Wade into the Bywater
Turning 300 this year and still topping food and travel lists, New Orleans is a city that sits squarely at the junction of the old and the new—and its Bywater neighborhood is a near perfect microcosm. Part of the Ninth Ward and just downriver from the French Quarter and adjacent Faubourg Marigny, Bywater is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Nowadays, it’s home to an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, and an artist community that shows itself in murals and brightly painted Creole cottages and shotgun-style homes.
For a quick bite, stop into Bywater Bakery for its $6 riff on NOLA’s infamous go-cup—they’re filled with combos like boudin hash and eggs or grits and grillades. If you’re looking to brunch, head to Elizabeth’s. While its praline bacon may be just this side of gimmicky, the restaurant serves food with Louisiana roots, like boudin balls with Creole mustard.
New Orleans is a haven of corner shacks serving standout meals on the cheap. In Bywater, it’s Frady’s One Stop Food Store. Your order? Fried oyster po’ boy. Or, make your way to barbecue spot the Joint. There will be a crowd, but the burnt ends are worth the wait. Those looking for something lighter aren’t without options: Groovy courtyard eatery Satsuma Café is a local favorite for fresh-pressed juices and healthful fare. The Sneaky Pickle is heavy on vegetarian and vegan dishes. And Paloma Cafe, the first restaurant concept from the team behind Revelator Coffee, serves Latin and Caribbean plates.
Suppertime brings its own bevy of options. Consider starting at French-inspired hideaway N7, named for the highway that leads Parisians south for summer holidays. Grab a seat on the patio and order a crisp white and some tinned smoked sardines. Another in the tucked-away-courtyard category is Bacchanal. The wine shop, restaurant, and outdoor music venue at the southeast edge of Bywater solidified its presence in the neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina, when it hosted guest chefs who’d lost their restaurants in the storm. Enter through the wine shop—pick out an Old World bottle; there are glasses on the way out back—and prepare to soak up two of the city’s calling cards: jazz and humidity.
Red’s Chinese is a culinary playground for NOLA-born chef Allen Young. Spins on traditional Chinese dishes abound, from crawfish rangoons to kung pao pastrami. Or, make reservations at the Country Club, a circa 1884 Italianate building that opens to a saltwater pool and houses a restaurant where Commander’s Palace alum Chris Barbato crafts sophisticated plates. It’s also a good choice for brunch, when diners can sip bottomless mimosas and take a dip in the pool (day passes from $15). Bywater American Bistro is the new kid on the block, though its chef needs no introduction in New Orleans. St. Lucia-born Nina Compton garnered acclaim with her debut restaurant, Compère Lapin. Her new spot is an ode to the cultures that have contributed to the region’s cuisine, with emphasis on grains and legumes in a nod to the building’s former resident, a rice mill.
In Bywater’s bar scene, the dive reigns supreme. There’s a few you should get to know: At the western edge of St. Claude, Saturn Bar is like a gatekeeper to the neighborhood. The venerable Bud Rip’s is just a few blocks away. And at the southeastern quadrant you’ll find Bar Redux, BJ’s, and Vaughan’s Lounge. Carve out several hours for a Tour de Dive and you’ll undoubtedly leave with stories to tell.