French Quarter Guide
“Way down yonder in New Orleans/ In the land of dreamy scenes/ There’s a garden of Eden/ You know what I mean.” – Louis Armstrong
The French Quarter or "Vieux Carre" ("old square" in French) stretches along the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue (13 blocks long) and back from the Mississippi to Rampart Street (6 blocks wide). "The Quarter" is compact. One can spend an enjoyable vacation here without leaving it for several days. The neighborhood is pedestrian friendly. Take care walking at night, particularly on dark or deserted streets. If you've been drinking, a cab is advisable.
Bourbon Street - some 8 blocks of Bourbon from Canal Street down are given over to catering to the hard drinking tourists. If getting drunk with other tourists is the goal of your vacation, this is the place for you. Even if not, this notorious strip of tourist traps is worth at least a quick look for its abject sleaziness. Bourbon not only has countless bars, it also contains many fine restaurants featuring delicious local cuisine for people who want to experience the local foods. Royal Street - strolling Royal Street by day is as essential a New Orleans experience as Bourbon Street by night. 1 block away in distance, a world in attitude. There are art galleries, upscale antique stores, landmark hotels and interesting specialty shops. Lots of temptations for those with money, but is also fun window shopping for those not spending a dime. Jackson Square - the old town square, often live music is going on here, as well as street corner painters and tarot readers. Around the square are: o Cabildo - colonial city hall, now a museum; Louisiana Purchase agreements transferring the city from France to the USA were signed here o Presbytere - colonial church offices, now another museum, including a New Orleans Mardi Gras display o St. Louis Cathedral - a symbol of New Orleans, this is the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States and has a giant statue of the Virgin Mary with her arms extended gracing the middle of the courtyard. o Pontalba Buildings - 4 story brick apartment buildings have specialty shops, restaurants, and a tourist information office on the ground floors Moon Walk is a brick walking path along the Mississippi River across Decatur Street from Jackson Square. The curious name comes from its dedication to former New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu.
Chartres Street parallels Bourbon and Royal Streets, on block closer to the river than Royal. While less famous with visitors, those who enjoy historic architecture will find the city's greatest concentration of preserved colonial era buildings along Chartres, along with early 19th century town-houses. A pleasant walk with local shops and cafes scattered along the street. Old French Market. While souvenirs for visitors have taken over a good bit of the space at this 250+ year old market, there are still vendors selling fresh produce as in days of old. On weekends a much larger number of vendors set up here, with handicrafts and flea market type goods. Lower Decatur Street. Right around the corner from the historic US Mint, and the French Market. A French Quarter neighborhood with shops, dining, and entertainment. Late at night the bars really hop with local color. New Orleans Jazz Park, Visitor's Center & Headquarters at 916 N. Peters. Often has live music, lectures, and gives music history related walking tours. Many events are free; those that aren't are a bargain. Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve, 419 Decatur Street. Headquarters for National Park that includes several historic sites in and near New Orleans. Has a small museum and visitor's center. Show up by 9am to get a place on the informative free walking tour of the French Quarter. Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal Street. Free museum with changing exhibits of local history. Also has a research center nearby on Chartres Street. Old U.S. Mint, 400 Esplanade, by the French Market. Coins haven't been minted in New Orleans for decades, so the building is now a museum, with the minting process downstairs and the world's top exhibit on New Orleans jazz upstairs. Old Ursuline Convent, 1100 Chartres St. Completed in 1752, open for tours
Some elegant old homes which are now museums:
1850s House, 523 St. Ann (in the lower Pontalba Building). Beauregard-Keyes House, 1113 Chartres Street. Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis Street. 1830s mansion. Gallier House, 1132 Royal Street. Home of famous local 19th century architect. Madame John's Legacy, 632 Dumaine. 18th century Creole home Williams Residence, 718 Toulouse Street (entrance at 533 Royal Street). 1889 Italianate twostory residence.
Stroll the streets, look at the architecture, shops, and people. Hear music in the street.
Carriage Rides: Mule drawn carriages have driven tourists around the Quarter since the gasoline rationing of the 1940s. Carriage drivers are known to give tourists a full blown tour consisting of a mix of history, architecture, restaurants & stories. All buggy drivers are licensed tour guides. Street entertainers: perform for tips from tourists, and vary greatly in talent. The still mime-ers are a sight to see, they stand still alone or with a partner and when you give them a tip they will
move very slowly in tandem, like a robot. There are excellent musicians who enjoy keeping up their chops out of doors. Audubon Institute: 1 Canal St. Only aquarium in New Orleans and conveniently located in the French Quarter. Features aquarium, park, zoo featuring 1500 animals, and an IMAX theatre.
