LE BON TEMPS NEW ORLEANS

Le Bon Temps is really two bars, kind of sewn together. The main bar is a one-room affair, dominated by two pool tables that occupy most of the floor. The room is ringed by rough-hewn wooden booths and long tables from which patrons can watch the games in play. All of the tables have been “inked up” by patrons, with inscriptions pronouncing affection for their beloved, hate for their enemies, or reminders that “New Orleans is Awesome!” It’s like bathroom graffiti, but for all to see. Look up and you’ll see a giant alligator crawling out of the ceiling. A good test of how drunk you are is how animated the gator seems. If he looks like he is about to eat you, then you should probably switch to beer. Gathered around the bar is a local crowd that the bartender knows well. It’s the kind of place where the sandwich board sign outside the door asserts, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” All in all, the front room of Le Bon Temps a pretty typical New Orleans neighborhood bar.

Then there’s the back. On Thursday nights, the back room brims with college students who have gathered to watch brass bands. The back room is smaller than the front room, and when those two groups of people are crammed into that tiny space, the cacophony is intense. I tend to avoid Le Bon Temps on Thursdays, though I understand its appeal, especially to visitors. The rest of the weekend usually features live acts as well. Le Bon Temps also serves up crawfish when in season and free oysters on Friday nights. From a health standpoint, I prefer to pay for my oysters, but free bivalves are a sweet deal if you want to roll the dice. For me, I stick with the Bon Temps on a Monday or Tuesday, when the pool tables are free, the bar is just a little full, and the vibe is chill, all under the benevolent gaze of the alligator.

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