Cruising the information superhighway at the start of this piece (looking for a hipper way to say “hipster,” actually), I stumbled upon slang resource and a term I’d never heard before: nerban, /n∂r-b∂n / (adj.), defined as, “Of or pertaining to urban-nerd culture.” Transfixed, I read on.

 Nerban youth characteristics include, the definition continued, “slick laptops, provocative haircuts … a nauseating command of pop culture trivia and wicked (sic) video game skills,” as well as intellect and sarcasm.

After briefly reflecting on the state of my generation, a particular New Orleans neighborhood popped into mind: Faubourg-Marigny. Though not populated by nerbans (I was told, emphatically, that the Marigny is distinctly “hipster”), the neighborhood is full of character this newly unified population would appreciate.

Nuts & Bolts
So what are the Marigny boundaries? As definitions vary, I sought expert help.
According to Chris Costello, president of the Faubourg-Marigny Improvement Association, and Leigh Crawford, FMIA secretary, the Marigny is bound by the Mississippi River, Esplanade Avenue, North Rampart Street/St. Claude Avenue (see cartographer for details) and Press Street, located a few blocks past, and parallel to, Franklin Avenue. Within these boundaries, shops, bars and restaurants – new and old – are drawing visitors like never before.

It seems only fitting to begin with the place that inspired this examination of the Hipster vs. Nerban debate, Mimi’s in the Marigny. It all started with a mild feeling of déjà vu sensed while scanning the crowd on a recent late-night outing. The crowd of 20-somethings danced arrhythmically, almost as if preparing to sacrifice a virgin in a tribal ceremony, while ever-sassy DJ Soul Sister spun 1970s grooves.

I pondered: Are these the kids from my high school drama club, grown up and on a bender? Perhaps. Regardless, Mimi’s has the potential to serve as a nerban oasis, a neutral ground, as it were, for hipsters and nerbans to meet, eat tapas and dance spastically without judgment.

Music-diggin’ folks might also enjoy a visit to this oldie-but-goodie, Blue Nile. In the ranks of suhc big-name music clubs as Tipitina’s and the Maple Leaf, the Blue Nile holds its own. Brass acts play here regularly; in fact, Big Sam’s Funky Nation recently performed here for a Travel Channel special (watch for a curly-haired girl dancing badly in the crowd; it’s probably me). Other friends of Blue Nile include Irvin Mayfield, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Kermit Ruffins.

The setup at the club is pretty ideal; On the first floor, there’s a small area in which to dance, as well as booths and dimly lit tables along the walls and windows. The curved bar (to the right of the entrance) ensures maximum belly-up room. The mysterious second floor offers a full bar and balcony.

Close by, comfortable couches and chairs cluster near the stage at the Spotted Cat. Above, the walls are bedecked with surreal paintings by Suzanne E. Saunders. The club has space for approximately 75 to 100 patrons, and the stage is tiny (think suburban coffee shop size).

Don’t let the size fool you, though – the Spotted Cat brings in some big-name local acts. The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, for example, are regulars here, playing every Monday and Friday at 10 p.m.

The Spotted Cat opens around 2 p.m., the bartender on duty tells me, and features two, sometimes three, music sets each night. The first set starts around 6:30 p.m. and ends around 9:30. The second set begins at 10 p.m. and ends around 1 a.m. If the evening showcases a third act, it begins around 2 a.m.

Don’t hoot and holler, nerban night owls: Late-night hangouts abound in this neighborhood. Open 5:30 p.m. until around 3:30 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Lazziza affords Frenchmen folk a place to mellow out and enjoy a bite to eat, some live music and the exotic zest of flavored tobacco.
Like many clubs in the neighborhood, Lazziza hosts live music of all genres. Disc jockeys spin two nights a week (DJ Black Pearl on Monday, DJ Bomshell  on Wednesday), brass bands play Friday and Saturday nights, and the speed slows down for reggae on Sundays.

