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CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to New Orleans

  • By Danny Monteverde
  • Photos by Annie Flanagan
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Bob Dylan probably said it best: “There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better.”

And what’s not to like? There’s the history and charm of the city, the French Quarter is a slice of Europe on American soil, and then there are the people. New Orleans has always been a melting pot, thanks to its location on the Mississippi River, and that mix of European, Creole and African American culture has only become more diverse since Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is a city with fascinating tales and characters around every corner — and there’s so much more to it than the bars on Bourbon Street.

Meet Danny Monteverde

Danny is a sixth-generation New Orleanian who tried living in Dallas once but quickly came home. He spent several years reporting for the Times-Picayune and New Orleans Advocate before moving to WWL-TV. Like any good local boy, he can walk to his mom’s house from his place.

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IN THE ACTION
Warehouse District
This neighborhood was a rundown and largely abandoned skid row until the 1984 World’s Fair. At that point, many of the old warehouses began to find new uses. It’s now a walkable neighborhood full of restaurants, museums, art galleries, bars and condos in buildings that once housed factories. Find this location.
LOW-KEY
Garden District and Uptown
These two neighborhoods, within walking distance of each other, are probably the most recognizable to visitors. It’s here you’ll find the modest shotgun homes and grand mansions that are unique to New Orleans. The St. Charles Avenue streetcar runs through most of the city, from the French Quarter through downtown and the Garden District, ending in Uptown. A one-way fare is $1.25, but make sure you have exact change. Find this location.

Eat

BREAKFAST
Kolache Kitchen
This is a new quick-stop breakfast joint on Freret Street, which has seen a major revival since Hurricane Katrina. While kolaches might be better known as a Texas breakfast food, this local restaurant got its start in Baton Rouge, thanks to an LSU grad from the Houston area. That fact has given some items on the menu a unique southern Louisiana twist.
BTW: Try the boudin kolache. Its filling is a type of spicy Cajun sausage.
Kolache Kitchen, 4701 Freret St. New Orleans, LA 70115
BREAKFAST
Pagoda Cafe
In a city known for its one-of-a-kind architecture, Pagoda Cafe in the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood is an odd sight. The tiny building — which has a roof resembling the temples that lend the cafe its name — was once home to a dry-cleaning business but now is a bustling and inexpensive breakfast spot. Be sure to hit it on a nice day, because the only seating is outside. And while you should expect to wait in line a few minutes, it’s worth it.
BTW: Try the sausage roll — made with sausage from the nearby family-owned Terranova Supermarket, wrapped in a flaky crust.
Pagoda Cafe, 1430 N. Dorgenois St. New Orleans, LA 70119
LUNCH
Taqueria Guerrero
While there are many Mexican restaurants in New Orleans, most are really Tex-Mex. But this Mid-City restaurant feels more south of the border. It opened after Hurricane Katrina as the city’s Hispanic population boomed, thanks to those who came to help rebuild the city after the floodwaters receded. Many stayed, and the city’s already diverse culinary scene grew with the addition of restaurants like Guerrero’s, as neighbors call it. The dining room is no frills, but that’s no matter. The service is fast and the food is fantastic.
BTW: Do not eat beforehand. The servings here are enormous.
Taqueria Guerrero, 208 N. Carrollton Ave. New Orleans, LA 70119
LUNCH
Junction
Once upon a time, the ground floor of this raised-basement home was a neighborhood convenience store where you could grab a cold drink, candy bar or pack of smokes. These days, it’s a burger restaurant with more than three dozen beers on tap and some creative takes on burgers. The owners also run Molly’s at the Market, a French Quarter neighborhood bar, and have brought with them the same welcoming atmosphere that has made Molly’s a longtime local favorite.
BTW: Try the City of New Orleans burger, topped with a fried green tomato and remoulade sauce.
Junction, 3021 St. Claude Ave. New Orleans, LA 70117
DINNER
Liuzza’s Restaurant and Bar
This is one of those restaurants that looks the same as it did when your grandparents went there when they were your age. And chances are you’ll see several generations sitting at the same table, next to people they’ve known for years. Liuzza’s is the quintessential New Orleans corner restaurant and bar, and it opened a few years after World War II. The menu leans heavily on classic New Orleans fare — po’ boys and fried seafood — and Italian food drowned in red gravy.
BTW: Get a beer in a gigantic frosted mug.
Liuzza’s Restaurant and Bar, 3636 Bienville St. New Orleans, LA 70119
DINNER
Blue Oak BBQ
New Orleans is known for food, but barbecue really hasn’t been the city’s thing. That’s beginning to change, and one of the best places to sample that scene is Blue Oak BBQ. Located in a former service station, the space — and neighborhood, for that matter — is filled with the smell of smoked meat. The restaurant has won the local Hogs for the Cause barbecue competition, and you can enjoy whatever you order on the outdoor patio.
BTW: Follow Blue Oak on Instagram to get a heads up on special items on the menu.
Blue Oak BBQ, 900 N. Carrollton Ave. New Orleans, LA 70119
LATE-NIGHT
The Saint Bar & Lounge
There are dive bars, then there’s the Saint. You’ll probably hear this Lower Garden District bar before you see it when it’s popping on weekends. And many who frequent the Saint probably have never seen it in daylight. It’s dark and cramped, and the music is loud, but it’s open late and the drinks are cheap. Inside, it looks like your grandfather’s den from 1963.
BTW: Take a breather on the back patio every so often.
The Saint Bar & Lounge, 961 St. Mary St. New Orleans, LA 70130
LATE-NIGHT
Bakery Bar
This is a different take on B&B: a bar and baked goods. Bakery Bar is open late and features a full menu, including everything from soul food to meat pies to burgers. But this cozy spot is probably best known for its baked goods, including boozy doberge cake (seven layers of cake with six layers of pudding in between) that you must be 21 or older to buy. Fear not, though, parents: Children are welcome.
BTW: Don’t be afraid to order dessert only — they expect it. But you might want to order just one slice of cake.
Bakery Bar, 1179 Annunciation St. New Orleans, LA 70130
(New Orleans illustrator Kelli Laderer for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. It’s pronounced New Or-lins, not N’awlins. And most locals don’t visit Bourbon Street.
  2. Buy beads or catch them during a parade if it’s Carnival season. Just don’t flash for them.
  3. Zydeco music is not a thing here. That’s three hours away in southwest Louisiana.
(New Orleans illustrator Kelli Laderer for The Washington Post)

