Jul 10, 201309:25 AM
Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer
An Endorsement for Frenchmen Street
I’m hanging out on Frenchmen Street tonight!
While this topic wouldn’t warrant a blog post for most New Orleanians, it is a tad unusual for me because my weeknights tend to consist of this sequence: work out, eat dinner, watch "Daily Show," watch "Colbert Report," go to bed.
But tonight I am having a night out because my high school friend is in town again and she has been itching to go to Frenchmen Street. She has never been to that part of the city, so I’m excited to show her around because Frenchmen Street is one of my favorite places in New Orleans.
I’ve heard mixed things about Frenchmen Street from people who have lived here longer than me. Some call it the “locals’ Bourbon Street,” while others think it’s becoming too much like Bourbon Street. And I have to say, Frenchmen Street is one of those places the guidebooks tell you is “off the beaten path,” but that’s probably a stretch. While it’s definitely less known than Bourbon Street, if every travel website tells you something is “off the beaten path,” it's probably on its way to being a path quite beaten.
However, while Frenchmen Street does have a touch of touristy-ness to it, there are parts of it that maintain an eccentric aura that makes the street a popular place for both tourists and locals. And that combination of fame and quirkiness is why I like it.
First, there are the places Frenchmen Street is known for: the music venues. I saw Kermit Ruffins at The Blue Nile one Friday night and it was fantastic. It was my first time seeing him live and I was just so impressed by the whole show that it made me feel lucky to live in a city where people can make their living playing music, being featured on HBO shows and winning Grammys, all while staying active in the New Orleans community.
But while Frenchmen is a great place to see live music, I really like the less famous things along the street. Example: the Frenchmen Art Market. While some of the items sold there are things I would never buy, other pieces are great. I got a silver necklace there that I wear often. I love how an adorable art market can function in the middle of a nightlife spot.
Another truly special thing on the street is Otis Fennell and his Faubourg Marigny Art & Books (FAB) bookstore. To be perfectly honest, I have yet to actually go inside this shop, but I heard about it when we were working on the cover story for the “New Orleans Discoveries” issue of New Orleans Magazine. According to Michael Patrick Welch and Brian Boyles, the writers of our cover story and the authors of the book New Orleans: The Underground Guide, “FAB becomes more and more important as Frenchmen Street becomes more like the French Quarter; if Fennell were to for some reason give up, Starbucks would surely pay stacks for such prime real estate.” I strongly encourage you to read more about the store in the full article here.
And then there are all the other weird things that happen along or right outside of Frenchmen Street, like the guy who asked me for money through a long but amazing rap. I also like the people who sit on the sidewalk using typewriters(!) to write custom poems for about $10.
While you probably know all of this already, I would like to reiterate how special Frenchmen Street is. While I know locals sometimes complain about tourists, tourism is crucial to New Orleans. Locals might not love going to Bourbon Street on a Wednesday evening like a tourist might, everyone can be happy on Frenchmen Street.