21 Essential Locations in New Orleans
New Orleans, despite its well-deserved reputation as one of America’s top tourist destinations, is seriously dirty and gritty. As proud Detroiters, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Also like Detroit, New Orleans has one of the richest musical histories of any city on Earth. You simply can not walk around the French Quarter without hearing music of nearly every popular Western style pouring from the windows of literally every single club, bar and restaurant you pass. Lastly, both cities have deep French roots and a bunch of places named Pontchartrain! Read on and check out 21 of our favorite locations to drink, dine, shop and tour in the amazing Crescent City aka New Orleans, Louisiana, USA:
1. French Quarter/Bourbon Street/Royal Street – Sometimes the painfully obvious has to be stated for those who just don’t know: IT’S OKAY TO DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ON THE STREET IN NEW ORLEANS’ FRENCH QUARTER NEIGHBORHOOD, 24 hours a day, 365 days a years, so long as your beverage is in an unbreakable container. Bounded by Canal Street, Rampart Street, Esplanade Avenue and the Mississippi River, the Quarter is basically a non-stop, year-round party. Don’t act like a wasted idiot though, ‘cuz we hear they will cuff you and stuff you for it. Ask your bartender for a “Go-Cup” if you’re drinking from glass when you feel a sudden urge to hit the streets. Royal Street, lined with a ton of galleries and shops, is usually closed off to all but foot traffic during the day, while Bourbon Street, home to endless restaurants and bars, gets the pedestrians-only treatment by night. First-rate street musicians abound. You’ll happen upon them at just about any random street corner at nearly any hour. I Love Detroit Michigan highly recommends you make a donation to their cause.
2. Jackson Square – Bounded by Decatur, St. Peter, Chartres and St. Ann Streets, the very epicenter of the French Quarter is named for the seventh U.S. President and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. Stroll the meticulously manicured gardens and get a sweet pic of yourself and your travel mates in front of Clark Mills’ equestrain sculpture of Andrew Jackson, with the gorgeous St. Louis Cathedral as your backdrop.
3. Acme Oyster House @ 724 Iberville Street – This tourist favorite features seven different oyster preparations highlighting a menu filled out with fried seafood, po-boys, gumbo and jambalaya. Try one of two offensively named dishes with the word “Poopa” in the description and laugh about it later with your friends back home. Take note of the hilarious and accurate neon sign in the main dining room that reads: “Waitress Available Sometimes”.
4. Café du Monde @ 800 Decatur Street – After downing a dozen or so raw oysters, hit up the world-famous purveyors of the “Beignet” and try a doughnut style pastry with powdered sugar piled so high it looks more like Scarface’s desk than a confection. Located directly across Decatur from Jackson Square, Café du Monde backs to the Mississippi River. Climb the stairs over the embankment just to the southwest and enjoy the view from the “Moonwalk“, named for former New Orleans Mayor, Moon Landrieu. Look directly south for a great shot of the Crescent City Connection, formerly known as Greater New Orleans Bridges No.1 (1954-58) & No.2 (1981-88)
5. Pirate’s Alley Café and Absinthe House @ 622 Pirates Alley – Observe the decantation process and imbibe the strongest of legal intoxicants in the haunting nighttime shadow of St. Louis Cathedral. Visit during “Pyratecon” and get a load of the numerous Jack Sparrow impersonators you’re bound to encounter. Have the great fortune, as we did, of being politely informed by a pleasantly inebriated and poetic regular that, “ladies and gentleman, absinthe is happening right now!”
6. Preservation Hall @ 726 St. Peter Street – Since 1961, a mainstay of the French Quarter’s hyperactive Jazz music scene. Check the Hall’s online concert schedule and make a concerted effort to catch a rousing performance by the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band, whose former members include “Sweet” Emma Barrett and Billie & Dede Pierce. I Love Detroit Michigan highly recommends its readers click here to learn more about this absolutely indispensible club’s place in the great history of New Orleans Jazz.
