New Orleans’ Rebound Goes Far Past The French Quarter

NEW ORLEANS–The Bywater is one of the hippest neighborhoods of this city.

About a mile out of the French Quarter along the natural levee of the Mississippi River, you will discover a craft market, artist galleries, a guitar shop, a record store and lounges. Artists Young professionals, photographers and musicians live side by side in cottages and shotgun houses.

But do not compare it to the Brooklyn, that hipster mecca of the East Coast of New York City.

“People keep calling it that the Brooklyn of New Orleans, but that’s not what it is,” says Kevin Farrell, a 30-something Bywater restaurateur. “It’s its own thing. It is a very unique, special location.”

It is. The Bywater and other up-and-coming neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter are a testament to the resilience of the Big Easy. New Orleans has not just re-emerged but grown up, ten years after Hurricane Katrina demolished a sizable swath of the town. Entrepreneurial drive, A thriving tech scene and affordable housing are bringing young people that few would venture to a decade past.

“What Katrina did was it enabled a group of encouraged young professionals to get acclimated to the city in a way that maybe was not available prior to Katrina,” states Justin Shiels, the 29-year-old publisher of, a civilization magazine. “Lots of small businesses have opened that are distinctive and distinct from what you would expect to find out before Katrina.”

Entrepreneurs such as Sonali Fernando, 31, who transferred into New Orleans are launching restaurants with menus that go beyond the New Orleans fare of gumbo and jambalaya.

The restaurant that she co-owns with chef Jonathan Lestingi, Oxalis, concentrates on gastropub fare. The food is intended to be paired with the beverage options. “It’s pub forward,” Fernando says.

The menu is seven of which can be drinks, including spirits, cocktails, beer, and wine. Whiskey is a specialty. The restaurant is known for its hamburger but the menu is vegetarian.

The Bywater was a natural fit for Oxalis. Fernando, who was a “hurricane senior” at Loyola University, lived and spent decades in the neighborhood for a student and an adult.

She frequented Bywater Bar-b-que, the restaurant that used to be located.

“I felt quite confident about being here,” she states. “It was an opportunity to maintain a location which I felt more a part of a community.”

She has seen the area change through the years. It has always been a place that brought artists and creative forms, ” she states. Currently there is an influx of people, particularly in their 20s and 30s, moving out of cities such as Chicago and New York. “It’s changing a great deal,” she states.

Just a couple blocks away is a new raised pedestrian bridge across Crescent Park, which opened this past year. The Piety Street Arch, or the “rusty rainbow” as locals call it, provides a glorious view of the mighty Mississippi and the French Quarter. I stand in silence with artist CJ Smith while a measure is sat on by a artist and sketches the scene.

Smith, 25, moved from Minnesota to New Orleans last year. “The people, culture, energy and history, but above all, the songs made me do it,” he says.

One evening I go to Bacchanal by myself , a wine store, pub and eatery having a backyard patio which has bands.

I throw down my credit card before recognizing that there’s a minimum and order a glass of wine. “No worries,” the clerk informs me when I do not reach that threshold that, coming from New York City, is something which has not happened in a long while.

I settle into a seat outside and sip on my Portuguese vino verdhe whilst listening to the “gypsy jazz band outside,” as the sign states. But this being New Orleans, I make.

Sara Hoge, who is sitting at the table, is seeing with New Orleans from Minneapolis to celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary.

I buy them a round of drinks to celebrate their landmark.

“It is as idyllic as I thought it’d be,” she says of this city .

Only five miles off, mixologist Neal Bodenheimer, 38, is expecting Freret Street– or the “brand new” Freret Street–will be just as idyllic.

The New Orleans neighborhood is located several blocks from Tulane and Loyola universities’ campuses.

Bodenheimer opened in 2009. An art cocktail bar on a street where canned beer was the preferred beverage was rather a risky enterprise at there.

A native of New Orleans, Bodenheimer had transferred to New York and built a thriving career.

After Katrina, he felt a duty to come back to his hometown to uptown New Orleans.

“People were just trying to determine what it was likely to be,” he states. “It was rough. It just needed an investment.”

His investment has paid off. Other companies followed, such as Dat Dog, a hot dog joint and Company Burger after Heal opened.

“it is a fantastic barometer of what is happening to the city and also the health of the town, almost 10 years after Katrina,” he says.

The menu of Bondenheimer incorporates inventive drinks like Man and the Andalusia with cognac, sherry, rum and bitters, with a complete egg, whiskey, cherry, and lotion.

Music venues like Publiq House and Gasa Gasa have opened nearby, drawing on on an eclectic crowd. Following a drink at Heal, I pop into Gasa Gasa to listen to some ring. A guy in a donkey mask walks in as I sip on a $4 beer near a knight in shining armor that is taller than I am.

No one appears to think it strange. So I hit up a conversation with the costumed guy, Dave Coll, who resides nearby.

“This road used to have nothing but a hardware shop and auto-shop,” he says. “This is NOLA, it is not like any other location.”