When I first moved to New Orleans in 2001, I was not earning much money, so my drinking depended a lot on where I could do so cheaply. I soon became a fan of the R Bar, specifically what they called “The Special”: a High Life and a shot of Jameson, a combination the rest of the world calls a “Boilermaker.” Though my fortunes have improved, I am still a fan of that combo and find it astonishing that the price has only increased by a dollar. The R Bar still serves well-priced, well-poured drinks in a setting that was hipster before we knew that word.
The bar is dim even in the day, with tinted windows, dark walls, and red lighting. Even the baize on the pool table is red. The decor is eclectic. Behind the bar are portraits of three fans of New Orleans: Mark Twain, Napoleon, and Fats Domino, though the third “portrait” is really a close-up of his hand on piano keys, his diamond piano ring perched jauntily on his pinky. A papier-mache pink bunny head completes the installation. If you are a fan of Dario Argento films or sci-fi b-movies, you’ll enjoy the nightly selection of movies on view above the bar. If your wallet is thin but your hair is long, make sure to come on a Monday when you can get a haircut and shot for $10.
As crowded as this place can get with tourists peeling off Frenchmen, it still feels neighborhoody, and there is a kind of low-key vibe that is missing from the blare of Frenchmen and the bawdiness of Bourbon Street. I came here a few months ago and a cat jumped on the pool table, placing his paw inside one of the 6 holes. After it became clear that he wasn’t moving, the game continued and everyone just played around him. Everyone just kept doing what they wanted, and everyone was happy something Twain, Napoleon and Fats can all probably agree on.