If it's music that you crave or just a peek into the New Orleans way of life, then Frenchmen Street is a must-see. Known as the "locals' version of Bourbon," Frenchmen is an entertainment district located within walking distance of the French Quarter. It offers an amazing variety of venue styles and music ranging from traditional jazz to blues to reggae to rock all week long. Many clubs along the strip don't even charge a cover! But in true New Orleans fashion, do give a cheer after a great trombone solo and throw a few bucks in the tip jar to show your appreciation.
Frenchmen offers a lively street culture that means the fun spills out from the bars and music venues. Sketch artists and poets line the sidewalk and bluegrass and gypsy jazz pick-up bands nestle into stoops along the strip. Brass bands are commonly found on the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen, and before you know it, you'll be dancing in the streets like a local.
Grab a bite or cocktails or both at one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the street. Traditional Creole, world fusion, Mexican, sushi and vegetarian options are all just steps away.
A visit to the Spotted Cat Music Club (623 Frenchmen St.) will transport you back in time as traditional jazz takes center stage at this cozy venue that is a favorite with locals. Regularly featured bands include the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Cotton Mouth Kings and the New Orleans Moonshiners. Seating is limited and dancing is the preferred way to take in the show. In fact, the club hosts a free introductory swing dance lesson every Wednesday at 5pm, taught by the NOLA Jitterbugs. The Spotted Cat is the perfect place to begin an evening on Frenchmen due to their early evening shows.
Lagniappe*: No cover! (But be sure to tip the band to show your appreciation.)
Another venue sure to get you moving is the Blue Nile (532 Frenchmen St.). Housed in the first building that was constructed on Frenchmen Street in 1832, it became the first music venue on the street in the early seventies, as the legendary Dream Palace. Today, Blue Nile is a Frenchmen hot spot known for its solid performance schedule and embodying the New Orleans vibe. The club hosts eclectic performances from local, national and international entertainers and standard local acts range from brass bands like The Soul Rebels to the funky rock of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. Performances run Tuesday through Sunday evenings and the venue offers a spacious dance floor with plenty of room for dancing and taking in that evening's performance.
Lagniappe: Window booth seating is exceptional for people watching.
The sophisticated Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen St.) features performances generally categorized in the jazz vein. Probably most famous for their Friday night Ellis Marsalis shows, Monday evenings featuring Charmaine Neville are a surefire people-pleaser as well. With two shows nightly at 8pm and 10pm, the club offers limited, cabaret-style seating and guarantees an intimate experience where you will be inspired to sit back, relax and truly connect with the music. Enjoy a meal in the dining room or grab cocktails in the bar - both spaces are perfect for socializing within earshot of the music.
Lagniappe: Take in local art; the club doubles as an art gallery.
Part cocktail bar, part restaurant, part musical venue, Three Muses (536 Frenchmen St.) is a welcome addition to the Frenchmen Street scene. Offering a New Orleans trifecta of food, drink and music, Three Muses appeals to young and old, visitors and locals alike. The establishment is a prime location for relaxed networking in a creative environment. The bar mixes up specialty cocktails such as their orange-blossom sazerac or blueberry bellini, and the kitchen offers a wide range of small and large plates including delicious vegetarian options. Music ranges from traditional jazz to independent songwriters.
Lagniappe: You might just catch Miss Sophie Lee, one of the proprietors, on stage performing.
Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen)
Just as exciting as their famous candy, the Praline Connection offers a variety of soul food, recipes, spices and seasoning including New Orleans gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice and barbecued shrimp. Enjoy excellent meals at affordable prices.
The Marigny Brasserie (640 Frenchmen)
With a chic interior, yet a casual atmosphere, the Marigny Brasserie serves delectable Creole and Italian cuisine. The bar offers seasonal specialty cocktails and an extensive wine selection. Sit down to dinner, dine and drink at the bar or take advantage of the outdoor seating prime for people-watching.
*Lagniappe is New Orleans speak for "a little something extra."