Go big or go home? In the French Quarter these days I’ve been thinking precisely the opposite, and feeling right at home at a clutch of spots that run small to tiny.
These are little bars and cafes and restaurants - and the sweet spot somewhere between bar and restaurant. And they’ve been some of my very favorite places lately.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Killer sandwiches at killer Poboys, and seriously good breakfast at French Toast.
Bar food that’s a step above at Longway Tavern, an modern spot that exudes old New Orleans style.
Excellent coffee at Spitfire and Arrow Café, which together are still not quite the size of one chain coffee shop.
Piano happy hour, gypsy jazz and classic cocktails at the Starlight, a lounge between the chandeliers and old woodwork of a double parlor.
Street food that’s inexpensive, fast and tasty at Small Mart, an exquisitely named Decatur Street bodega for bagels and vegan Indian flavors.
First class cocktails and island style eats at Manolito, possibly the best use of any 500 square feet in the French Quarter.
Of course, the close quarters at all these spots bring limitations. Perhaps less obvious are the opportunities they open.
Start up is easier. Costs and risks run lower. That means interesting new ideas can take root. Because they can’t even try to appeal to everyone, they can become special for some.
Such finds are all across New Orleans. But in the French Quarter the stakes are higher.
If the city’s historic core is to have vitality worthy of its heritage, it has to be relevant to New Orleanians, the people who will add chapters to its story. Places to eat and drink and convene are part of that story, and this neighborhood needs more that are small, quirky and owner-operated.
You can probably add your own to the list. But as much as I love the old classics, I’m glad new players are bringing their flavor, style and character into the very crannies of the Quarter for locals to call their own.
628 N. Rampart St.
1035 Decatur St.
219 Dauphine St., and 811 Conti St.
719 Toulouse St.
508 Dumaine St.
1303 Decatur St.
817 St. Louis St.
627 St. Peter St.