More than a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans endures as America’s heartland for food and music, paying humble homage to history, community, and the evolution of jazz.
Our suggestion for visitors: After grilled oysters at Desire Oyster Bar and dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s, escape the inebriation of Bourbon Street for the best of the Big Easy further east. The Marigny and Bywater hoods are the pulse of NOLA’s creative crowd, a lively second city complete with intergenerational eateries and Solange’s stomping grounds.
New Orleans Cake Cafe and Bakery: We’re skeptical of bagels anywhere outside N.Y.C. (OK, maybe Montréal), but this hipster hangout whips up a mean sesame. Pair it with lox, or go for the standout boudin and eggs. Just don’t leave without trying the namesake cakes — the chocolate with buttercream frosting is divine. (2440 Chartres Street, NOLACakes.com)
Li’l Dizzy’s Cafe: Opt for table service instead of the buffet at this casual Creole-soul lunch canteen (you want those drumsticks hot!). The soupy gumbo nails the traditional seafood-sausage-rice trifecta, and the fried chicken is deliciously crisp and tender; no ketchup needed. (1500 Esplanade Avenue, LilDizzysCafe.net)
The Joint: Every Southern eatery thinks it does BBQ the best, but the Joint actually might. Splurge on the smoked baby back ribs—you won’t wanna share, so order liberally—and add some decadent down-home sides like baked beans or mac and cheese. (701 Mazant Street, AlwaysSmokin.com)
Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits: This aptly named “wine laboratory” offers bottles to go and seating out back in the vine-draped courtyard. Order a charcuterie plate with fresh cheeses du jour and cozy up to the stage, where jazz and organ bands play from noon through the night. (600 Poland Avenue, BacchanalWine.com)
R Bar/Royal Street Inn: This converted 1890s corner store, replete with warm lighting and cheap pours, is the perfect no-frills NOLA drinking experience. The bar also operates the inn on the upper floors, a slice of boutique lodging flaunting the city’s signature architecture: wooden arches, exposed-brick fireplaces, and ironclad balconies. If you can handle the occasional drunk shout from R Bar (earbuds are provided), this is the best place to stay in the area. (1431 Royal Street, RoyalStreetInn.com)
Marie’s Bar: With just a jukebox and some barstools, Marie’s serves some of the finest Bloody Marys around. Enormous and superbly balanced—the briny acidity mixes perfectly with the homemade tomato mix—they’re best ordered in a Big Gulp to go: Good morning, laissez-faire open-container laws! (2483 Burgundy Street)
Faubourg Marigny Art and Books: This Frenchmen Street mainstay is the oldest gay-owned bookstore in the South. (Think 1970s porn mags next to John Waters novels.) Owner Otis Fennell is often seen wandering the crowded aisles. Be sure to ask him about his Tom of Finland postcard collection. (600 Frenchmen Street)
Studio Be: Across the street from the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Studio Be’s 35,000 square feet of warehouse space spotlights the work of rising stars like street artist and social activist Brandan ‘BMike’ Odums. (2941 Royal Street)
Marigny Opera House: Local performers play multiple times a week at this renovated 1853 church. New Orleans resident Solange was married under its ethereal arches — so “Don’t You Wait” to visit. (725 St. Ferdinand Street, MarignyOperaHouse.org)
d.b.a. Walk down Frenchmen Street on any given night, and the live music of its boisterous bar-restaurants will draw you in. Choose d.b.a., which has an extensive craft-beer menu and showcases exceptional performances in an airy space. Blues legend Little Freddie King, who had a guitar cameo on Beyoncé’s Lemonade, plays an unmissable near-monthly show here. (618 Frenchmen Street, DbaNewOrleans.com)
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