It wasn't too many years ago that the Bywater neighborhood in New Orleans was considered off limits to tourists. Sure, they might cab in to hear Kermit at Vaughan’s on a Thursday night, but the notion of wandering the streets was ill advised. Fast forward a handful of years and this is one of the hottest real estate neighborhoods in town. A restored Creole cottage or shotgun house easily goes for $350,000 and up – if you can even get in the door. Cruise the neighborhood by bicycle for a real dose of Upper 9th Ward charm.
Start your exploration with a cruise down Chartres Street with the river to your right, and head to Elizabeth’s for breakfast. Real food done real good is the mantra here, with hearty plates of shrimp and grits and praline bacon made even better washed down by a signature Bloody Mary.
Maurepas Foods is one cool spot for munching in the Bywater — Photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
Work off your meal with a pedal down river to Piety Street, where you’ll find the striking arched metal stairway entrance to the newly opened Crescent Park, nearly eight years in the works. Continue down to Mazant Street for a bike-accessible ramp to the 1.4-mile recreational walkway along the Mississippi River. The park is a stunner, a 20-acre swath of indigenous landscaping, walkways for jogging and biking, picnic areas, benches, a dog run and two multi-use pavilions.
After enjoying some river views – surprisingly rare in this town – cross Mazant to Burgundy (bur-GUN-dee.) and head up river. You’ll want to stop at 3207 for a visit to Bon Castor, a fun and funky boutique filled with locally made Boho fashion, accessories and art. Owner Amy Knoll is a sweetie, happy to help and chat about local goings on. In the back, in case you need a makeover, Savage Beauty salon is happy to oblige.
The best way to explore the Bywater is to crisscross the residential streets, keeping an eye out for the occasional Second Line parade or offbeat street art. When you get parched, have a drink at BJ’s Lounge at 4301 Burgundy, where the juke box rocks and Monday nights feature music by King James & the Special Men and free red beans and rice.
For a more upscale graze, pop into Booty’s at 800 Louisa, a lively bar that serves a global street food menu. Head to Maurapas Foods for a fresh take on southern soul cuisine.
A terrific way to end your exploring is to head for Bacchanal, an outdoor eatery and wine bar with live music most afternoons and evenings. Located at the bend of the river at 600 Poland Avenue, this breezy venue is ideal for whiling away a few hours over a plate of cheese and fruit, sipping rose and listening to original local music. This place in the Bywater, like so many other local haunts, delivers a slice of New Orleans you won’t see if you stay on the main tourist track.