While a quality performance is always appreciated, owner Shadi Jamhour likes to emphasize the restaurant side of Lazziza’s personality. The kitchen serves up Mediterranean favorites such as Haloumi Cheese and Baklawa [sic], as well as lamb, pita and feta dishes. The kitchen also offers American staples such as burgers, pizza, fries and wraps, as well as appetizers, sandwiches and entrees ranging from $7 to $14. (For the lazybones type, the café also offers free delivery.)

The hookah (a Middle Eastern tobacco water pipe) however, seems the standout trait at Lazziza. Diners can sit at one of the sidewalk tables to puff on tobacco in such flavors as white grape, guava, blueberry, rose, mandarin or sweet melon.

Speaking of fruit, bar-goers will feel right at home at The Apple Barrel. The afternoon I visited, an older gentleman sat unconcerned on a barstool, smoking a cigarette and chatting with bartender CJ.

Art by Dr. Bob adorned the walls, and dollar bills of mysterious origin blanketed the ceiling above the bar. An old golden retriever, who’d been napping comfortably, shuffled my way to inspect and, after a quick sniff, turned right back around and plopped back on his spot by the stool. The scene was superbly charming, urban and pastoral, even Rockwell painting-esque.

Apple Barrel owner Liz Montoya (who also crafts jewelry that is sold at the bar) then emerged from a back room to tell me all the mixes (e.g. Bloody Mary, margarita) are made by hand.

Bartender CJ adds her two cents, saying, “Liz makes the best Bloody Mary in town!” Montoya playfully passed the honor back to CJ, adding that CJ’s Punch, titled for its inventor, is their Caribbean cocktail of choice.

Just upstairs, and accessible via an iron-gated staircase inside the Apple Barrel, is Adolfo’s “Creole Italian” restaurant.

The restaurant itself is small: I must have passed the street-side entrance 20 times, never knowing it was there. A nondescript door, labeled with individual letters spelling out “Adolfo’s,” is a passerby’s only clue that Italian delights await within. The entrées, featuring Italian standbys such as eggplant Parmesan and other marinara-laden dishes, run in the affordable $11-$16 range.

Nerbans in search of lighter fare will want to visit Café Rose Nicaud. As all good cafés do, Café Rose Nicaud serves coffee, tea and the like, as well as baked goods such as muffins, bagels and quiche. Quiches rotate flavors, a pig-tailed employee tells me, but the café always includes a vegetarian option. The garlic, red onion and feta variety is a bestseller; for the omnivores, one meat-ed option combines bacon and caramelized onion.

The shop is pleasantly small, offering about 40 seats indoors. Three additional sidewalk tables nestle under the shade of an overhang, providing precious relief from the afternoon sun. You’d be in good company here toting a laptop and working diligently on your Great American Novel.

Schiro’s Café & Bar is pretty novel, too. This true corner joint is a laundromat, local grocery and café all in one. There’s even lodging upstairs at the Balcony Guest House.

In addition to a nice selection of spirits, Schiro’s serves tasty, casual eats such as gyros, wraps, paninis, burgers and poor boys, as well as salads and steak and seafood entrées. It’s a clever place for a date, too: After dinner you can pick up a bottle of wine and take your date home to discuss social politics/play video games/write impassioned blog entries … or have some nerban nookie.
Additional recommendations from FMIA president Chris Costello: Melvin’s, at Elysian Fields and St. Claude avenues – Costello recommends the tamales; and the New Orleans Cake Café & Bakery, at the corner of Chartres and Spain streets, home of the self-proclaimed “Cake Man” (the owner).

Mimi’s in the Marigny, 2601 Royal St.
Blue Nile, 523 Frenchmen St.
Spotted Cat, 623 Frenchmen St.
Lazziza, 2106 Chartres St.
The Apple Barrel, 609 Frenchmen St.
Adolfo’s, 611 Frenchmen St.
Café Rose Nicaud, 632 Frenchmen St.
Schiro’s Café & Bar, 2483 Royal St.
Adolfo’s, 611 Frenchmen St.