In late 2008, I got laid off. I now refer to 2009 as “The Lost Year” I went on unemployment, drank heavily, and dated a musician. I did much of that drinking at the Hi Ho. It was pretty close to my house and the drinks were cheap, but I also liked it because there was usually music playing, and there wasn’t a cover. I particularly enjoyed sipping a beer on Mondays during the bluegrass jam session. It’s hard to feel despair around banjos. By 2010, I had started to get my life back in order, and there were fewer nights at the Hi Ho.
Like much of New Orleans in the last six years, some things have changed and some have stayed remarkably the same. For one, the Hi Ho now has a cocktail menu, created in response to the many tourists who have been making their way to the bar from Frenchmen Street. When I tried to order one of these new potions, the bartender passed my order to the other bartender, Dallas, who is apparently “the cocktail guy.” Dallas has worked all over the bar scene in New Orleans, from strip clubs to high-end craft cocktail joints, but he prefers the Hi Ho because he likes the clientele and the laid-back vibe. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed here. The decor of the bar has also remained informal and quirky. The mirror behind the back bar is covered with multicolored paper signs, most affixed with scotch tape, promoting drink specials, movie nights and upcoming acts. There’s still a lot of bathroom graffiti, always a sign of a good neighborhood bar. Favorite passages include: “Have selfish love,” “Emma Jane loves Lexi to the moon and back,” “Life does not have to be perfect to be beautiful.” In a town where so many bars sport a highly manicured look, it’s comforting to be able to order a $3 PBR in a place where nothing matches.
The back patio is new and nicely tricked-out. A mural combining Mexican wrestlers and Fidel Castro does not have to make sense in order to be remarkable. The bar’s kitchen, Fry & Pie, is located on the patio and serves late. Yes, they only serve french fries with various sauces/toppings and mini sweet pies, and, yes, they are both delicious. If you need to be entertained, this is a joint with a lot of “programming.” Friday nights feature 80s movies with free Nintendo, and there are comedy acts on the weekends. But it’s also the kind of place where you can just keep ordering your cheap beers and whiskey shots from Dallas while talking to the moon and back with your friends all night.