Where were you when you listened to the best musician you’d never heard of play the best live jazz or blues you’ve ever heard?
If you’ve been to New Orleans and are in on the city’s best-kept “open” secret, you know your answer. And it isn’t Bourbon Street. It’s Frenchmen Street.
A two-block cluster of music clubs, some higher on the “dive” scale than others, Frenchmen Street is where the New Orleans Sound is raw, authentic and stripped to its core. The vibe on Frenchmen Street is different from the vibe on Bourbon Street—is isn’t as packed, at the late-night merriment isn’t in-your-face overindulgent. Party-loving tourists hit Bourbon Street. Music-loving tourists chill on Frenchmen Street, where they blend in with locals and even other musicians of varying celebrity. It’s no surprise, for example, when music royalty like one of the Nevilles shows up—or sits in.
When an in-the-know local tips you off about Frenchmen Street, he or she is directing you more specifically to the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. The entire north-south span of Frenchmen Street is miles and miles long, but the nightclubs—plus lively and diverse bars and restaurants—are at the southern end just off the riverfront, a block east edge of the French Quarter.
Top Places to Go on Frenchmen Street
Here are a few highlight stops along Frenchmen Street:
- Blue Nile Night Club (532 Frenchmen St.) is the place for salsa music lovers.
- Cafe Brasil (2100 Chartres St.) is all about reggae, Latin and sassy horns.
- Snug Harbor Bistro (626 Frenchmen St.) is still considered the prime venue in New Orleans for modern jazz.
- Spotted Cat (623 Frenchmen St.) is small and gets crowded quickly but is go-to place for jazz.
If you’re hungry, there’s no shortage of satisfying food establishments in this neighborhood. Most of the clubs also have full kitchens, but you’ll find an additional cornucopia of cuisines in these restuarants:
- Adolfo’s (611 Frenchmen St.) for Italian.
- Marigny Brasserie (640 Frenchmen St.) for Creole.
- Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St.) for classic soul food.
The food on and around Frenchmen Street is as authentic New Orleans as the music. That says something, because Frenchmen Street is where you’ll find the true music purists.