My Favorite Block
New Orleans is rich with quirky streets and addresses where there’s a story to tell, like the house on Caffin Avenue that Fats Domino lives in and the red Creole Frenchmen Street home where Jelly Roll Martin grew up. No block captures so much within a short distance as the stretch along Bordeaux Street between Tchoupitoulas and Annunciation streets. Explore what, at first, appears to be a plain looking block and there’s something for all the senses. To begin, at the corner of Tchoupitoulas stands a culinary place of global importance within its genre. Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is proclaimed, by me, to be the world’s greatest snowball stand. The one and only ice crusher machine that Ernest Hansen invented to spew out a fine snow still exists. It is splashed by syrups made in the spirit of co-founder Mary Hansen, whose granddaughter, Ashley, has taken the business to another generation.
While munching on your Sno-Bliz (that’s what they call it) walk down the block from the river and notice the big unimposing warehouse to the left. There are no markings to indicate what’s inside. This looks like the sort of place where drain pipes, or maybe sacks of concrete mix, would be stored. Instead, the place is filled with fantasy. During the final weeks leading to Mardi Gras, when the freight doors are most likely open, take a look inside and notice the swirl of color. This is a float den for three old-time Carnival krewes; Proteus, Chaos (formerly Momus) and the resting place for what remains of Comus, which no longer parades but has the distinction of being the group that started the city’s continuing parading tradition. Supposedly Comus’ King’s float, that once waddled along St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras night, remains intact.
Somewhere in the neighborhood, the man who most personifies local culture, Deacon John, lives. When they were kids, the Neville Brothers resided in the neighborhood, too. Around the corner at Annunciation and Lyons Streets, stands Grit’s Bar which, one day a year, has become an epicenter for Carnival street culture. This is where both the Lyons Marching Club and the Jefferson City Buzzards converge during their practice marches on the Sunday before the Carnival parades start. Meanwhile, the Phunny Phorty Phellows are in the back sucking on crawfish.
Our cover story is about Uptown, where there are lots of discoveries. If you need more, go back to Tchoupitoulas at Bordeaux. F & M Patio, one of the city’s great dance bars, is at the end of the block. You might even be able to hear the Neville Brothers on the jukebox.