Broke-Ass Insider’s Guide to New Orleans: Uptown Part 2
From Drew Brees to Hog’s Head Cheese, James Black to Sazerac: Here’s our New Orleans insider’s guide, neighborhood by neighborhood, to all the things that make the Crescent City the greatest city in America.
Uptown Part 2
(don’t forget to read part 1)
Make ‘Em Say Uhh: Napoleon Ave. to Calliope St.
Lafayette Cemetery #2
I hope the link above to that late nineties New Orleans Hip Hop classic got you juiced up for this part of town, because you’re going to need the energy. Now that we’ve crossed Napoleon, we’re finally starting to see more of the cities true colors come out. Any first time visitor to New Orleans for Mardi Gras will likely spend most of their time in these parts during carnival. Almost all of the parades start at Napoleon and go down St. Charles.
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We’re tapping deeper into the culture of the city. This area is Uptown Mardi Gras India territory. It’s also home to the Central City second lines on Sundays. The second line is one of those things you have to experience to understand. The name refers to the crowd that follows behind the brass band in a street parade. When I say second line, I’m referring to more than just this. Many cities across the United States have African American social clubs dating back to the days of segregation. Chicago for instance has more African American social clubs than anywhere in the country. New Orleans might not have as many as Chicago, but the ones they do have know how to have a good time. Each club has their own second line parade to celebrate their organization. This video will give you an idea of what I mean.
Uptown Mardi Gras Indians
Second Line at Second and Dryades
Aside from second lines and Mardi Gras, this part of Uptown is also home to some of the country’s most spectacular mansions. The Garden District is an amazing example of lavish southern wealth. It’s also home to one of the biggest clashes between wealth and poverty. St. Charles Ave. marks the border between the Garden District and Central City. Central City has one of the highest murder rates of anywhere in the nation, and Sandra Bullock’s house is only a few blocks away.
This part of town is also home to some of New Orleans’ most notorious housing projects: Calliope, Magnolia, Melpomene, and St. Thomas. All of which have since been torn down and rebuilt since Katrina. The Neville Brothers grew up in the Calliope projects, Ernie K-Doe grew up on Derbigny St. between 1st St. and 2nd St., Earl King grew up in the Irish Channel on Constance St., Irma Thomas lived on Melpomene St. as a child, Tuts Washington grew up on 8th St. and Simon Bolivar, Huey “Piano” Smith was raised in the Garden District, and Professor Longhair’s final residency is on Terpsichore. This area is also home to one of America’s most important musical landmarks, The Dew Drop Inn. The Don Quixote of New Orleans, Ignatius Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces lived on Constantinople St. in the quintessential New Orleans novel. There is no denying that this part of the city played a critical role in developing what the rest of the world loves about the Crescent City.
Casa Borrega: This brand new establishment is a real gem New Orleans is lucky to have. Mexico City native, Hugo Montero, refurbished the entire building out of recycled material he found on the street. He felt New Orleans was lacking proper portrayal of Latin culture and wanted to give the city something authentic. They serve traditional Mexican cuisine with an extensive selection of Tequilas. At night they feature the cities best talent in Latin music in a beautiful atmosphere.
Casamento’s: Fried seafood at its best. This place hasn’t changed since the day they opened in 1919. This is the best place in the city to eat raw oysters. Usually Mike the oyster shucker is behind the counter with a plate of cold, raw succulent oysters ready to go while you wait to be seated. The family closes the restaurant every summer in June and re opens in September. They also make their own rectangular loafs of bread as opposed to the traditional French bread served everywhere else in the city.
Cajun Seafood: This boiled seafood city chain seems to have a spot in just about every hood in New Orleans. This is where spice and sodium are king. It’s one of the only places in the world you can get a 40 oz. of Old English Malt Liquor, a pound of crawfish, three boiled pig’s feet and a turkey neck. Nuff’ said.
Cajun Seafood (Broadmoor)
Crump’s Seafood & Sandwich Shop: This small scale family owned establishment is like stepping into grandma’s kitchen. Home cooked New Orleans food to a t. For years the building looked like another causality of Katrina. The sign was still there, but no business. The family thankfully was able to re open in 2012.
Crump’s Seafood & Sandwich Shop
Lilly’s Cafe: One culture many don’t associate with New Orleans, but is certainly a major part of the city is Vietnamese. Many Vietnamese immigrants settled in New Orleans in the mid-70s. Since then they have made a major impact on the food scene in the city. Most of the Vietnamese population is in New Orleans East and the West Bank, so it’s hard to find good Vietnamese food in this part of town. Luckily there’s Lilly’s. The menu is pretty much the same as every other Vietnamese place with banh mi, vermicelli bowls, and pho. Something about her pho broth is better than the rest. Lilly is always there and always seems to remember exactly what was discussed the last time you saw her. I do wish she would offer the tendon and tripe in the pho, but I think she’s worried of scaring her non-Vietnamese customers.
