Favorite Lil' Dive Bar: The Saint

Words by Lexie Bear

Photos by Kyle Carpenter

 

Between the great food, brass bands, and Mardi Gras parades, there’s a lot to love about New Orleans. It’s a city full of people with kind hearts who are hospitable and warm. People who have been dealt a few bad hands but are still winning the game. People who are ready to celebrate on a moment’s notice—even an ordinary Friday night in the spring, just like the night I visited the The Saint.

GoodGritDiveFinals-6.jpg

It’s true that most anything you’re searching for can always be found in the very last place you look. That’s the case for me when I first visit this this little dive bar. Nestled just a few miles inland of the Mississippi River, The Saint is known by locals to be the final stop before heading home after a night on the town. To an unsuspecting eye, it might be mistaken for an empty building, but once inside, it’s evident that this bar is anything but abandoned or forgotten.

After making my way to The Saint just after eleven o’clock, a man standing outside against the stark white exterior greets me with a warm, Southern welcome. Had it not been for his presence and the graffiti-style words painted over the entrance naming the bar, I would have walked right past it.

Once inside, I move toward the bar and watch as the bartenders free-pour drinks into clear plastic cups. The bar is lined with empty seats anticipating the arrival of regulars and is framed with dozens of old photostrips, stickers showcasing bands I’ve never heard of, and hand-drawn cartoons on tattered paper. Patrons soon start to gather inside. Based on the way they casually walk up to the bar, calling the bartenders by name and sharing shots of Jameson with them, I can only assume they’re locals. The house music is turned way up, but I still manage to make conversation with friends, both old and new.

GoodGritDiveFinals-4.jpg

Jessica, one of the bartenders on duty, tells me that The Saint is unique to New Orleans because it’s one of the last true “dive bars” left in the city. Far enough away from the noise of tourists on Bourbon Street, the windowless bar is the perfect place to literally dive out of the way. Whether you’re hoping to escape the chaos of life or just lay low for a few hours, you won’t be bothered at The Saint—except maybe to offer suggestions for what song to play on the jukebox or enjoy a round with the friends you make inside.
 The walls of The Saint are decorated in a smorgasbord of graffiti, vintage signs, and neon. There’s even a nook reserved for framed photos, candles, and old memorabilia to honor the dead, in true New Orleans fashion. And that wild decor is really just a representation of the city itself, isn’t it? Cultures and people and styles coming together to make one quirky, amazing place.
 

GoodGritDiveFinals-2.jpg

My visit to The Saint showed me something I’m constantly reminded of when I travel—no matter where you go, there’s no shortage of good people with a knack for gathering to enjoy a drink and a laugh with friends. And maybe we can all learn something from the people of New Orleans, in particular—on how to overcome the obstacles life hands us, celebrate our victories, and open our homes to share the special places we hold dear with the rest of the world. A good life doesn’t have to be fancy. After all, sometimes the old, windowless building you almost walk right past turns out to be your favorite little dive bar and a place you’ll come back to, always.