Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007
Praline Connection 542 Frenchmen St.; 504/943-3934; dinner for two $50. Rib-ticklin' fried chicken and greens make Praline a soul-food favorite. La Spiga Bakery 2440 Chartres St.; 504/949-2253; lunch for two $16. Grab one of La Spiga's fancy sandwiches for a picnic in the Marigny's beguiling Washington Park. Café Negril 606 Frenchmen St.; 504/944-4744; dinner for two $40. Get your hand around a Red Stripe and feast on Jamaican jerk fish in this brightly painted, but dimly lit, newcomer. Marigny of New Orleans Brasserie 640 Frenchmen St.; 504/945-4491; dinner for two $60. Café Marigny 1913 Royal St.; 504/945-4472; breakfast for two $16. Sister Creoles around the corner from each other. The café proffers a boisterous breakfast and lunch, while the brasserie "kicks it up a notch" (as someone else would say) at dinner. Feelings Café 2600 Chartres St.; 504/945-2222; dinner for two $75. Set in a centuries-old plantation, Feelings rates high for romance. But like most things in the Marigny, it has the requisite splash of camp: a rollicking piano bar on Fridays and Saturdays. La Peniche Restaurant 1940 Dauphine St.; 504/943-1460; dinner for two $30. The late-night "snackerie" of choice for revelers, not really for the quality of the food, but because . . . well, where else might you get oyster po'boys at four in the morning?
Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007
Just downriver from the overexposed and over-the-top French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny is its low-profile, edgier cousin. It was named for former resident Bernard de Marigny, and perhaps that set the tone: a dissolute playboy, he inherited $7 million from his father in the early 1800's and lost nearly all of it playing craps. His obituary remembered him as "the last of the Creole aristocracy, one who knows how to dispose of a great fortune with contemptuous indifference."
A decline in the 1950's left the Faubourg (a French term for "neighborhood") and its glorious Victorians and Creole cottages orphaned, until a few brave souls started to reclaim the area in the seventies. "When I bought my house," says Marigny pioneer Gary de Leaumont, "my parents told me, 'If you're moving there, we're buying you a gun!' " But lately, the Marigny has cleaned up its act. Frenchmen Street led the charge, with new restaurants, bars, and live music clubs crowding its formerly seedy sidewalks. An evening out involves a natural progression: Start with cocktails, move on to a multi-course meal, finish by shaking it all night to some fabulous band. So beware—a visit to the Marigny usually results in a dawn-lit crawl home. And that's fine, since the one pursuit that comes up short is shopping—perhaps everyone's too busy sleeping it off to open boutiques.
Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007
Checkpoint Charlie 501 Esplanade Ave.; 504/949-7012. This Marigny chameleon hosts different bands (punk, jazz, country) every night. Lots of hometown acts get their start here.
Café Brasil 2100 Chartres St.; 504/949-0851. The bands that perform here—often Latin on on weekends—attract such a throng that the party inevitably ends up spilling out onto the street.
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro 626 Frenchmen St.; 504/949-0696. This is where you go to hear the best live, straight-ahead jazz in the city (and fill up on massive burgers and loaded baked potatoes). Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the famed family of trumpeters, often performs here.
dba 618 Frenchmen St.; 504/942-3731. Jaded neighbors call it a yuppie bar, but the clientele—dreadlocked, tattooed, and pierced—and the sparse industrial interiors look a little rough around the edges for such a label.
Spotted Cat 623 Frenchmen St.; 504/943-3887. Not as sleek as its feline name would suggest, this new cat on the block features jazzy and acoustic fare that the mellow set finds appealing
Faubourg Marigny: The Way the Quarter Used to Be
Monday, Sep 10, 2007
You know to avoid Bourbon Street, right? Unless you have a thing for drunken louts decked out in fanny packs, Tabasco boxer shorts, Mardi Gras beads and feather boas (sometimes all on the same person), it's a good idea to steer clear of the fabled epicenter of tourism in the French Quarter. So where to hang out in New Orleans?
