Most wine bars tend to evoke an Italian enoteca style. With its cool white walls and contemporary lighting, Oak Wine Bar looks like an art gallery that decided to toss out the “no red wine” policy and plop a bar in its center. Oak shares a patio with its sister bar, Ale, but the venues could not be more different. While Ale is narrow and small, Oak is cavernous and can easily host several sets of birthday celebrants in the curtained niches that line its sides. While the ratio of TVs to empty wall space in Ale seems about 1:1, Oak has only two TVs, and even those get lost among numerous modern art paintings. The atmosphere is lively, even noisy, as voices bounce around the vaulted ceiling. Everyone is having a good time; the wine, of course, is helping.
Oak offers its patrons a selection of hundreds of wines by the glass, and unlike most wine menus that are organized by region, Oak’s menu is grouped by palate notes like “Stones and Roses,” “Herbs and Smoke,” and “Bolder Chords.” My favorite nights are Wednesdays: half-price bottles! If you come with a group, arrive early enough to commandeer one corner of the room and spread out on the cushy banquettes. On weekends, even a spacious bar like Oak can fill, especially when the band gets started. If you need a breather, step out onto the patio and enjoy a well-priced glass of bubbly. SNAKE AND JAKE’S CHRISTMAS CLUB LOUNGE 7612 Oak St. • (504) 861-2802 HOURS 7 p.m-til 7 days a week HAPPY HOUR 7 p.m-10 p.m. 7 days a week
It seems a kind of boozy miracle that Snake and Jake’s is still around. The kinds of bars that people open today (and presumably the kinds of bars where people want to drink) are the opposite of Snake & Jake’s. They are curated. They have cocktail menus. Their decor is planned and intentional. They are “charming” or “elegant” or “hip.” Drinking at Snake and Jake’s feels like drinking in a trailer whose walls are painted black and whose sole illumination comes from a few strings of Christmas lights. There is a very tired looking sofa with a dog sleeping on it. The space is dark, but not in a “cool” way. It is dark because that’s the best environment for the kind of drinking you are going to do here: cheap, determined, early morning drinking. There are no windows, and Snake and Jake’s is not unlike a casino you quickly lose all sense of time. You could easily emerge from this cavern sometime in the next year, like a latter-day Rip Van Winkle. This is another one of those bars where I didn’t plan to drink, but I did anyway (see Pal’s in Mid-City). My past visits to Snake and Jake’s were, frankly, a blur, and they usually happened around at 3 a.m. when it was crowded with students or the recently graduated. But for this visit, we arrived before midnight, and discovered the earlier crowd (11 p.m) is a slightly older crowd. Also, the bar was pretty empty, which gave me time to chat with Jay, who has tended bar here for six years. How do you get to be a bartender at Snake and Jake’s? It helps if you live nearby and drink here a lot. Eventually they ask if you want to pick up some shifts. I also learned the origin of the rather odd name.
OAK NEW ORLEANS Photo Gallery
There were once two bars located very near to each other: Snake’s Christmas Club (Snake was his nickname, Christmas was his last name) and Jake’s Lounge. They combined into this venue, which was originally Snake’s Club. I could have stayed at Snake and Jake’s for several more rounds. I probably felt like I could do this because I had never arrived at Snake and Jake’s this early or this sober (two drinks in). But instead I called it after one whiskey and soda. On my way out, the bouncer addressed the dog, who was following him around, saying, “You know you are supposed to be on the sofa.” And the rest of us, presumably, should be at the bar.