Art or high-end antiques on Royal Street. Tacky t-shirts and souvenirs on Bourbon Street. There are several good used book stores on Chartres, Royal, Pirates' Alley, and elsewhere in the Quarter. Louisiana Music Factory, 210 Decatur. Specializes in local music, with a wide selection new and used CDs, plus vintage vinyl upstairs. Local musicians often play free sets here for promotion when they come out with a new record.
Acme Oyster House, 724 Iberville St. No ambiance, but good, oysters and other southern delights. Be ready to wait in line. Great food, Great price. 12 oysters for 9.99 simply can't be beat, especially since Louisiana oysters are far superior in size to those from anyplace else. For an entertaining and social experience, sit at the bar, where you can talk to the oyster shuckers about the celebrities and pro athletes who they have recently seen in the restaurant. Angeli, on Decatur at Governor Nicholls, open long hours Cafe EnVie Espresso Bar & Cafe, 1241 Decatur, 232-6530. 7AM-11PM. Sandwiches, salads, omelets, quiches. Wireless internet access. Cajun Cabin, 503 Bourbon, 11am-late. Authentic Cajun recipes dating back to the 1900s, 6 flatscreen TVs, live Cajun music every night, largest balcony eating in French Quarter. Features a great local beer (Abita) and has specialties such as alligator sausage. Benachin 1212 Royal. African food. Good lunch specials. Central Grocery, 923 Decatur. Old Italian-American grocery sandwich shop, famous for their enormous muffuletta sandwiches originated by this family in 1910. One is enough to feed four hungry people! Order 1/2 to start for 2 people!. Clover Grill, 900 Bourbon. Good eggs, burgers, and such 24 hours a day. Heavily (though not exclusively) gay clientele. They cook your burger under a hubcap! Coop's Place, 1109 Decatur (near Ursulines). You can get good Cajun food at a really good price here. Locals favorite. Good food, good price. Best fried chicken in the City! Felix's Oyster House, 739 Iberville. The Acme's traditional competition. Jimani, 141 Chartres. when you want a great roast beef sandwich at 2 in the morning Johnny's Po-Boys, 511 St. Louis St. Lunch counter with some eat-in tables; one of the largest poboy menus around. Excellent breakfast biscuit sandwich! Closes @ 3 p.m. Mama Rosa's, 616 N. Rampart. old style French Quarter Pizza. Mona Lisa's, 1212 Royal. Italian and Pizza. Port of Call, 838 Esplanade. Sarafina's, 81 French Maret Place. Coffee, sandwiches, salads, and made from scratch desserts.
Verti Marte, 1201 Royal. Will deliver po-boys and similar cheap but yummy grub to your place in the Quarter. It's also a small neighborhood grocery with wine & beer. Yo Mama's Bar & Grill, 727 St. Peter (between Royal & Bourbon). limited but high quality grill menu, including 14 types of burgers.
Breakfast & Snacks
Cafe du Monde, 1039 Decatur Street. Serves coffee and beignets, 24 hours a day, across Decatur from Jackson Square. A local landmark since the 19th century. CC's, Royal at St. Philip. The French Quarter branch of a small local chain. Great iced coffee drinks for hot days. Croissant d'Or, Ursuline Street. French pastries and light breakfasts & lunch. Closes at 2.30pm. Cafe EnVie see entry in section above.