Do

Kayak-iti-yat Bayou
St. John is a bucolic bayou that cuts through the heart of the city, starting at Lake Pontchartrain. It’s been around for centuries, but only recently have people thought to offer kayak rentals. Closer to the bayou’s end are homes from the late 1700s. As you paddle up toward the river you’ll find mid-century mansions along the banks. You can take a history tour on the bayou to learn more about this unassuming part of the city and the bayou’s connection to its past.
BTW: History tours are reservation-only, and you must have at least two people.
Kayak-iti-yat Bayou, 3494 Esplanade Ave. New Orleans, LA 70119
Canal streetcar line
The St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, with its green cars that glide up and down the magnificent avenue, might be better known, but the Canal line takes you into quieter residential neighborhoods and ends at the cemeteries, which are a sight all their own. The Canal route might appear new, but it has a long history. The line was torn out in the 1960s in favor of buses, but common sense prevailed and the city restored the line in 2004.
BTW: Download the Regional Transit Authority’s app to track the streetcars, which don’t always run on time. Also, make sure to have exact change, because you’ll need to pay cash to board. A one day-pass costs $3 and a one-way ticket is $1.25.
Canal Street, New Orleans, LA
City Park
It’s just a short drive from so many of the regular tourist spots in town, but City Park is often overlooked. The park, one of the largest in the country, is home to ancient oaks, the New Orleans Museum of Art, a golf course, tennis courts, an amusement park, botanical gardens and so much more. And it’s growing. An addition to the outdoor sculpture garden opened in 2019, as did two other draws: new locations for the Louisiana Children’s Museum (15 Henry Thomas Dr.) and a Cafe du Monde (56 Dreyfous Dr.), one of the city’s oldest stands for coffee and beignets (fried dough under a pile of powdered sugar).
BTW: If you’re a runner, take a few laps around Big Lake, which was dug in the shape of Lake Pontchartrain.
City Park, 1 Palm Dr. New Orleans, LA 70124
Mid-City Lanes Rock ’n’ Bowl
What was once a down-on-its-luck bar and bowling alley has for the past three decades or so become one of the most popular places to spend a Friday or Saturday night. There’s food, drink and bowling — and usually live music — with bartenders hula-hooping on the bar. Get there early or pack your patience. A victim of its own success, the wait for a lane often is more than an hour.
BTW: Grab dinner first at Ye Olde College Inn, the sister restaurant a few steps from Rock ’n’ Bowl’s front door.
Mid-City Lanes Rock ’n’ Bowl, 3016 S. Carrollton Ave. New Orleans, LA 70118
Dirty Coast Press
It began with bumper stickers and T-shirts after Hurricane Katrina. The first ones were simple: “Be a New Orleanian. Wherever You Are.” But over the past 14 years, the store has branched out to other lagniappe (a local term for a little something extra), such as beer koozies, stickers, pins and go-cups. Whatever Dirty Coast makes, though, carries an unmistakably New Orleans theme (for example, baseball caps that say “Make Crawfish $1.97/Pound Again”) — and are great gifts you won’t find in other shops around town.
BTW: Check out the flagship store on Magazine Street and make a day of strolling up and down the street, which is known for its mix of art galleries, boutiques and antique shops.
Dirty Coast Press, 5631 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 70115
New Orleans lakefront
The guidebooks will tell you to explore the riverfront. But you might want to consider going the other way — literally. Across town is Lake Pontchartrain, with its seemingly endless lakefront. On weekends, it can get crowded with runners, cyclists, car shows and folks out fishing. But there are a number of restaurants to get fresh seafood, or check out Lakefront Airport, a meticulously restored Art Deco airport, where you can sit at Messina’s Runway Cafe and watch the planes land.
BTW: You might find a bench to sit and watch twilight sailboat races on Wednesday evenings during the summer.
Danny Monteverde
Danny is a sixth-generation New Orleanian who tried living in Dallas once but quickly came home. He spent several years reporting for the Times-Picayune and New Orleans Advocate before moving to WWL-TV. Like any good local boy, he can walk to his mom’s house from his place.
Annie Flanagan
Annie is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in New Orleans.
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