Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a neighborhood hangout serving killer frozen Irish coffees and poboys stumbling distance from Bourbon Street.
NAME: Erin Rose
LOCATION: French Quarter, New Orleans
EST: Early 1980s
ON THE JUKEBOX: Fats Domino, Eric Lindell, Celebrators
WHY WE LOVE IT: When discussing the Erin Rose bar, you do not refer to it as an “it.” Erin Rose is a “she.” “She is not just a bar, she’s a lifestyle,” co-owner Angie Koehlar says. “You’re either going to walk in and get her or you’re not.” Located just a few feet off of Bourbon Street, Erin Rose has a surprising neighborhood feel; the walls are covered with New Orleans memorabilia like signs from shuttered businesses, Saints helmets and Mardi Gras beads. It’s just the type of cozy and friendly atmosphere that attracts off-the-clock bartenders, traveling musicians and Playboy writers from out of town.
Legendary barkeep Jim Monaghan ran the beloved Irish Beauty (then known as Monaghan’s Erin Rose) from the early 1980s until 2001, when he passed away. That’s when Koehlar and her husband, Troy, Monaghan’s right-hand man, took over. Koehlar says they consider Erin Rose their daughter; they love her like a child. “My husband and I tried to make improvements and keep it going without going over-the-top or losing touch with her essence,” Koehlar says. “I’m a Quarter girl. I grew up in the French Quarter, so I couldn’t imagine having a bar anywhere else in this world.”
Erin Rose is first and foremost a beer and shot joint—Fernet is particularly popular with the industry crowd—but its the bar’s frozen Irish coffee (the perfect New Orleans breakfast!) that has garnered a cult following. “It’s been on the menu since the 1980s, but it took forever to catch on,” Koehlar says. “It’s taken on a life of its own. People try to duplicate it, but they can’t. The ingredients aren’t a secret. It’s all in the love.”
Koehlar and her staff show the same kind of love to the jukebox, which is full of music from Gulf Coast bands, and to the eats; Killer Poboys rents out the bar’s kitchen and sells sandwiches in the back. But what exactly is it that makes Erin Rose stand out from all of those other pubs down the street? “We don’t believe in competition,” Koehlar says. “We don’t pay attention to what other bars are doing. That’s none of our business. There’s a special place for everyone. We believe that we’ll just keep doing the best that we can and she’s going to keep providing years and years of awesome life experiences for people from across the globe.” Count us in.
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. She’s the out-of-town Playboy writer mentioned above, obviously. Follow her on Twitter: @amshep