I dine alone—a lot—and am often asked if I’d mind taking a seat at the bar. At first one might put off by the idea, but actually, the experience can be can be entertaining, convivial, quick (sometimes a boon) and, with the right bartender, include a little lagniappe (treats).
While not all restaurant bars are equal (uncomfortable seating, inattentive staff, dirty/sticky bar tops, etc.), whether dining solo, duo or in a small group, there are certain New Orleans restaurants where a table is nice, but possibly the best seat in the house is at the bar.
About 10 seats are available for front-row viewing of the ballet of salad-tossing and pasta-making at Paladar 511. The crew is fun, and occasionally too much pasta for a table’s entrée becomes a complimentary bite for folks at the bar. More sedate but equally fun, the bar La Petite Grocery is great for people-watching through the big windows facing Magazine Street. Crab beignets, insanely good burgers and a bottle of wine—yes, please. The three bar seats at Del Fuego are excellent spots for happy hour, the city’s best margaritas, loaded guacamole and perfect fish tacos.
The sleeper: The Italian institution Venezia is very popular and very busy, but bartenders also serve diners at the bar even amid the fracas. With luck, the three bar seats on the left side will be available. Spaghetti, salad, wine and good noisy energy.
Adult beverages, fresh-shucked oysters, steak tartare, grilled whole fish: The bar at Pêche is tops for lunch or dinner. Bartenders at The Country Club not only mix a good drink, they’re fun and get chef Chris Barbato’s incredible mussels and house fries to you without a hiccup. Upbeat vibe, stunning surroundings and everyone there is your new best friend. The staff at Meril sees to it that bar dining is equal to table service. A gin-based No. 20, an order of Candied Pork Ribs and a flatbread is dining perfection.
The sleeper: The bar at New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. on St. Charles Avenue is bright, lively and the best place for easygoing fried seafood, burgers and beer.
Why wait for a table when there’s a dining spot at the bar? Belly up!