Check out the Bywater neighborhood once you’ve had your fill of the French Quarter in New Orleans. After you experience the Bywater’s unique blend of bohemians, architecture and food, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get there.
When we visit a city, we often visualize ourselves living there. We don’t agree on everything but we agree that when and if we ever live in New Orleans, we’ll likely live in the Bywater.
Hip yet chill, the Bywater is a real New Orleans neighborhood. Despite inevitable gentrification, it retains a funky vibe with rows of shotgun houses next to large swaths of vacant land and the occasional junkyard. But not all of the junkyards are junky. Some are home to eccentric New Orleans folk artists like Dr. Bob.
It amazes us how so many people go to New Orleans and never leave the French Quarter. We once met a guy at the Louis Armstrong Airport who never left Bourbon Street during his entire weeklong trip. To us, that’s just crazy.
We acknowledge that there are gems in the French Quarter and, yes, even on Bourbon Street. Despite the throngs of tourists, we’ve enjoyed many a meal, drink and beignet in the tourist mecca during our trips to the Big Easy. However, we prefer to explore and eat in other neighborhoods such as Faubourg Marigny, Tremé, the Garden District, Uptown and Mid-City even more.
Our Favorite Things to Do in the Bywater Neighborhood
We connect with the Bywater neighborhood’s urban, hipster vibe.
Nestled between Faubourg Marigny and the 9th Ward and situated right next to the Mississippi River, the Bywater is a thriving neighborhood where it’s possible to walk around and explore New Orleans away from the maddening crowds.
We love gazing at the houses and street art whenever we visit. Even the neighborhood’s smallest shotgun houses feature interesting design elements and vividly colorful exteriors.
We never know what we’ll find in the Bywater. During our first time exploring the neighborhood in 2011, we bumped into Dr. Bob’s art studio where we heard about The Country Club, a cool spot to dine and swim in the Bywater neighborhood. Clothing was optional at the time of our visit. Now that was a unique experience!
Every time we wander over to Bywater, we find more things to do, eat and drink. These are our favorites:
1. Eat Breakfast with Benefits
New Orleans isn’t an early morning city, at least not for travelers who stay up late drinking cocktails at dive bars and jazz clubs. However, those who can rally are rewarded when they drag themselves to the Bywater Bakery.
No hidden gem, locals fill the tables and queue for takeaway treats at this iconic bakery in Bywater. But it’s not just a spot for locals. Married owners Chaya Conrad and Alton Osborne welcome all who walk through the doors, especially those who arrive with a healthy appetite.
Expect to chow down on iconic New Orleans foods like Breakfast Gumbo, Muffalettas and Yaka Mein but be sure to save room for dessert. Bywater Bakery is a bakery after all. Desserts include a variety of cookies and cakes as well as some sweet surprises.
Visit Bywater Bakery on a Friday morning if you’re jonesing for bagels.
Bywater Bakery is located at 3624 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70117, United States.
2. Linger Over Brunch
Brunch isn’t difficult to find in New Orleans and the Bywater neighborhood is no exception. Our favorite Bywater brunch spot is Elizabeth’s Restaurant, a homey restaurant with good food and tasty drinks. Dr. Bob must dig it too since his art adorns the walls both inside and outside of the cosy two-story eatery.
Elizabeth’s Restaurant’s menu features comfort food with a New Orleans twist. If you eat meat, you won’t want to skip the Duck Waffle main dish or the Praline Bacon starter. The porky appetizer is big enough to share but you may want to eat it all yourself. In other words, Bacon + Pralines = Delicious.
Order a brunch cocktail. We especially like Elizabeth’s Restaurant’s house-made Bloody Mary.
Elizabeth’s Restaurant is located at 601 Gallier Street. New Orleans, LA 70117, USA.
3. Explore Striking Street At
Any stroll through the Bywater is an opportunity to see a variety of art on walls throughout the neighborhood. Many of these wall murals have a message. Some were even painted by Banksy, arguably the world’s most prolific street artist.
While you may or not agree with all of the social commentary on display, you’ll surely appreciate the vibrant colors and creative expression. Who knows? Maybe the art will spark engaging debate. It could happen.
4. Relax with Wine and Music
Bacchanal is the backyard party we’d go to if we lived in the Bywater and wanted a neighborhood night out. This funky bi-level emporium serves a full menu that can be eaten either upstairs or in the backyard with live music. The menu offers everything from cheese plates to tapas dishes like Gambas al Ajillo to whole grilled fish.
A Big Plus: Bachchanal’s in-house wine shop makes the restaurant one of the best bargains for a night out in the Big Easy. Seriously, how awesome is that? Note – Bacchanal charges a corkage fee for bottles brought from outside the premises.
Plan to arrive early. Bacchanal doesn’t accept reservations.
Bacchanal is located at 600 Poland Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117, United States.
5. Drink Specialty Coffee
Specialty coffee is the fuel that energizes us both at home and when we travel. Our exploration of New Orleans’ third wave coffee scene led us to Pond Coffee for morning caffeination.
