It’s no wonder locals and visitors alike flock to Bywater. With its bright, multi-colored Caribbean-style cottages and exceptional array of restaurants, music clubs, bars and galleries, it manages to compress an entire city’s worth of amenities into 80 square blocks.
Bounded on the north by Urquhart Street, on the south by the Mississippi River, on the east by the Industrial Canal, and on the west by Press Street, Bywater was once called Faubourg Washington and known as “Little Saxony” because of the large German population in the 19th century. For much of the 20th century, the area had a distinctly working class feel to it, largely because of its many double shotgun houses, corner grocery stores, and occasional corner bar. Fine churches served the worshipping needs of the largely Roman Catholic population as did the parochial schools serve the educational needs of the neighborhood’s children.
That was then – this is now.
Bywater has transformed itself in the past 20 years, changing at warp speed, especially since Hurricane Katrina. The one-time somewhat sleepy hamlet buzzes with activity. Art galleries show the works of local and international artists, restaurants land on national “best of” lists, and television shows highlight its distinctive way of life.
It’s the neighborhood where the Society of St. Anne gathers on Mardi Gras before trekking to the French Quarter, where bars now host pig roasts, and where artists live in loft apartments built especially for them. Curious about how it differs from the upriver neighborhoods? Visit the Piety Street market one Saturday and you’ll leave with an understanding of just how funky Bywater can be. Or take a walk in Crescent Park along the Mississippi to gauge how Bywater residents and their guests experience their outdoor spaces.
Want a walkable neighborhood? This is it…with everything you might want no more than eight blocks away. Walking is a favorite neighborhood pastime – it has supplanted the use of cars here, where parking is difficult at best and concern for the environment finds expression, even on restaurant menus. To be sure, hipsters and artists abound, but you don’t have to be one to feel welcome here.
About the name… there’s plenty of lore and even a smattering of facts, yet no one seems to agree on its origin. Did it have to do with a telephone exchange or a U.S. postal service post office name? Did schoolchildren choose it in a competition? It doesn’t really matter. Just as New Orleanians relish a good debate (crawfish vs. shrimp, say, or the right way to peel a crab), so will the moniker be forever debated over beer at Markey’s or breakfast at Elizabeth’s. And that’s just as it should be.
Bywater and the St. Claude corridor offer dozens of opportunities to eat, drink and make merry! Sometimes you can do all three in one place.
1117 Montegut St., n7nola.com. Tucked behind a tall fence, this divine French restaurant and wine bar has both indoor and outdoor seating. To get a seat, show up and hope for the best, because they don’t take reservations.
617-B Piety St., 301-3222, bratzyall.com, Modeled off a traditional German biergarten, this bistro and bakery features outstanding brats, beer and baked goods (hello, bacon and cheese pretzel!) in a festive outdoor courtyard.
Bywater American Bistro
2900 Chartres St. Celebrated chef Nina Compton of Compere Lapin recently opened this spot on the ground floor of the Rice Mill. With chef Levi Raines heading up the kitchen, the bistro offers affordably priced dishes that should make regulars out of the Bywater community.
3624 Dauphine St., 336-3336, bywaterbakery.com. Tucked inside a vivid red corner building, this new(ish) bakery offers both savories and sweets. Don’t leave without a loaf of the raisin bread.
601 Gallier St., 944-9272, elizabethsrestaurantnola.com. This longtime neighborhood favorite breakfast place has the motto: “real food done real good,” and a chef with the culinary menu chops to prove it.
511 Marigny St., 509-6782, paladar511.com. This sophisticated Marigny restaurant with a New York vibe, is the go-to weeknight place for locals, with housemade pastas, pizza, seafood and more.
617 Piety St., 676-8482, pizzadelicious.com. Consistently named “Best Pizza in New Orleans” by Eater NOLA, this aptly named pizza place focuses on high quality ingredients and just the right balance of marinara, cheese and crispy, chewy crust.
2809 St. Claude Ave., 571-5446, poke-chan.com, Hawaiian inspired poke bowls are on-trend, and Poke-Chan follows through with the freshest fish, vegetables and toppings.
Polly’s Bywater Café
3325 St. Claude Ave., 459-4571, pollysbywatercafe.com. Billing its fare as “comfort food, elevated,” Polly’s offers breakfast, brunch and comfort food make from scratch with locally sourced products.
3048 St. Claude Ave., 304-6030, redschinese.com. It’s easy to drive past its unassuming façade, but once you taste the Kung Pao pastrami, you will always find your way back.
3218 Dauphine St, 304-5962, satsumacafe.com. This downtown staple features coffee, tea and cold pressed juices along with a menu chock full of options that will appeal to vegan, vegetarian and meat lovers alike.
