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Five Must-Try French Quarter Bars

Everyone needs to sample these watering holes at least once.

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There are so many famous and excellent places to drink -- and so many exceptional things to drink while in them -- that it's impossible to recommend "the best." Frankly, a local should spend the time to visit them all if you can. But here are five places with something special enough that you have to give each one of them a try.

1. Crescent City Brewhouse

This is the only French Quarter microbrewery, and the beer is excellent, but the oysters and the ambiance are the real highlights. The CCB heads this list as my "clean, well lighted place."

The interior is all shiny wood and polished copper, with long counters on the first and second floors. Sometimes the brewing beer makes the whole place smell like some sort of adult version of Wonka's factory.

Fresh shucked Louisiana oysters are ice cold, and they also serve them "three ways" - topped with crab and saffron, spinach and herbsaint, and spicy eggplant. There's lots of other good seafood, salad, and sandwiches on the menu as well.

2. Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge

Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar's circus motif and history of famous patrons -- including Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote -- just insist that patrons have a good time. Fiber optics in the ceiling look like stars in the night sky, and a shooting star occasionally crosses the "big top."

And if that's not exciting enough, the twenty-five seat bar also rotates speed of one rotation every fifteen minutes.

These days, John Autin plays the piano Wednesday through Saturday, 9 p.m-2 a.m. Be sure to ask the bartender about special cocktails of the house.

3. Polo Club Lounge at Windsor Court

This is definitely the priciest bar on the list. Order the blini, and they make it with Dom Perignon without asking. And you know that scotch that's $250 a glass? You can find it here.

But come on, this is the Windsor Court! New Orleans' only five-star hotel. And it's not just that everyone there will wait on you hand and foot -- it's that they're so happy to do it!

So lean back in the rich leather seats, nibble on complimentary nuts and chips, and blow your paycheck on ice-cold martinis and top-shelf tequila. You can order from the Grill Room if you like, or from the hotel's stock of fine cigars. Just be sure to ask the piano player for a good song.

4. Cafe Lafitte in Exile

Lafitte's is the oldest openly gay bar in America (or so they claim), and has sported its own share of gay and straight celebrities, including that bar-hopping Tennessee Williams. The vibe is definitely pro-party and all-inclusive. Take a friend if you want a buffer and enjoy the warm welcome.

Lafitte's is probably most notorious for the balcony crowd during Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence. (Seriously, it's no place for the kiddies.)

But Lafitte's is open 24/7 all year long. Avoid the crush periods and have some fun.

5. Johnny White's Sports Bar

Johnny White's opened over twenty years ago, and has never once closed its doors. Indeed, the doors don't even have locks on them. It's a small place with somewhat kooky decor, but it couldn't be more friendly, and they have a surprisingly large selection of drinks.

But the real reason to visit is the bar's Katrina story. This is the place that never once closed during the storm. Even when state troops ordered bartender Marcy Ramsey to close, she only shut the front doors, allowing knowledgeable patrons -- including savvy rescue workers -- to enter through the side.

Hear about this and a few dozen other stories while you down a few. And be sure to bring your dog, if you have one, as man's best friends are most welcome.
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