Recommended by numerous baristas around the city, Pond Coffee is a relatively new entrant in the New Orleans coffee scene. The shop, situated inside Bywater’s Small Mart, exclusively uses oat milk for dairy applications. At the time of our visit, beans on offer hailed from Exile and Pretty coffee roasters.
6. Get Your Art on at Studio Be
The massive mural on the Studio Be building is just a tiny taste of the art on display inside the 35,000 square foot warehouse. Those who enter the building are confronted by a barrage of striking murals spray painted by Brandan “BMike” Odums.
Odums is known around the world for his provocative grafiti and murals. However, Studio Be in Bywater is the best place to experience his art in person.
Buy a print or souvenir at Studio Be’s gift shop if you want to take a memento of the studio home with you.
Studio Be is located at 2941 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70117, United States.
7. Chill at a Beer Garden
Just because New Orleans is located 5,000 miles, give or take, from Berlin doesn’t mean that locals and food travelers can’t chill at a beer garden every now and again. In Bywater, Bratz Y’all! fits the beer garden bill.
The local eatery doubles as a cheap eats destination thanks to its menu filled with bargain-priced German food favorites and a beer garden thanks to its… wait for it… beer and garden.
If there’s anything better than chilling at Bratz Y’all after walking around Bywater in the humidity, we can only think of one. It’s chilling at Bratz Y’all with a cold stein of beer while a local, ragtag Cajun duo plays songs like Jambalaya (On the Bayou).
Don’t skip Bratz Y’all! if you don’t drink beer. Beyond its comprehensive selection of German beer, beverage options include wine and iced tea (both sweet and unsweetened).
Bratz Y’all! is located at 617-B Piety St, New Orleans, LA 70117, United States.
8. Splurge on Dinner
Bywater holds its own when it comes to fine dining in New Orleans. Despite its alternative atmosphere, Nina Compton, the Top Chef winner who helms Compère Lapin, opened Bywater American Bistro in this neighborhood. The neighborhood is also the home to N7, a quirky restaurant that made Bon Appetit‘s best new restaurant short list in 2016.
Dining at N7 requires a bit of effort. The restaurant, helmed by Chef Yuki Yamaguchi, is hidden behind a wooden fence and doesn’t take phone reservations. But a seemingly secret world awaits, along with a Japanese inspired modern French menu, for those who plan ahead and venture beyond the aforementioned fence. In this world, al fresco dining, bistro food and natural wine are the main event.
9. Drink Cocktails
While Bywater may not be NOLA’s cocktail epicenter (that honor goes to the French Quarter), it still has more than its fair share of watering holes.
Down and dirty drinkers will want to head to St. Roch Tavern, on the neighborhood’s western edge, a divey neighborhood bar chock full of character and cheap drinks. While that suits our mood when we’re craving Bloody Mary’s served with PBR chasers, bistro bars like Saint-Germain are typically more our speed.
Not surprisingly based on its name, Saint-Germain channels the best restaurants and wine bars in Paris. It also offers an innovative cocktail program with drinks featuring spritzes, mezcal, and, of course, St-Germain.
10. Shop for Folk Art
The Dr. Bob folk art studio is a fun stop to make in Bywater. You can see Dr. Bob’s art all over New Orleans. Those folksy bottle cap signs that state “Be Nice or Leave” – that’s Dr. Bob.
You can buy and peruse art in this funky Bywater art studio junkyard and, if you’re lucky, you can also meet the eccentric doctor himself. We didn’t meet him during our first visit, but we met him on our second visit and chatted about colorful topics including post-Katrina New Orleans, gentrification, fracking and, of course, Po-Boys.
Read about our favorite Po Boy in New Orleans.
Don’t be deterred by the junkyard exterior of Dr. Bob’s studio – it’s an intriguing spot and a great place to buy reasonably priced folk art that will remind you of New Orleans when you’re back home. We recommend making a $30 purchase here instead of at a tourist trap store in the French Quarter, unless you’re shopping for a snow globe for your niece, as happens.
Dr. Bob Folk Art is located at 3027 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA, USA.
11. Pay Homage at St. Roch Cemetery
Dating back to the 19th Century and also known as Campo Santo (Holy Country), St. Roch Cemetery gets its name from the patron of miraculous cures and dogs. The cemetery grounds here are fascinating to explore including the cemetery’s unique selection of decorative tombstones, mausoleums and statues.
Just like the city itself, St. Roch Cemetery is a cultural melting pot. Along with numerous Italian names memorialized in the cemetery, Spanish, French and Germans names, some of which appear to be Jewish, can be spotted as well.
Don’t miss the small chapel on the cemetery grounds. It’s filled with interesting offerings for St. Roch, all related to the namesake saint’s ability to heal the sick and infirm.
St. Roch Cemetery is located at 1725 St. Roch Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA.
Where to Stay in New Orleans
Staying at a comfortable, convenient hotel is a must in New Orleans. During our most recent visit, we stayed in the following two hotels that met these criteria:
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
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