The neighborhood immediately downriver from the French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny (FOE-burg MARE-uh-nee), reminds many of what the Quarter was like 50 years ago. Bounded roughly by Esplanade Avenue, North Rampart Street, Franklin Avenue and the Mississippi River, it's about a 20-minute walk from Jackson Square. Follow Decatur Street across Esplanade, turn left on Frenchmen Street and breathe a sigh of relief: The quiet is palpable.
There are no "attractions" here, no fancy hotels, no shops selling alligator back-scratchers -- no shopping at all, really. It's just a vibrant, appealing neighborhood of 19th-century cottages, B&Bs, cafes and storefronts that's wonderful for walking around in. It's also home to some of the hippest jazz clubs in the city.
On Frenchmen Street you'll find the well-regarded Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen, 504-949-0696). There's usually a Marsalis on the schedule -- jazz pianist Ellis performs most Friday nights, and his younger son, trombonist Delfeayo, appears frequently with his quintet. Reservations are recommended, and you can have a decent dinner here as well. But as the club points out on its Web site, "Snug Harbor is not a dinner theater; the dining room is separate from the music club." Furthermore, "We're a jazz club, not a disco. NO PHOTOGRAPHY, NO VIDEOTAPING , NO AUDIO RECORDING, and NO FUNNY CIGARETTES during the performances." All right, then!
For a more relaxed atmosphere, just walk down the street and follow the music. It comes wafting out of the Spotted Cat (623 Frenchmen, 504-943-3887), an intimate bar/club whose bandstand is set up near the front door. There's no cover, so for the price of a beer you can settle back in a leopardskin chair and let some memorable jazz wash over you. And we do mean wash: Most Saturday nights, Washboard Chaz Leary and his acoustic jazz band play classic old-time blues on guitar, harmonica and one hell of a washboard (coffee cans and front-desk bell included). The trio also appears Thursday nights at the Blue Nile down the street (534 Frenchmen, 504-948-2583). Also worth checking out: d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen, 504-942-3731), an offshoot of the New York club, and Alley Katz (upstairs from the Blue Nile).
Dinnertime options are surprisingly diverse, including Thai ( Sukho Thai, 1913 Royal St., 504-948-9309), Tex-Mex ( Santa Fe, 801 Frenchmen, 504-944-6854) and Middle Eastern ( Mona's, 504 Frenchmen, 504-949-4115), among many other cuisines.
Our advice: Hold out for that unsung subspecialty, Creole-Italian, which is the draw at the intimate, funky Adolfo's (611 Frenchmen St., 504-948-3800). More than just a hole in the wall, Adolfo's is a hole above the wall , one flight up from the Apple Barrel bar. You may have to wait for a table, but it's worth it: The place is shadowy and romantic, it seats about three dozen, and it's about as far as you can get from the glitz-fests of the French Quarter. For $16.95 you can design your own seafood entree: Try the red snapper topped with shrimp and crabmeat.
When it's time for morning coffee, head for the anti-Starbucks, Cafe Rose Nicaud (634 Frenchmen St., 504-949-3300) or the Sound Cafe (2700 Chartres St., 504-947-4477), two community gathering spots complete with colorful clientele and local musicians' CDs for sale. Then walk the tree-shaded streets and admire the neighborhood's colorful Victorian, Greek Revival, Creole and West Indian-style cottages -- some peeling, some rehabbed to eye-popping results.
If you happen to end up at the Feelings Cafe (2600 Chartres St., 504-945-2222), don't be put off by the name -- it's not a smarmy lounge, but an elegant and historic restaurant that attracts a stylish crowd for Sunday brunch. Set in a pre-Civil War building on land that once housed the slave quarters of an 18th-century plantation, it features an enclosed brick courtyard with interior dining rooms downstairs and up. Brunch entrees range from $10 to $18, and you can't go wrong with Grillades and Grits -- sliced veal simmered in a spicy Creole sauce and served with buttered cheese grits and Creole bananas (it's worth it for the bananas alone). Another must-try: shrimp etoufee served as a spread, with garlic toast and Creole mustard sauce. Ask for a table on the balcony overlooking the old courtyard, and savor this classic New Orleans dining experience.