The Broke-Ass Insider’s Guide to New Orleans: Uptown Part 1
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 1
Jefferson/Orleans Parish Line to Napoleon Ave.
A Mansion in Uptown
Here’s how it goes: Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesday at the Maple Leaf followed by belligerence at Snake and Jakes till 4 a.m. Slugging $2 well drinks and $1.50 PBR/ High Life at Ms Mae’s followed by a show at Tipitina’s, followed by more $2 well drinks and $1.50 beers at Ms Mae’s. Breakfast at Camellia Grill followed by oysters, beer and football at Cooter Brown’s on Sunday. This is the life of the more refined Uptown college kid using New Orleans like a play ground they plan to abandon as soon as they walk off the stage of the Superdome with a diploma. Many don’t even venture outside of the Boot and Broadway St.’s frat row.
This is the first world of New Orleans that I was dropped into when I arrived as a freshman at Loyola in 2008. It’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; I was only seeing shadows on the wall from the fire behind me, instead of experiencing the real New Orleans. Luckily I had a vehicle to break me free of this sheltered reality and show me how the city truly is. Once free, going back inside the cave no longer seemed so imprisoning. In this case it’s a lot of fun to reenter it, knowing what’s outside, and the best parts to experience are actually on the inside.
There are a lot of different dynamics playing against each other in this part of the city. Most of the wealthy Uptown elites have lived in their million dollar homes for multiple decades and will be damned to see a college student cause ruckus in their neighborhood. But even more so, they don’t want to see any “suspicious characters” from adjacent, lower income neighborhoods, anywhere near their precious lawns. The mere existence of these folks instills fear into the wealthy Uptown elite and make the sheltered, naive college students shiver every time they read about a robbery of one of their own on the way home from Maple St. “Remember, always travel in groups and be aware of your surroundings to avoid being vulnerable to crime,” they read in their college email alerts. All this creates an “us vs. them” mentality that effects everyone involved. Luckily, all you have to do is talk about the speculator grab Marques Colston made on Sunday from a characteristically clutch pass Drew Brees threw with less than 30 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. Football heals all wounds in this city and the good natured spirit of the people of New Orleans doesn’t allow these dynamics to get in the way of a good time.
Miss Annie’s Saintmobile
Anywhere at Carrolton and Jeanette: This intersection for some reason has a bunch of good places perfect for the average broke-ass looking to eat well, but not put too big of a dent in their wallet. My favorite place to eat when I’m painfully hungover is Cafe Nino’s. After a long night, I usually like to be able to look at the food I’m about to eat and allow my eyes to tell my stomach what it wants. Owner Nino Bongiorno is an Sicilian immigrant who initially moved to New York, but must have seen a gap in the stereotypical Italian eatery market in New Orleans, so he came here. There’s something extremely satisfying about the food. They have daily specials available on the steam table and Nino himself is usually there in a white under shirt with tomato sauce stains smoking a cigarette while he tells you what’s for dinner. If you order a glass of wine he gives it to you in a 16 oz styrofoam cup. My other favorite on this corner is Lebanon’s Cafe. They have the best Mediterranean food in the city (not that there’s much competition) for a very reasonable price. If I wasn’t such a broke ass, I’d eat at Boucherie which is right around the corner on Jeanette.
Cafe Nino Lebanon’s Cafe
Guy’s Po Boys/ Domilise’s Po Boys: There is very little to a po boy. All you really need is french bread dressed with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and pickles. The meat varies. Fried seafood or roast beef are the classic types you’ll see on pretty much all menus at po’ boy shops. Both of these places do a good job keeping this simple New Orleans tradition alive. Domilise’s seems a little more off the beaten path, but pretty much everybody knows about it. There is really nothing that special about their food, it’s more just the fact that they’ve been around so long and maintain the old Uptown aesthetic people want to see when they come to New Orleans. Guy’s does a good job offering daily special for their po boys to keep it interesting. Don’t be confused by the twins that work there. The cashier didn’t change shirts and put on an apron while you weren’t looking, they really are identical twins.
Domilise’s Po Boys and Bar Guy’s Po Boys
Hollygrove Market: Holly Grove is rough. This is where Lil’ Wayne and Birdman are from. There are very little redeeming qualities about the neighborhood. There are no neighborhood businesses or bars in the area except maybe the E&C Lounge with a sign saying “no loitering, no white t-shirts, no drugs, no weapons, no hanging pants, no outside drinks,” on the wall. Two days ago while I was riding my bike through Hollygrove I had somebody yell “Hey white boy” from his porch. I didn’t stop to see what he wanted. That’s the kind of neighborhood Hollygrove is. That’s why it’s good to see a place like Hollygrove Market and Farm offering fresh, local produce from their on-site urban farm and community garden space. This is a very cheap place to buy produce for the homebody broke-ass that wants to save money cooking instead of always eating out.