Please-U-Restaurant/ Slim Goodies Diner/ Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar: They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Please-U is a breakfast dive with watery coffee, creaky counter stools, and booths from the 1960s. They’re not trying to be old school, they just are. Slim Goodies is trying to be old school, but with good food. I think you have to have at least one tattoo to work there. Surrey’s has the best breakfast out of all of them, but it’s not the classic bacon and eggs like the first two.
Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar (Lower Garden District)
Stein’s Market and Deli: Nothing about Stein’s, except the building, is New Orleans. The staff is not welcoming and they serve sandwiches, not po boys. It’s an east coast Jewish and Italian deli transplanted into the Lower Garden District. Somehow it fits right in, filling a niche market New Orleans would be lacking without Stein and his lovable side kick Andre. Go there and get The Sam.
Stein’s Market and Deli
The Avenue Pub: If $2 PBRs are taking a toll and you want to drink a real beer out of a real glass, come here. This bar is open 24/7. They have a very extensive beer list, but I always drink the $6 pint of house pilsner. The food here is really good and they have a spacious balcony perfect for the broke ass looking to for a little luxury in their night out without being too high class.
The Avenue Pub
Bean Brothers Corner: This is certainly not going to be featured in any guide books of the city. Located in the heart of Central City, it’s a classic neighborhood bar. There’s a vintage late 40s Professor Longhair promo poster hanging behind the bar. I usually go here for a beverage while I’m waiting for the second line to arrive.
Bean Bros. Corner
Milan Lounge: Don’t ask me why I included this Cubs bar into my list. It goes against my home town roots. All sports loyalties aside, it’s a great place to have a drink. You have to be buzzed in to enter this establishment. Once inside, it feels more like a neighborhood joint in the North Side of Chicago than a New Orleans dive, but it’s still cozy. It’s small and intimate. Nothing fancy here.
Buzzed into the Milan Lounge
Parasol’s Bar and Restaurant: This is the epicenter of drinking in the Irish Channel. Though all the Irish seem to have left the neighborhood, the alcoholics remain. They can all be found slouched over this narrow bar space at 3 am. There’s a Dylan Thomas quote at the entrance to the bar that says “An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.” Behind the bar is the restaurant section that has arguably the best roast beef po boy in the city.
Parasol’s Bar and Restaurant
Sportsman’s Corner: This is another Central City classic just down the street from Bean Brothers. This intersection, 2nd and Dryades, is the Uptown capital for Mardi Gras Indians and second lines. See the below description of Handa Wanda’s for more detail.
The Saint Bar and Lounge: There are two different worlds at the Saint. During the day it’s completely vacant. When the bar opens at 7pm, it has an easy going neighborhood dirty dive feel through the early parts of the week, but after midnight, Thursday through Saturday, Mr. Hyde comes out. It transforms into a raging all night discotheque packed wall to wall. I try to avoid the latter world as much as possible, but sometimes it sucks you in.
The Saint Bar and Lounge
The Reservoir Cafe
Handa Wanda’s: This is the real deal. Located adjacent to Sportsman’s Corner on 2nd and Dyrades, there’s nowhere else on the planet like this place. It’s not a bar, it’s not a venue, and it’s not a restaurant. This is the headquarters for the Uptown Indian tribe The Wild Magnolia’s. Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias made this place famous with his carnival classic Handa Wanda. During the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, they host the United Indian Practice every Sunday. They usually have red beans and rice available for free as well as a full cash bar. Check out this link to an article about the place in National Geographic.
Handa Wanda’s, Home of The Wild Magnolias
Inside Handa Wanda”s Mardi Gras Day
Favorite Corner Stores
Browns Derby #1: This is the store Magnolia Project native Juvenile is referring to in Slow Motion, when he says “the Juvenile from cross the street by derby.” The original store on Louisiana and Freret was torn down after Katrina, but it was such a beloved place they re-opened three blocks down the street on Barrone and Louisiana. Best place to eat dirt cheap red beans in the world.
Brown Derby #1
Dat’s Grocery: Though the St. Thomas Projects may have long since been torn down, the surrounding corner stores are still the same. This is the only corner store I’ve ever seen that has the NFL network. They show football games on their surveillance monitors. I was once their first customer at 8am sharp, buying milk, and the guy behind me was buying a 16 0z. can of Busch beer. That man proceeded to drink that Busch beer on the curb outside the store, where he remained for the rest of the day. This is not an uncommon practice outside Dat’s Grocery.
St. Vincent Supermarket: This Irish Channel store also serves Chinese Food. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I’m glad it’s there.
St. Vincent Supermarket
Vicky’s Supermarket: This classic New Orleans corner store keeps this part of Magazine St. grounded in its roots. It’s nice to know you can still get lunch for under $5 in these parts.
New Orleans Term of the Day: Cold drink (cold is accented COLDdrink)- Any non-alcoholic carbonated beverage.
– Say brah, lemme get 50 cents so I could get a cold drink.
Here’s a tune from a Dew Drop Inn legend, Guitar Slim: The Things That I Used to Do