Bacco, 310 Charters. Tuscan. Bayona, 430 Dauphine. Mediterranean food. Bistro at Maison de Ville, 727 Rue Toulouse. Award-winning French Creole cuisine and legendary wine list. Coop's Place, 1109 Decatur serves Cajun fare including rabbit jambalaya, seafood gumbo, and a selection of wines and beers. Entrees run from $10 to about $15. French Market, 1001 Decatur serves boiled crawfish and other down-home delicacies including a Monday through Friday happy hour 3pm - 5pm - raw oysters $.50 each. Has both downstairs restaurant and balcony seating upstairs. El Gato Negro, 81 French Market Place. A local favorite for Mexican, 11a - 9pm. Gumbo Shop, 630 St. Peter. An institution for gumbos and similar traditional Louisiana dishes. Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, upscale custom pizza, French Market at Barracks Street. Margaritaville Cafe, Decatur St. near the French Market. Don't waste away, Jimmy Buffett fans! OK this place isn't so great, but it had to be mentioned. The great ironies of Margaritaville are this: 1) It is downriver on Decatur where, thankfully, fewer tourists venture even though the place is mostly designed for the tourist trade and 2) Some of the finest musicians in New Orleans that don't play stereotypical New Orleans music (Dixieland jazz or R&B covers) play there and they don't play Jimmy Buffett covers. Mr. B's Bistro, 201 Royal. Petunia's, 817 St. Louis. French crêpes, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ralph & Kacoo's, 519 Toulouse St. Seafood. Remoulade, 309 Bourbon. . A casual spin-off of Arnaud's where you can try their famous caesar salad dressing and the eponymous remoulade without wearing a jacket and tie. Same shrimp remoulade and gumbo as the main restaurant for a lower price. Stanley 547 St. Ann (at the corner of Chartres), tel. 587-0093. Good casual food. Some visitors may remember them on Decatur Street years ago; here at their new location on Jackson Square they added a soda fountain. Tujague's, 823 Decatur (just down from Jackson Square). Pronounced "Two Jacks" Despite the weird spelling, it's been here since 1856 so they must be doing something right. The locals swear by it.
The French Quarter has a wide variety of bars for all sorts of tastes.
The Bombay Club Restaurant and Martini Bistro, 830 Conti Street. High end cocktails with a dress code. Cafe Lafitte in Exile, 901 Bourbon St. Claims to be the USA's oldest gay bar; "in exile" since the original Lafitte's (see below) went straight some 50 + years ago. Everyone welcome. Crescent City Brewhouse, 527 Decatur St. Microbrewery, also serves food. The Dungeon, 734 Toulouse. Dark gothic bar opens at midnight. Fritzel's 733 Bourbon St. Good draft German beer, live Dixieland bands in the evenings. Johnny White's. Down home bar. There are two, one on Bourbon Street and the other on St. Peter near Bourbon. The first has a restaurant, the second just booze. Open 24/7. Kerry Irish Pub, 331 Decatur St. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, Bourbon & St. Philip: Piano bar towards the end of the touristy part of Bourbon Street. Supposedly once the in-town headquarters of pirate & smuggler Jean Lafitte, many colorful stories are told about this location. They pour great Hurricanes. Le Roundup, St. Louis St. between Bourbon and Dauphine. The ultimate dive bar, home to transsexuals, hookers, transsexual hookers, cowboys, and Quarter eccentrics. Molly's at the Market, lower Decatur Street. A great Irish/Quarterpunk bar, long a favorite of bohemian locals. Napoleon House, Chartres St. at St. Louis St. The place to go if you like the thought of good drinks in a 200+ year old building whose owners are proud that the interior hasn't been repainted since World War I, with classical music playing over the sound system. Napoleon never made it here, as he died before the local plan to rescue him from exile and start his empire afresh in Louisiana could be carried out. Napoleon House also serves good sandwiches and a limited food menu, with service at a speed somewhere between leisurely and glacial-don't stop here if you're in a hurry to be somewhere else. Oz, 800 Bourbon St. Loud hip gay disco. Parade, 801 Bourbon, across from Oz. NO's largest gay nightclub since 1974. Pat O'Brien's, 718 St. Peter St. (between Bourbon and Royal). Famous for strong Hurricanes, Mint Juleps, TNTs, Purple People Eaters; Popular tourist hangout for a reason. Has been trendy for generations. Has an impressive fire/water fountain and patio. Tropical Isle, 600 Bourbon (original). Home of the Hand Grenade, "New Orleans's Most Powerful Drink" is a staple of Bourbon Street decadence. Definitely a must-try. Whirling Dervish, 1135 Decatur St. Goth bar on lower Decatur Street.
Bourbon Street — upper Bourbon has been given over to catering to hard drinking out of towners, and this part of the street has a number of music venues (not named here) whose owners make their money off them, with loud mediocre bands hired cheaply. None the less, despite what some say it is still possible to find New Orleans jazz on Bourbon Street. o Jazz Parlor Storyville, 125 Bourbon St., (504) 410-1000. o Maison Bourbon, 641 Bourbon St. Sometimes does (though as often doesn't) have decent bands, as many good local Dixieland players for the moment lacking a better gig often wind up here. As the doors are open to the street, you can listen a bit from
outside, judge for yourself whether they have a band you'd enjoy on a given day, and walk on by or go on in as appropriate. Fritzels at 733 Bourbon St., (504)561-0432, has good house bands in the evenings, and is often the venue for out of town and out of country musicians versed in the New Orleans style to play.