7. The Original French Market Restaurant @ 1001 Decatur Street – A modest looking joint that blew our socks off with their simple but flawless preparations of two New Orleans staples: fried catfish and Creole-spiced shrimp pasta. The fine grain corn meal dusted catfish was deep-fried to an absolutely perfect golden-brown and served burning hot, straight from the fryer, with french fries and both tartar and remoulade on the side upon request. We also loved the Creole Shrimp Pasta‘s spicy cajun top note and the fact that it was eighty percent shrimp and twenty percent pasta!
8. Chartres House Café @ 601 Chartres Street – Yet another seemingly nondescript corner café with yet another mouth-watering, mind-blowing fried catfish preparation: the Fried Catfish Po-Boy. Served open-face on warmed and perfectly crisped French bread with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles and tartar upon request, this sandwich stopped just short of offering eternal salvation. The fried Crawfish Cakes, literally drowning in a sauce of an unknown name and topped with grated parmesan, also made our short list of recommendations.
9. Sylvain Restaurant @ 625 Chartres Street – Jeans and a t-shirt are always okay nearly anywhere in the French Quarter, but if you like you can wear your fancy pants here as you scarf on some of the most high-minded and creative cuisine in the neighborhood. Dishes like Roasted Beet Bruschetta, Chicken Liver Crostini with Maras Farm’s sprouts & dandelion gastrique and the Artisan Cheese Plate will appeal to just about any old intellectual snob’s palette. Traditionalists like ourselves enjoyed the far less challenging Sylvain Burger featuring Widmer’s Wisconsin cheddar cheese. Sample their superb line-up of custom cocktail creations, including the sublime “Fuzzy Nudge“. Experience the novelty of French Champagne paired with French Fries if your feeling extra spendy.
10. Jamie Hayes Gallery @ 617 Chartres Street – Capture the spirit of the city and the French Quarter with a limited edition, serial-numbered, embossed, gold foil accented and hand-signed print by New Orleans’ own Jamie Hayes. Indulge in a custom framing of one of Hayes’ yearly Mardi Gras tribute paintings and relive the memories of your trip to excess while gazing at it wistfully.
11. LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop @ 941 Bourbon Street – LaFitte’s lays claim to the title of “Oldest Buiding in the United States used as a Bar”. We’ll never forget our first visit to this famed temple of imbibement, where we nearly blew a gasket thinking we were about to witness an arrest as a result of our good friends walking out the door and onto the streets of the French Quarter with their alcohol-filled plastic cups in hand. Of course, they didn’t, and it was in that dramatic moment of epiphany we realized exactly why New Orleans owned the rep of one of the wildest party towns in America.
12. Molly’s at the Market *a free house @ 1107 Decatur Street – Sample Molly’s famous Frozen Irish Coffee, pet their live-in cat as he/she/it sniffs at your drinks, and let the bartender regale you with stories of how the owner loves to steal hanging signs from other area businesses. Have a nice long look at their custom backroom mural when you hit the head and let us know if you recognize any of the faces thereupon.
13. The Original Dungeon @ 738 Toulouse Street – Rock out hardcore to deafening heavy-metal inside the guts of the French Quarter’s most cramped nightclub. Find a spot to sit early cause you won’t be able to move an inch once this sardine can of a goth bar is filled to the brim with locals and tourists hoping to get bitten by a real-life vampire. Last time we were here we heard Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” screaming from the jukebox, so you know the place is legit. We’re told the most interesting parts of the bar don’t open til after midnight.
14. Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo @ 725 St. Peter Street – The brother store of Marie Leveau’s House of Voodo at 736 Bourbon Street is one of many mojo, juju and voodoo shops in the French Quarter, and the fact that you’re reading this proves their juju is workin’! Choose from a mammoth selection of spell kits, skeleton keys, tarot cards, talismans, mojo bags and incense for all your hexing needs. Purchase a custom-made voodoo doll and apply evil curses to your boss, your ex-lover and your most hated local, state or federal politician. Try taking a photograph inside their shop and they’ll most likely put a curse on you!
