The bars of New Orleans cover the spectrum from high to low. You can sip craft cocktails in a swank hotel, pal around in a neighborhood joint or drown your sorrows in a 24-hour dive. But on Sundays starting in September, all these establishments share one thing: a TV tuned to the Saints game.
Some fans prefer an intimate neighborhood watering hole to watch the game. Others revel in the dedicated sports bar with dozens of TVs. The bars that do it best combine the welcoming, raucous atmosphere of a neighborhood spot with the breadth of options offered by larger sports bars.
A great example is Tracey’s at 2604 Magazine St. in the Irish Channel. If you want to watch a Saints game at this Uptown spot, get there early. Fifteen minutes before kickoff for the regular season opener against the Falcons, it was standing-room-only. Friends crowded around tables, sharing plates of fried pickles and pitchers of beer in anticipation of the season’s first game.
We headed to the bar, which was three deep with thirsty patrons. Irish whiskey was certainly an option and would have fit in with the Irish theme of the bar, but noon is awfully early to start sipping whiskey. Best to stick with beer. Tracey’s has a decent bottled beer selection including a few smaller craft brands from around the country, but we decided to stick with a local theme and settled on a pitcher of NOLA Blonde. The bartender made us swear to return the pitcher soon, saying, “Please bring it back. It’s my last one.”
The kitchen also was doing a brisk business, serving the popular roast beef po-boy, buffalo wings, sweet potato fries and other game-day fare. Our out-of-town visitor had her heart set on a shrimp po-boy, spilling with the fried, golden morsels. Boudin balls trumped chicken wings, and we counted the fried okra as a vegetable.
While most of the 20 TVs were tuned to the Saints game, a few screens showed matchups from elsewhere in the league. These TVs served as hubs for their fans: Steelers fans filled one corner; another table yelled for Detroit. A smattering of other teams’ jerseys peppered the bar, including one worn by a lone, brave Falcons fan.
In spite of those interlopers, it was a hometown crowd that yelled “Who Dat!” as Atlanta kicked off to the Saints. When the screen showed Falcons owner and Home Depot founder Arthur Blank, the place erupted in boos, with someone yelling, “That’s why I go to Lowe’s!”
The noise level rose and fell with the fortunes of the team. The roars of delight when the Saints scored were followed by groans of disgust when they failed to get a first down, or worse, when the Falcons scored.
As we all know now, the game did not end well. After going into overtime the Saints could not convert and the Falcons won with a much-lamented field goal. The mood briefly darkened. But New Orleanians are accustomed to drinking through their pain, and no one was in a hurry to leave. There was time to dissect the mistakes, predict next week’s match and share another round amid the cacophony of TVs, under the benevolent shade of a dozen green parasols.
Bayou Beer Garden
326 N. Jefferson Davis Parkway
As the weather cools, the deck at Bayou Beer Garden offers plenty of space for groups to catch the game. The action is projected on a big screen, but the bar also offers 10 additional TVs to watch the rest of the match-ups. The wide selection of brews appeals to craft beer fans cheap beer fans alike.
Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon
4101 Veterans Blvd,
Created by the former Saints quarterback, the restaurant features a surround sound system to mimic the roar of the Superdome. Come early on away game days to catch Bobby Hebert doing his pre-game show.
706 Franklin Ave.
Self-professed home of the “sportsqueers,” this gay bar in the Marigny offers a great buffet every Saints game and free shots when they score. The black and gold is often sparkly and recently a cheer of “Sack that Bitch!” was yelled by a gentleman defiantly shaking a gold lamé pompom at the TV.
4529 Tchoupitoulas St,
This Uptown spot offers free food and a huge TV. Regulars describe it as “drinking at Cheers,” and if the game is terrible, you can always practice darts.
7538 Maple St.
This college hangout can feel surprisingly local on Sundays when the students are sleeping off their hangovers. Sundays also feature $3 pints to toast victory or wash down defeat.