Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bywater & Marigny: By Any Means Necessary

New Orleans, LA

I struggled a little more than usual with this post. What follows is an ugly shit storm of three separate hikes I did in and around the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods of New Orleans on the final three days of my recent visit. I walked around somewhat aimlessly, took a bunch of pictures, and drank good beer, but now -- almost two months later -- I'm trying to put the pieces together into one, single UBH and I don't think I can (or necessarily should.) Every time I try to condense it all into one route, I leave out some elements of the area that I really enjoyed.

So here's all of it at once. Assaulting your face. In all its craptacular majesty. If you can bear to read on, hopefully you'll come away with the idea that it's a terrific part of town to explore on foot, with lots of good beer to be had, and make your own damn hike out of it. I can't do everything for you -- eventually you have to grab your pepper spray and get out there yourself, shut in.

Here's the map mess I made. Good luck deciphering it:

Bywater & Marigny, New Orleans

View By Any Means Necessary in a larger map

DAY 1 (Red Line)
On the first of the three days, I took the bus to Bywater, where my new friend Sam was having a kick-ass, good old-fashioned Louisiana crawfish boil in his backyard. It was really fucking great -- probably the highlight of my whole trip (tied, perhaps, with bumping into Wendell Pierce at The Candlelight Lounge). Pretty much everyone at the party was visiting from out of town and had been invited merely by chatting with strangers at The Avenue Pub. I can't say enough about how lucky I felt to be included. It was an unforgettable, but I took some pictures of the carnage anyway:

By the time I was finished putting away almost seven pounds of crawfish and a sixer of LA31, I badly needed a long walk. So rather than take the bus back to my Uptown accommodations, I just found St. Claude Ave., pointed my crawfish hole west, and started walking home. It was probably the last thing I needed, but Sam insisted that I stop at Gene's Daiquiris along the way. The selection of rum and syrups here is ridiculous (if you go, take your time with the menu and don't drink it too fast!)

From Gene's, I continued south on Elysian Fields Ave. until practically falling right into a riverside park with a beautiful view of New Orleans' picturesque Crescent City Connection bridge. I spent a fair amount of time here, sipping my fruit-rum shake and gazing out at the silvery water. I felt my time in New Orleans coming to an end and was already starting to miss it.

Cresecent City Connection

By the time I arrived at The Avenue Pub for my routine final beer of the night, I was really feeling the day. Tomorrow, I'm sleeping in. Rest well-earned.

Good advice at The Avenue Pub

DAY 2 (Green Line)
The next afternoon, after a short, sweaty walking tour of the Garden District, I took the streetcar over to the French Quarter and Crescent City Brewhouse. While listening to some other tourists blather away at the oyster chef behind the bar, I had some samples and a large helping of the special Alt brew. It was easily their best beer and went down too fast. They serve primarily German-style lagers -- perfectly refreshing in this climate.

As evening set in, I walked along N. Peters Street into the heart of Bywater. This was one of my favorite walks of the whole trip. There were no tourists -- very few people at all, in fact -- and a lot of really good graffiti and some terrific scenes of urban decay and neglect. I loved every inch.

A little farther along, there are more signs of life, with houses, and a few shops and restaurants. I was planning to have some dinner at Pizza Delicious, but I should've done my god-damned homework: they are closed on Mondays. Luckily, I wasn't out of options. A friend had recently told me about a dinner she'd had around the corner at Maurepas, so I checked it out. I felt a little under-dressed at first (it's a somewhat upscale bistro), but the bartender set me at ease with a dismissing wave of her hand that reminded me of Seattle. My dinner was fantastic. It's a small, but thoughtful menu and the food was made with great care. In a town with so many fine places to eat, I have no trouble recommending a visit here.

After dinner, I decided that I would break tradition and have my last beer of the night at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street. A week prior, I was there to see Glen David Andrews and I'd been wanting to get back ever since.  d.b.a has one of the best taplists in the city and hosts some of the best musical acts, too. It's a must-visit, no matter how long you're in town for.

DAY 3 (Purple Line)
On my last day to play in NOLA, I woke up resolved to knock as much shit off my list as I could. I'd done pretty well with my time there, but there were still a few things I wanted to do before I had to leave, including a daytime walking tour of the French Quarter, trying some authentic beignets, and doing a proper urban beer hike from Bywater to Downtown.

I set out for the Quarter and tackled the first two in the morning, before it got too hot. There's plenty to enjoy here during the day with relatively few distractions. (At night, when all of the party animals take over, it's a very different beast. Still, it's something everyone should see at least once.) I enjoyed my peaceful morning stroll, taking in some of the fine history and architecture, before stopping into Cafe Beignet on Royal St. and then finally heading home to chill out during the hottest part of the day.

A bit later, when the sun was beginning to relent, I grabbed a bus to Bywater and was happy to find Pizza Delicious open and cooking this time. I had to settle for a damn good slice with my beer, but there was so much more to love on the menu. Too bad I was hiking alone or I would've insisted on getting some gnocchi to share. This is a fine place to eat and the tap selection won't disappoint you.

Following Royal St. back toward the Quarter, I arrived at d.b.a. just after they opened at 5pm. This is a good time to visit as Frenchmen Street is just waking up and getting ready for a wild night of music and mayhem. Several musicians dropped by to say hello and have a pre-shift drink while I was hanging out. This is such a cool place and if you don't check it out, you're stupid.

Not far from d.b.a., just inside the French Quarter on Bourbon Street, is Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, one of the oldest bars in America. It's definitely a tourist attraction and can get rowdy, but I got there early enough to avoid the shit-show. I grabbed a seat at the bar, a bottle of Abita Amber, and had a nice chat about Denver with a coy fellow from Cleveland who seemed really hungover. He asked where some other good bars were, but seemed totally turned off by the idea of walking more than 5 blocks, so I was no help to him.

Continuing along through the heart of Bourbon Street, fearfully trying to imagine what this place must be like during Mardi Gras, I hung a left on Toulouse and paid another visit to Crescent City Brewhouse. I had another glass of their fine special Altbier and listened to the jazz trio playing in the corner. It was really starting to get busy now and that was my cue to move on.

Beer at CCB: very refreshing

There are any number of places to stop for a beer and food in the Central Business District (I had a great time at Capdeville on my first night in town), but I chose to head straight for the finish line at The Avenue Pub and call it a day trip.

Well, that closes the books on this adventure, rather anti-climatically I suppose. Next time I'm in the area -- and I hope it's soon -- I'm going to make re-visiting Bywater a priority. There's great urban hiking here and it seems like it's growing at a good clip so there's bound to be more and more places worth visiting in the coming months. I've even heard talk of a couple new breweries opening in the neighborhood.

Thanks again go out to Sam for the crawfish boil invite and Jeremy "The Beer Buddha" for the great recommendations on his blog -- it was an invaluable resource. Here's some more snapshots from the hikes:

No comments:

Post a Comment