15. Tropical Isle Bar @ 721 Bourbon Street – The home of the world-famous Hand Grenade has three different locations on Bourbon Street. Proprietors claim it’s the “most powerful” drink you can buy in the French Quarter. Linger near the corner of their Bourbon & Orleans Street location to get a good look at the bar’s questionable mascot, “Mr. Hand Grenade Man”, and his hilariously blood-shot eyes. Linger just a little longer and you might have the great luck of being swept up in an impromptu “Cupid Shuffle” line dance right there in the middle of Bourbon Street!
16. Garden District Neighborhood – Yet another famous New Orleans neighborhood with a flavor and character all its own. Bounded by St. Charles Avenue, Jackson Avenue, Magazine Street and Toledano Street, the Garden District is home to many of the city’s largest and most luxurious homes. Take the historic St. Charles Line streetcar from Bourbon & Canal Street and travel along the northern border of the neighborhood, deboarding at Louisiana Avenue. Double back towards the Central Business District on foot and enjoy a lovely walking tour of St. Charles, one the Garden District’s most beautiful thoroughfares.
17. Commander’s Palace Restaurant @ 1403 Washington Avenue – Perhaps the most famous fine dining destination in all of the Crescent City, Commander’s Palace features a delectable selection of traditional, modern and exotic Creole entrees, including Brown Butter Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops, Escargot & Bone Marrow Bordelaise and Cracklin’ Crusted Dry Aged Breast of Duck. Be sure to finish your meal in extravagant fashion with their classic Creole Bread Puddding Soufflé.
18. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 @ 1400 Washington Avenue – After your amazing meal at Commander’s Palace, head just across Washington Avenue to the main entrance of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and begin a calorie-burning tour of one of the coolest cemeteries you’ll ever walk within. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 represents the absolute epitome of the classic above-ground crypt style graveyard so often associated with New Orleans. Stroll quietly among the antiqued, headstoned crypts of the dearly departed, with exotic pioneer-ish names like Mahley Deshautreaux, Telesphore Borque and Fannie Gertrude Wood, and solemnly contemplate the abstract concept of historical circumstance.
19. Faubourg Marigny Neighborhood/Intersection of Chartres & Frenchmen Street – Head just a block north or a block south from the most happenin’ corner in this majorly hip N’awlins neighborhood inhabited primarily by scruffy lookin’ locals, and indulge in a few of the best bars, restaurants and live music venues crowded into a two block stretch anywhere in the city outside of the French Quarter. Dine on some of the most highly regarded traditional Creole cuisine in the city at Adolpho’s or get experimental with an Asian Creole fusion dish at Yuki Izakaya. Drink “The Sazerac” on the open-air patio of Marigny Brasserie. Experience the climax or your fabulous night with an intimate live music performance at D.B.A. Get really lucky and see Ellis Marsalis playing piano at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro. Get really, really lucky and catch a free impromptu performance at Chartres & Frenchman by one of numerous nameless collectives of local horn players and percussionists like these guys here. Win the vacation lottery like we did and just happen to have a high school classmate who invites you stay for free at their pad just four blocks away.
20. Three Muses @ 536 Frenchmen Street – Get your dine, drink and slow dance on simultaneously at another one of our top recommendations in the Faurbourg Marigny neighborhood. Appetize yourself with a serving of rosemary & cayenne roasted cashews and down a cucumber and strawberry infused gin concoction called “The Muse“, all the while listening to the bittersweet music of frequently billed singer-songwriter Kristin Diable backed only by her guitar and an upright bass.
21. Mimi’s in the Marigny @ 2601 Royal Street – Currently our favorite live music venue in one of the most overtly musical cities we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting in person. This dance-friendly establishment perfectly exemplifies the stunningly rhythmic vibe of Faubourg Marigny. Find yourself on the second floor of the joint on the right evening and you’ll have the night of your life listening to the likes of local street musicians, Tuba Skinny, beautifully re-interpreting the masterworks of past Mississippi Delta legends. ~I♥DM