sourced seafood and Southern hospitality. Offering a trendy, convivial atmosphere, top notch service and one of NOLA's most extensive raw bars to boot, Luke is a dream come true for shellfish enthusiasts. If selections like fresh local oysters and littleneck clams don't pique your appetite, choose from a host of other menu items like the local crabmeat omelet or the signature Luke burger. A house speciality, the flamenkuche is always a crowd pleaser, an Alsacien onion and bacon tart fragrant with Emmenthaler cheese. Personable bartenders are always in the house, and the drinks are top shelf.

1. Manning's
Photo courtesy of Manning's

It's no accident that Manning's at Harrah's is followed by the subtitle Eat Drink Cheer. This is one of the best sports bar/restaurants in New Orleans, a partnership between the casino and former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, who spent 12 years playing at the Superdome. The restaurant is heaven for any fan of the Manning family, with all kinds of memorabilia from Archie Manning's playing career, and that of his sons, Peyton and Eli. The sports theme at the 210 seat restaurant is driven home by 30 flat screens always tuned to one game or another. As for the menu, it's an intersection between Mississippi delta and Creole, with specialties like shrimp and grits and local red fish.