2483 Royal St., 944-6666, silkroadnola.com. This Indian-American fusion restaurant with a Creole twist, doubles as a neighborhood wine shop, has specials every day of the week.
4017 St. Claude Ave., 218-5651, yousneakypickle.com. Vegan food with the freshest, locally sourced ingrediants; their vegan Reuben is so good, even a carnivore will crave it.
3054 St. Claude Ave., 942-2047, sugarparknola.com. Pizza, burgers and not-to-be-missed specials, such as Fried Chicken Fridays and Chicken and Waffle Sundays, featuring $2 mimosas alongside Sriracha chicken strips and bacon waffles.
701 Mazant St., 949-3232, alwayssmokin.com. The Joint has been smoking and slow-cooking pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken and sausage with all the sides since 2004, and turning out some of the best barbecue in New Orleans and across the south.
3021 St Claude Ave., 272-0205, junctionnola.com. Funky historic tavern with over 40 beers on tap and an inspired selection of burgers, baskets and fries.
St. Roch Market
2381 St. Claude Ave., 609-3813, NewOrleans.strochmarket.com. The revitalization of this historic southern food hall has become the corner stone of the neighborhood and offers a diverse line-up of up-and-coming chefs, cocktail curators and food vendors.
Frady’s One Stop Food Store
3231 Dauphine St., 949-9688. A corner grocery with takeout breakfast, poorboys, plate lunches, hangover food and groceries. Frady’s is a long-standing resource for Bywater residents.
3301 Chartres St., 947-4348, euclidnola.com. A vinyl lover’s dream with an extensive collection of new, used and vintage records, as well as live performances, lectures and more.
I.J. Reilly’s Knick Knacks and Curiosities
632 Elysian Fields, 345-8966, abicyclenameddesire.com/store/. An eclectic Marigny shop inside a bike rental and tour company, the staff are enthusiastic New Orleans hosts.
LA46 General Store
& Vintage Market
2232 St. Claude Ave., 220-5177, louisiana46.com. Fun vintage shop with jewelry, furniture, art, lighting and more.
Mardi Gras Zone
2706 Royal St., (504) 947-8787. This go-to neighborhood market offers an only-in-New-Orleans array of Mardi Gras trinkets, international groceries and ingrediants, as well as take-out food, including brick oven pizza. Open 24 hours.
New Orleans Art Supply/Bark Market
3041 N Rampart St., 949-1525, nolabarkmarket.com/. Housed in a renovated gym, the business serves artists as well as their
pets. Where else can you buy watercolors and paint, and kibbles and bits, all in one stop?
New Orleans Healing Center
2372 St. Claude Ave., 940-1130, neworleanshealingcenter.org. A community center with businesses dedicated to the spiritual well-being of the community. Shops and services include: a credit union, yoga studio, grocery co-op, interfaith center and more.
Piety Street Market
612 Piety St., 782-2569, 612piety.com/piety-street-market. Located at the Old Ironworks, each second Saturday of the month Piety Street market offers live music, vintage goods, food, arts and crafts and more.
Dr. Bob Art
3027 Chartres St., 945-2225, drbobart.net. A New Orleans treasure, the ubiquitous Dr. Bob makes colorful paintings, carvings and shrines that urge folks to “Be Nice or Leave.”
Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop
2600 Royal St., 947-8358, http://florascoffee.business.site/. Part gallery, part coffee house, this unique cafe also hosts piano players and is open 6:30 am until midnight. It’s a swell place to sit outside and people watch.
1301 Poland Ave., 408-1377, soloespressobar.com. This specialty coffee bar is well off the beaten path, located in a bright and cheery spot a few blocks lakeward of St. Claude Ave. Check out their “guest roaster” every Friday.
2709 St. Claude Ave. House roasted coffee and confections from nearby bakers make this a calming, celestial place in the St. Claude swirl.
The Orange Couch
2339 Royal St., 267-7327, theorangecouchcoffee.com. Cafe meets gallery, the Orange Couch features a pleasant, light-filled atmosphere, plenty of places to sit – including on an orange couch – and a unique menu of coffee, tea and frozen treats.
Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
600 Poland Ave., 948-9111, bacchanalwine.com. What began as a wine shop has morphed into Bywater’s most atmospheric venue for food, music and, yes, wine; recently selected as a 2018 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for Best Wine Program.
4301 Burgundy St., 945-9256, Situated inside a classic cornerstone building, BJ’s has both neighborhood feel and a funk factor, with an ever-changing cast of local characters.
