New Orleanians know that whether you’re looking to celebrate, dance, hang out, or heal a broken heart, there is a bar in this city for you. Just ask Kelcy Mae, frontwoman/songwriter of Ever More Nest. Kelcy was born in Shreveport and musically nurtured in New Orleans. When she’s not on the road with her new band or catching a Saints game, she often finds herself indulging in the city’s favorite pastime.
What does bar culture in New Orleans mean for you?
I’m a sucker for a good adult beverage, so whether it’s a solid craft brew, craft cocktail, or a classic cocktail like the Sazerac, I love the fact that you can find whatever you’ve got a taste for at just about any hour. There are so many different types of bars and they all have their moment. There’s a certain kind of bar for that 3 a.m. “I don’t want the night to end” drink (e.g. Brother’s III) versus the kind of bar you hit when you’re looking for a low-key before-drink (e.g. Swirl). And then of course, there are bars for Saints games, bars for happy hour, bars for music, and bars good for other occasions. When it comes to what I look for a in a bar I usually prefer something comfortable, dimly lit, and with helpful, knowledgeable bartenders. A good playlist or jukebox is necessary if it’s not a live music venue. Food options never hurt. I’m big on feng shui—the arrangement and energy needs to feel just right.
What’s your go-to bar for a tete-a-tete?
I like the Bombay Club for this kind of thing. It’s often quiet and dim, a great hideaway in the Quarter with top-notch martinis. Uptown, I like the intimacy of Sovereign Pub. Treo is nice too, especially during happy hour when the sun starts to set.
Where do you go to get crazy?
I don’t do a whole lot of crazy-getting anymore. Historically for me that was Molly’s at the Market on Decatur. I spent a lot of time there in college and post-Katrina. These days, crazy-getting usually involves a beer and a shot special, so maybe the Seahorse on Gentilly or Pal’s in Mid-City.
Where do you go to listen to music?
Siberia Lounge and Chickie Wah Wah. Most of my favorite local artists play one or both of these spots. Chickie Wah Wah is probably my favorite listening room, but Siberia Lounge has the added benefit of phenomenal food and cheaper drinks. A newer spot I’m looking to spend more time in for music is Portside Lounge. The tiki vibe combined with food pop-ups and diverse musical lineups offers something a little different and off the beaten path. Arguably you could say all of these spots are a little off the beaten path.
Who’s got the best bang for the buck?
The Chart Room, my hands-down favorite stop in the French Quarter. I’m always astounded at the totals as I walk away from the bar with hands full of drinks for the group. It’s also a nice respite from the costly, tourist-filled bars that fill the Quarter.
Which bar has the best pop-up?
I’m a sucker for Crack Burger at Pal’s. Midnight Noodle was another favorite when they’d set up shop outside of Sidney’s, but they’ve now got a permanent setup at the Catahoula Hotel. You can usually find great pop-ups outside of either of those bars on weekends.
Have you ever done your laundry in a bar?
I’ve not done my laundry in a bar, but I’ve accompanied some folks who did their laundry for a time at Igor’s Buddha Belly on Magazine. We ended up there on a night where they were showing The Big Lebowski and hosting a drunken plastic bowling tournament. My friends won and were awarded a round of White Russians—all the while doing laundry. It was definitely one of those “only in New Orleans” kind of nights.
Do you feel there are any bars in New Orleans that are particularly inclusive?
Rest in peace, Handsome Willy’s. You could always find folks of all walks of life having a drink in there, whether it was a random Tuesday night or in the hours surrounding a Saints game. It was a gem of a bar. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I’ve certainly frequented a number of inclusive gay bars. Good Friends hosts a reliably good karaoke on Tuesdays.
You’ve got one night in New Orleans, one bar to go?
If it’s me, I want to go somewhere low-key with good people-watching and a great jukebox. A place like Pal’s or Molly’s. But if I’m recommending a place for visitors, people who want that New Orleans experience, you can get a full, wild night out of the Maple Leaf, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, or Le Bon Temps.
Check out Kelcy Mae’s new album with Ever More Nest, The Place That You Call Home, reviewed in this issue. Check out the OffBeat.com premiere of “Broken Bones,” too.