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Where Y’Eat: A New Orleans Restaurant Row Revives on Freret

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Ian McNulty
Freret Street in Uptown New Orleans is a restaurant row. Even the Rouses grocery store here has its own in-house restaurant (pictured), with a patio and bar.

One day I was digging into braised beef with plantains at Sarita’s Grill, marveling at how, when this mom-and-pop Latin restaurant first opened in 2009, it had very little company here on Freret Street. Then, I walked directly across that street for a cocktail at one of Freret’s latest additions – Business Bar, opened in 2021 as a hybrid restaurant, bar and remote workspace.

Between these two restaurants stand 12 years of growth and change along Freret Street and its post-Katrina evolution into a restaurant row. Today, an Uptown stretch of 8 blocks has 32 restaurants, bars and coffee shops, among a profusion of other businesses.

Over a dozen years, Freret has seen restaurants close and new ones take their place. It’s had new developments rise from the ground up and older properties converted to new use. It’s seen the influx of chains and the persistence of local mom and pops.

Through the pandemic, it has also provided a focused lens on the struggles and changes for the hospitality business - three Freret restaurants have closed since spring 2020 but seven new ones have opened.

Today, Freret feels vibrant. Spend some time watching Freret Street today and you see different rhythms through the day, from quick breakfast on the run to chill afternoon study dates to the happy hour rush and after-dinner dessert outings.

It all sits at a crossroads of neighborhoods with a large hospital, several schools and two universities on its doorstep, and each facet has influenced its growth as a restaurant row. It also had the history and framework for local small businesses built in. It didn’t have to be invented, it had to be revived and in New Orleans it’s no surprise that restaurants and bars were at the forefront of that revival.

Now the Freret Market is back too, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, with outdoor vendors and lots of food and drink.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.