Donna's Bar & Grill, 800 N. Rampart (at the corner of St. Ann, on the edge of the Quarter). Donna's is a center of the modern New Orleans Brass Band style that combines the old jazz with such influences as funk and hip hop, producing a style that's up to date while still distinctively and uniquely New Orleans. Donna's attracts a mixed clientele of downtown New Orleanians, college students, and in-the-know visitors House of Blues, 225 Decatur St. The New Orleans branch of the corporate chain presents national talent and a gospel brunch on Sundays. New Orleans Jazz Park, 916 N. Peters. Often has free live music Weekend afternoons and sometimes other times. Preservation Hall, 726 St. Peter St. (between Bourbon & Royal. Traditional Dixie jazz that you'll pay $40 a concert anywhere else. Here for only $8. Talk about atmosphere! Listen to real jazz and nothing else (no booze, no bathrooms). You'll have to stand in line, and it's cheap. Music starts at 8pm and runs until midnight. The band plays several 30 minute sets and your ticket is valid all night. Palm Court Cafe, 1204 Decatur St. Those who prefer their old style New Orleans jazz in a somewhat more upscale atmosphere where dinner and drinks are served should be sure to visit this place in the lower Quarter. Some of the same musicians who play Preservation Hall play here on other nights, along with other top local classic style jazz greats. The owner's husband runs the Jazzology record company, featuring the world's largest independent label catalogue of trad jazz, so you can pick up CDs by your favorites from Bunk Johnson to current Dixielanders while you're here. Tipitinas. The older more famous one is uptown, but the French Quarter branch presents some fine music as well, although on a less regular schedual.
The Faubourg Marigny (FAW-borg MER-ih-nee), or usually just Marigny, is a hip neighborhood just "below" (down river from) the French Quarter. It has the air of what the French Quarter was a generation or two ago before there was so much tourist development. It has a few small hotels and many bed-and-breakfasts, as well as a number of good restaurants, coffee shops, and music venues. Part of the city's old high ground, it fortunately escaped the worst of the post-Katrina disaster. Architecturally, the Marigny is known for its many styles of Creole cottages, most of which date to the 19th century. Its "heart" is Washington Square Park (bounded by Frenchmen Street, Royal Street, Dauphine Street, and Elysian Fields Avenue). Frenchmen Street is the main
nightlife district, with half a dozen live music clubs and just as many restaurants in four short blocks.
Frenchmen Street is in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood just below the lower edge of the Quarter. A 4 block stretch of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops mixed with live music venues make it one of the city's most hip places, catering more to locals than tourists (though tourists are certainly welcome, and welcomed). On any given night, one might find modern jazz, swinging traditional jazz, Latin American style music, rockabilly, and more within this small area. Except for the last club listed, the below venues are all either on this stretch of Frenchmen Street or just around the corner from it on Esplanade Avenue. The best way to enjoy Frenchmen (particularly on weekends) is to walk the street with a drink in hand, listening to the music in each club. Many don't have cover charges, but most require at least a one-drink minimum to enter and listen to music.
Blue Nile, 532 Frenchmen St. Cafe Brasil, 2100 Chartres St. (at corner of Frenchmen), Phone: (504) 949-0851: Eclectic world music. DBA 618 Frenchmen St., Phone: (504) 942-3731. Checkpoint Charlies, 501 Esplanade (on the corner of Decatur/Esplanade), 949-7102. This bar has bands, pool tables and laundry facilities if your clothes need awashin'. Local rock and jump bands. Dragon's Den, 435 Esplanade (above Siam Cafe), Phone: (504) 949-1750. A charmingly dilapidated, well-hidden club (go down the alley next to the Siam Cafe, then up the stairs to your left), with a balcony on Esplanade and an opium-den feel inside. Live music, occasional poetry slams. Jimbeaux's 623 Frenchmen St. Cozy bar with good hot jazz. Location formerly known as "The Spotted Cat". Snug Harbor, 626 Frenchmen St. Perhaps the city's foremost modern jazz venue. Sweet Lorraine's Jazz Club, 1931 St. Claude Avenue, Phone: (504) 945-9654. This is the neighborhood's noted jazz venue away from all the concentration of other venues on Frenchmen Street. Sweet Lorraine's is in the "back" of Marigny on Saint Claude (same street as Rampart Street in the French Quarter; it changes name after it crosses Esplanade Avenue). Local modern jazz; they also serve dinners of Creole and Soul Food 5 to 10pm.