THE REAL QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS
By Brad Henry
In New Orleans, bawdy Bourbon Street isn’t even half the story in the French Quarter. One block to the east lies the more regal Royal Street: a ribbon of galleries, boutiques, and cafes that extends beyond the Quarter into the more residential neighborhoods of The Marigny and The Bywater.
Where Bourbon Street is your rowdy frat boy, Royal Street is a classy dame, quietly beckoning you with creativity, style and wonder.
Your first stop, near the top of Canal Street, should be the Hotel Monteleone where the Carousel Bar & Lounge captivates visitors who score one of the seats that slowly revolve around the well-stocked bar. Tipplers get a 360-degree perspective of the room under a life-size carousel crown complete with carved cherubs and jesters, mirrors and carnival lights.
Another Royal Street hotel marvel is the 160-year-old cast iron fence of detailed cornstalks fronting the aptly named The Cornstalk Hotel, an elegant 1816 Victorian house where Uncle Tom’s Cabin was reportedly written. Steps away is The Andrew Jackson Hotel, a townhouse-style inn with classic courtyards listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As Chelsea is the heart of New York’s art world, Royal Street anchors the New Orleans art scene. If you’re an art lover, you can’t beat the number and diversity of galleries on this stretch. The street’s many galleries feature top area artists – some of whom you’ll see working on a canvas inside an always open door. Galleries spanning classical to whimsical including Angela King Gallery, Vincent Mann Gallery, Kako, Peter O’Neill Gallery, and local artist Harouni.
Royal Street offers no shortage of cafés and restaurants that offer delicious regional food and a well-deserved break during your New Orleans adventure. Mr. B’s Bistro dishes up classic Louisiana fare in a comfortable, wood-paneled setting. The historic Court of Two Sisters has a daily jazz brunch and an open-air courtyard. Fresh seafood and Creole treats await the hungry at Royal House Oyster Bar while Café Amelie serves a modern take on local cuisine in its own hidden outdoor oasis.
Looking for a fun, yet less touristy Happy Hour? (And frankly, when isn’t it Happy Hour in New Orleans?) The Golden Lantern is a LGBT bar best known as home base for gay-themed Southern Decadence festivities each Labor Day weekend. But it can better be described as a divey neighborhood venue filled with lively locals – often with dogs in their laps who drink water from the bar too. A side room with a slither of a stage also hosts wild drag shows on weekend evenings.
Keep heading east, across Esplanade Avenue and you’ll enter the residential Faubourg Marigny neighborhood and the gateway to Frenchman Street. It’s here where you’ll find the city’s best live jazz venues including Spotted Cat Music Club, Blue Nile, Snug Harbor and Maison. These clubs coupled with the Frenchmen Art Market and street performers create an authentic al fresco music lovers’ scene just minutes from Bourbon Street.
Still have energy? It’s worth the effort to continue on Royal Street beyond the vintage home stores Sterling Provision and M Furniture Gallerie to The Country Club, a true oasis in The Bywater neighborhood nestled within a quiet block on Louisa Street.
This large house has been converted into a multi-room restaurant and a sizable bar that hosts weekend drag brunches with bottomless mimosas.
For a small admission fee, the real treat is the saltwater pool in the back with towels, chaise lounges, a cabana bar, Jacuzzi, and a sauna. The perfect finish line for your multi-mile walkathon.
So go on, be Queen for a Day and take some time to explore Royal Street during your next visit to New Orleans!