900 Piety St., 945-5762. Bywater has a great collection of dive bars, going back to the days when it was a blue-collar neighborhood. This one, established in 1860, still has guys drinking in dark corners, but also pig roasts, Valentine parties and so much more.
640 Louisa St., 943-0785. Markey’s remains a solid choice for delicious beers and bar food. Fairly unchanged since opening in the 1940s, Markey’s serves Irish staples of Jameson and Guinness, more than two dozen types of beer, no-frills cocktails, and pub food.
Mimi’s in the Marigny
2601 Royal St., 872-9868, mimismarigny.com. Okay so it’s technically in Marigny, not Bywater, but this late-night bar and food option has a vibe that’s true downtown.
941 Elysian Fields Ave, (504) 945-9264, phoenixbarnola.com. This stalwart leather bar is a no-fuss rendezvous for the queer community. Known for their Southern Decadence block party, ice cold beer and no cover, ever. Cell phones are strictly prohibited.
Parleaux Beer Lab
634 Lesseps St., 702-8433, parleauxbeerlab.com. This sleek tap-room and beer lab offers seasonal brews in an industrial but chic environment.
3067 St. Claude Ave, 949-7532, facebook.com/saturnbar. A landmark among Bywater bars, known for its quirky décor, cold beer, cheap liquor, and now, live music.
The Country Club
634 Louisa St., 945-0742, thecountryclubneworleans.com. Part restaurant, part bar and another part private club, the Country Club features a drag brunch on Saturdays. It’s always packed, so reserve early.
4229 Dauphine St., 947-5562. An icon of the neighborhood, made famous by the HBO series Tremé, this bar was established in 1959. It hosts live music and seasonal events.
Lost Love Lounge
2529 Dauphine St., 949-2009, Tucked away in this neighborhood barroom and tavern is a kitchen slinging delicious Vietnamese fare.
940 Elysian Fields Ave., 948-1888. This friendly gay bar in Marigny features acts including sword swallowers and burlesque performers.
2941 Royal St., 330-6231, facebook.com/exhibitbe. A 35,000 square foot warehouse art gallery located near NOCCA and currently featuring the visual work of Brandan “BMike” Odums.
3718 St Claude Ave., 298-3161, antenna.works. A mix of visual art shows and literary events sets Antenna apart from its neighbors on the vibrant St. Claude Corridor.
3201 Burgundy St., 947-3880, porche-west.com. Located in a former pharmacy, this gallery is known for its moving portraits of Mardi Gras Indians, as well as unique exhibits.
Good Children Gallery
4037 St. Claude Ave., goodchildrengallery.com. One of the early galleries that solidified St. Claude as an arts district, “Good Children” refers to the name of the street before it changed from Rue des Bons Enfants.
The Grand Maltese
3040 St. Claude Ave., (504) 330-1051, grandmaltese.com. Multi-media, visual and performance art that is at once compelling, accessible and affordable to the community.
NOLA Community Printshop & Darkroom
1201 Mazant St., nolacommunityprintshop.org/. Adventurous gallery set back from St. Claude adjoins a printmaking studio and darkroom.
4100 St. Claude Ave., (504) 301-8654, nolafront.org. Run by a collective of artists, the Front hosts exhibitions, performances, panel discussions, a film festival and more. Check their website for an ever-evolving list of activities and shows.
Connecting the Bywater community to the riverfront and Crescent Park is the now-iconic Piety Street Bridge. The raw, rusted steel arch, designed in 2008 by architect David Adajaye, echoes the industrial railroad below and the river barge traffic along the Mississippi.
Because of it fascinating geography – nestled into a corner where the Mississippi and Industrial Canal meet – one of Bywater’s most interesting destinations is a “nowhere else” kind of location.
On a map it’s called “World’s End,” but those in the know call it the “End of the World.” Indeed, standing on a tiny spit of earth with the Canal on one side and river on the other, it feels very much as though the world is flat and you’ve reached the edge. Bywater residents dip poles in the water for catfish, build fires, and – when the river is low – walk barefoot on the small sandy beach. Ask a local to show you the way – there is no address.
Nearby (4557 N. Rampart St.) you’ll find the Music Box Village – a one of a kind art installation by the non profit group Airlift. Each “building” on the site is musical, if you interact with it. (musicboxvillage.com)
Then there is Rosalie Alley, a narrow inlet in the 3300 Block of N. Rampart St. between Desire and Piety streets. Visit on a Saturday evening when voodoo worshippers gather. The fences that line the alley are painted with skeletons and symbols of voodoo (the genuine kind, not the hokey version) and there’s a voodoo temple on the route.