Freaksheaux to Geaux at AllWays Lounge & Theatre (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
New Orleans is known for three things: its nightlife, music and food. Plenty of the city’s infamous “institutions” function as tourist magnets, but if you want to party like a local, check out these best kept secrets of New Orleans!
Nightlife: Frenchman Street
Avoid overcrowded Bourbon Street and check out Frenchman Street instead for a local favorite in New Orleans. You’ll find several NOLA local-approved bars and a vibrant live music scene. Catch Shotgun Jazz Band with its Dixieland feel or Panorama Jazz Band that throws in a bit of Klezmer, both at The Spotted Cat Music Club.
Or dash across the street to Snug Harbor for bigger names including hometown favorites Ellis Marsalis and Charmain Neville.
St. Claude Avenue deserves a shout-out as well. Check out Saturn Bar if you’re in the mood for a laid back vibe. For a weirder night, The AllWays Lounge & Theatre promises wild nightly entertainment including the occasional Freaksheaux to Geaux, a vaudeville-inspired circus act.
Music Destination: Rock ‘n’ Bowl
At first glance Tipitina’s (a.k.a. “Tip’s”) looks to be a ramshackle hole-in-the-wall, but it’s one of the best kept secrets in New Orleans for live music. If you’re looking for something with more polish that garners equal respect from locals, Rock ‘n’ Bowl holds its own.
As the name suggests, it’s a bowling alley that doubles as a live music venue. Its new post-Katrina location boasts a huge bar and plays host to Zydeco, R&B, and other local acts.
Leave time to stop by the Maple Leaf Bar where you’ll often find Rebirth Brass Band, a local favorite. Also try the Palm Court Jazz Café, the best kept secret in New Orleans’ French Quarter. It offers a lovely sit-down dinner accompanied by live jazz and exudes an Old World ambiance.
Upscale Dining: La Petite Grocery
Located inside a historic building that was — you guessed it — a grocery, La Petite Grocery offers a romantic atmosphere. James Beard Award finalist and Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” competitor Chef Justin Devillier serves up food that is succulent and fabulous — there aren’t enough adjectives to describe how good it is.
If you’re craving more, try Upperline Restaurant for its posh Southern feel or Lilette which has a hidden garden courtyard lit by fairy lights. If you’re into decadence, order Lilette’s Alaskan King Crab Claws with Passion Fruit Butter.
Affordable Eats: Café Reconcile
For a more wallet-friendly meal, try the crawfish étoufée, jambalaya, or po’ boys at Café Reconcile, a local favorite in New Orleans. It also functions as a non-profit program that provides job training to young people from at-risk communities. Stop by to enjoy some great New Orleans food and give back to the city!
Also delicious are Liuzza’s Restaurant & Bar and Liuzza’s By The Track. Though they share a name, they are unaffiliated with one another. Both have that hole-in-the-wall New Orleans feel and offer po’ boys and the like.
Soul Food: Willie Mae’s Scotch House
What is soul food? Think ham hocks, chicken livers, slow-cooked beans, greens, and cornbread. It’s rich and delicious. Willie Mae’s Scotch House, another James Beard Award winner, is the place to go for soul food.
They’re known for their fried chicken. This humble place originally opened in the Tremé neighborhood, and recently launched a more polished location in Uptown, right on the St. Charles streetcar line.
The Original Brown Derby is located inside a rundown grocery store and is a great to-go option. You’ll stand in line cafeteria-style to receive some succulent homestyle cooking.
The locals simply call it “Brocato’s,” and it is the place to go for Italian pastries. The shop feels like an old ice cream parlor with its tile floors and scrollwork-backed chairs. Savor their delicate Italian cookies, flavorful sorbets, and decadent cannoli after dinner.
For non-Italian desserts, try the macarons at Sucré, or the Butternut donuts at Blue Dot Donuts. Don’t miss the world famous beignets at Café du Monde in the French Quarter or Morning Call in City Park.
The French Quarter location is the more obvious for visitors, but the City Park setting is great for kids with its adjacent playground and climbable live oaks.