It’s really hard to miss, but a lot of people don’t notice it. It appears as if it’s ready to collapse, but has unbelievably withstood Katrina, Rita and Gustav and that’s only since I’ve lived here.To Mardi Gras revelers, it might just be forgettable (that tiny club on Lee Circle where we stopped for a drink after Bacchus?), but I just can’t stop myself from remembering.
It’s the Circle Bar.
My very best friend Shalom and I were cruising down St. Charles Avenue late in the afternoon almost seven years ago and as we made the turn into Lee Circle, we spied the ramshackle building on the corner with a large sign bearing the word “bar”. I distinctly remember Shalom saying, “We gotta check that place out.” Shalom had an uncanny itch to explore every dive bar in the city and I knew it was only a matter of time.
As it turns out, the Circle Bar became our “bar of choice” and most of our drunken adventures would begin, and even end there. In the time that I spent there, I enjoyed incredible local music from the Happy Talk Band, Clockwork Elvis, Big Blue Marble, Alex McMurray, Gal Holiday & her Honky Tonk Revue and so much more. Because of our frequent appearances and blatant love, DC (lead singer of Clockwork Elvis) serenaded Shalom and I a Capella not once, but twice while standing on top of the bar…singing our all-time favorite Elvis tune, “Suspicious Minds.”
There is just something so comforting about sitting at the bar, sipping on a cold glass of Guinness, whiling away the hours chatting to the bartender or listening to your favorite selections on their most excellent jukebox. I have never come across another jukebox with such an awesome selection of oldies from artists like Patsy Cline, Ottis Redding and The Animals. You could even lounge under the glowing K&B clock mounted on the ceiling, relaxing on thrift store chairs while watching the traffic flow around Lee Circle.
I’ve munched on grilled peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches in honor of Elvis Presley’s Birthday, enjoyed Caroline’s (an excellent bartender) fabulous spicy Gazpacho that she always makes during the summer months and it was the first place I tried some fantastic beef jerky brought all the way from Lafayette for their signature Bloody Marys.
Things have changed a lot since the Circle Bar was my preferred hangout. But from what I hear on Facebook, things have just been getting better. They are featuring live shows from The Geraniums, White Colla Crimes, Shannon McNally, Glasgow…and like in the “good ole days” most of their shows have no cover charge! Also, I am pretty sure Caroline still works behind the bar, offering good advice, a warm smile and if your really nice, she might even make you her signature drink, the “F**k me up.” I can tell you from experience that is not a misnomer.
So, even though you must have driven past it hundreds of times, tonight might just be the night you pull over, stroll into the darkened bar, order a cold drink and just let the atmosphere wash over you. This is the neighborhood bar you’ve been looking for even though its been here, all along, right underneath your nose.
**Unfortunately, the Circle Bar is yet another victim of the pandemic and closed late in 2020. I’m hoping against hope that someone else will purchase the bar, love it and make it their own.