Hollygrove Market and Farm
McClure’s Barbecue: Unlike the rest of the south, New Orleans has never really been known for it’s barbecue. Most people think of Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, or Carolina. This city has always had enough of its own food tradition that barbecue is an after thought. Barbecue at McCulure’s is anything but an after thought. What started out as a pop-up served out of Dante’s Kitchen in Pigeon Town has turned into his own full on restaurant. I’ve eaten a lot of barbecue in my day, and I can honestly say the meat Neil McClure is pumping out of his smoker stands up to any barbecue in the country.
Oak Street Cafe/Riccobono’s Panola Street Cafe: Neither place is better than the other. They both have the same classic New Orleans character to them and they both serve good breakfast all day. Panola Street has a more neighborhood vibe to it but Oak Street has a live piano player. Both good choices for breakfast at noon.
Oak Street Cafe
Brothers Three Lounge: Patsy Cline and Hank Williams pretty much sum up what this dive is all about. A lot of Marlboro Reds are smoked here. Last time I was there I ordered a shot of Jameson and the bartender said I could have one on the house if I shot two in a row no chaser. He had a mustache and suspenders.
Brother’s Three Lounge
Ms Mae’s: This holds the crown as the absolute cheapest bar in the city, and possibly in America. I went there at 6:30 am for a bloody mary before my college graduation It’s a dark and dirty place serving alcohol 24/7. This is where alcoholic go to die.
Robert’s Bar: Robert’s is the type of bar you’d call a college bar when the movie Animal House came out. Today it’s just a dive in the college area, a little too dirty to attract a college crowd. With FREE pool and FREE ping pong, this place is perfect for the broke-ass looking for a good old fashion watering hole.
Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge: The good thing about this place is that you’d never know it was a bar unless somebody told you. The bad thing is that everybody knows. Snake and Jakes is certainly no secret. It’s the type of bar that doesn’t really get crowded until around 2 am. From the outside it looks more like a tool shed than a bar. On the inside it looks more like a tool shed than a bar. The drink of choice here is Schlitz in a can for $2.50.
Snake and Jake’s
Z’otz/First Cup: I had to mention a few coffee shops to give us a break. Z’otz is my favorite coffee shop on the inside, and the coffee is all fare trade. I always seem to run into somebody interesting at Z’otz. Last time I was there I saw a girl with a tattoo of the Big Shot Soda logo on her arm. (Big Shot Soda is a New Orleans brand soda available at corner stores city wide.) Mo at First Cup does a great job waking you up in the morning too. He has the best coffee in the city. All you need is one cup from him to get you going.
Big Shot Tattoo at Z’otz
Maple Leaf Bar: This place is truly dedicated to keeping the music alive in New Orleans. The nightly shows start late and end late. James Booker used to have a weekly gig here in the late 70s/ early 80s. If you don’t know who James Booker is you should. Check out this live video of him at the Maple Leaf in 83′. Rebirth Brass Band packs in the house every Tuesday and local iconic drummer Johnny Vidacovich holds down Thursday nights with a constantly varying trio, often including bass player George Porter Jr. from the Meters. On Sundays during football season, they show the Saints games on a projector in front of the stage and have FREE food in the back patio themed on the opposing team’s city. There’s never a dull night at the Maple Leaf.
Maple Leaf Bar
Tipitina’s: Tips was built in dedication to the New Orleans piano legend Professor Longhair or just Fess’. Behind the stage at is a giant mural of his face. This has become probably the most famous music venue in the city. They do a good varying between touring acts and local.
Favorite Corner Stores
Pigeon Town Food Mart: Located in the heart of my favorite name for a neighborhood, Pigeon Town. Pigeon Town is the area west of Carrolton Ave., and south of Hollygrove.
Pigeon Town Food Mart Pigeon Town Blight
Singletons Po’ Boys and Mini Mart: When the whole city lost power last year after hurricane Isaac, this Black Pearl mini mart was one of the only places open in Uptown, pumping out necessities with a generator.
Singleton’s Mini Mart
New Orleans Phrase of the Day: Make groceries
– I’m goin’ to the stow to make groceries, you need somethin’?
Here’s some classic New Orleans R&B to cap things off this week: Lee Dorsey – Get Out of My Life Woman
photos from the author and French Quarter Condo Trends.