The Urbanist’s New Orleans: What to Do

Map by Remie Geoffroi

Leave Bourbon Street to the Tourists
Part alt-college town, part faerie-anarchist commune, the Marigny/Bywater neighborhood attracts both semiotics majors and gutter punks. In this faubourg, palm trees are lit with blazing sunshine, handmade costumes are as common as skimpy sundresses, and the vibe is always a little trippy.

1. The AllWays Lounge & Theatre
2240 St. Claude Ave.
One night might offer square dancing, the next could showcase an erotic disco circus inspired by A Streetcar Named Desire.

2. St. Roch Tavern
1200 St. Roch Ave.
The cheekily named vegan restaurant within, O! Vegasm, is open every day but Monday, but the real fun comes Saturday nights when underground queen Big Freedia’s D.J., Rusty Lazer, runs the sweatiest sissy bounce party in town—ripe physically and olfactorily with crust punks.

3. Mimi’s in the Marigny
2601 Royal St.
This neighborhood bar—often blamed for sparking the area’s gentrification—hosts an always-packed soul-funk dance party on Saturday nights.

4. Mudlark Public Theater
1200 Port St.
A black-box theater that’s also home to Big Dick’s House of Big Boobs DIY strip club.

5. The Country Club
634 Louisa St.
Come for the bottomless Mimosas; stay for the topless suntanning at the clothing-optional pool (day passes from $10).

6. Satsuma Café
3218 Dauphine St.
The go-to joint for juice cleanses, quinoa salads, and hippieish freelancers pecking away at MacBooks.

7. Dithyrambalina
1027 Piety St.
An interactive “shantytown” installation built by sound artists and sculptors using salvaged materials. Reopens April 14.

8. The Front Gallery
4100 St. Claude Ave.
This multiroom patio-equipped space recently hosted an edible-insect installation where dairy goats were hailed as guests of honor.

9. Good Children Gallery
4037 St. Claude Ave.
A community hub exhibiting local and global talent.

One City, Two Ways
Bryan Batt, whom locals know as the co-owner of home-furnishings boutique Hazelnut and everybody else might recognize as Sal from Mad Men, parses his hometown.

Commander's Palace and Café AtchafalayaPhoto: Courtesy of Commander's Palace (Palace); Courtesy of Rachael Jaffe Tocco (Café Atchafalaya)
Photo: Patrick McMullan

Outdoor Festival

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival ( has gotten so big—if the weather’s beautiful, forget it. I couldn’t be there for the first fest after Katrina, but my parents got to see Irma Thomas sing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ ”

Au Current:
Hogs for the Cause ( started with people just having a pork roast on the levy, trying to raise some money. But in four years it’s grown into this enormous event; there’s everything made with a pig you could imagine.”

Shopping Mecca

Magazine Street is a six-mile strip of clothing boutiques, antique shops, galleries, and restaurants—almost all of which are locally owned.”

Au Current:
“There’s been a resurgence on Oak Street uptown. It has the feel of a small town, with lots of coffee shops and vintage and antiques stores.”

Brunch Spot

Commander’s Palace (1403 Washington Ave.) is the grand dame of fine dining; the jazz brunch on Sundays is divine. Glass walls on the second floor look out on the courtyard; sitting up there feels like being in a tree house.”

Au Current:
“I love the self-service Bloody Mary bar at Café Atchafalaya (901 Louisiana Ave.). They give you a glass with vodka, every possible accoutrement, and I don’t know how many hot sauces. The fried green tomatoes are fantastic, too.”


“Many people love the crusty old St. Louis cemeteries and make pilgrimages from all over to leave offerings for Marie Laveau.”

Au Current:
Metairie Cemetery is where I’ll be one day. The Victorians really know how to do death; their aboveground monuments are spectacular.”


“People line up for Pascal’s Manale (1838 Napoleon Ave.). Like a lot of the better oyster restaurants, they have their own beds in the area.”

Au Current:
Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St.) does oysters with caviar and melted Parmesan. And don’t dare leave without trying a Bourbon milk-punch shake.”


Maurice French Pastries (3501 Hessmer Ave.) makes galette des roi, or king cake, with almond-flavored filling.”

Au Current:
“The gelato at Sucre (3025 Magazine St.) is to die for, and the pastries are little works of art.”

SiberiaPhoto: Elsa Hahne/Offbeat Magazine

All That’s Not Jazz
Swamp-tech auteur and Upper Ninth Ward resident Quintron surveys the musical landscape.

D.J. Pasta at Mimi’s
2601 Royal St.
“He does a biweekly night called Alligator Chomp! Chomp! at Mimi’s in the Marigny, playing mostly old New Orleans swamp pop.”

Katey Red
“The godfather of sissy bounce: dirty, nasty, fast, block-party music. This is pop in New Orleans: a cross-dressing rapper making beats with not much hook and a lot of crazy ass-shaking.”

Domino Sound Record Shack
2557 Bayou Rd.
“Domino is great for world music or weirdo genres like avant classical. They also have cheap, used everything: zydeco, punk, R&B, whatever. Just let them guide you.”

Nuthin’ But Fire
1840 N. Claiborne Ave.
“If you want to find out about bounce or hip-hop events, underground or otherwise, go to this insane record store.”

2227 St. Claude Ave.
“The new club that’s completely changed the game—with punk and metal seven nights a week. It looks like a shitty dive bar but sounds awesome, and the beer is cheap.”

Guitar Lightnin’ Lee
“He’s an old-school blues guitar player backed by this young, white punk band, Die Rötzz. He’s really on fire right now.”

Hi-Ho Lounge
2239 St. Claude Ave.
“The Stooges Brass Band has a Thursday-night residency here, and a friend of the band makes killer barbecue out front. That’s a good combo.”

“My favorite radio stations are WTUL, the free-format college station at Tulane, and WWOZ, which is heavy on the jazz-blues tip but completely devoted to local music. Tune into this when you first drive into the city.”

Where It’s Always Fat Tuesday
Under-the-radar alternatives to the tourist-stampeded Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.

The Germaine Wells Mardi Gras MuseumPhoto: Brian Huff

The House of Dance and Feathers
1317 Tupelo St.; 504-957-2678; by appointment
In what’s otherwise known as the shed in Ronald W. Lewis’s backyard sits a trove of artifacts from the city’s longstanding social-aid and pleasure clubs. Lewis lost most of his original collection in Hurricane Katrina but, with the help of his neighbors in the Lower Ninth Ward, rebuilt the archive, one hand-beaded costume at a time.

Germaine Wells Mardi Gras Museum
813 Rue Bienville, second fl.; 504-523-5433
Located within Arnaud’s Restaurant (named after the daughter of Count Arnaud), this overlooked museum houses a bevy of costumes worn by Wells during her 22 or so turns as queen of the various Mardi Gras balls—more than any other woman in the history of Carnival. Photos, masks, and “crown jewels” round out the collection.

Backstreet Cultural Museum
1116 Henriette Delille St.; 504-522-4806
Sylvester Francis began shooting still images and Super 8 films of jazz funerals, second-line parades, Skull and Bone gangs, and Mardi Gras Indians more than 30 years ago; in 1999, he went public with his collection. Today, Backstreet’s Mardi Gras inventory is considered among the city’s most thorough.

The Urbanist’s New Orleans: What to Do