Riding along the Saint Charles Avenue streetcar is the kind of experience that a lot of us can go for — inexpensive and accomplished by sitting. And if the French Quarter starts to feel a bit crowded, the six mile, tree-lined ride Uptown can offer tranquility and fun. Riding the streetcar also gives visitors the chance to cover a fair amount of ground, including glimpses of some of the city’s most elaborate houses, Loyola and Tulane Universities and Audubon Park. Add to this the chance to stop and have a cocktail or indulge in some quality eats, and the trip easily justifies a day.
First opened in 1835, the Saint Charles line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar system in the world and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though built much later, the current cars are identical to the ones used in 1923 and best experienced on warm days when the windows are opened. With the purchase of a one day Jazzy Pass, visitors can save on both the hassle and cost of taxis.
Restaurants and businesses dominate the section from Lee Circle to Jackson Ave. Though you will spot elegant homes beginning after Jackson, the greatest concentration of the mansions the Avenue is famous for are found between Napoleon Avenue and the universities. Once the streetcar turns from Saint Charles for its final stretch along Carrollton (once it’s own village and annexed to the city in the 1870s), you’ll find more cafes and restaurants. But why not combine activities — cocktails, streetcar, touring, architecture — all in one go?
Dining and Drinking Route
Here are some of our favorite streetcar line pit stops, none of which require reservations:
Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. The ground floor of this three story pink antebellum house offers an intimate glimpse into New Orleans’ architectural past as well as stiff drinks and from 10 pm., live music. The fading mural behind the bar pays homage to New Orleans’ steamboat days. The Circle Bar is located at 1032 Saint Charles Avenue in Lee Circle in the Central Business District.
Slender and hip, this popular pizza joint serves an array of thin crust pizzas and slices from their regular menu as well as ever changing specials. Draft beer and wine are available. Slice is located at 1513 Saint Charles Avenue and is open every day for lunch and dinner.
This craft beer bar has an excellent draft selection, including both local microbrews and European imports as well quality burgers and over the top fries that make the Pub a popular hangout with locals. The Avenue Pub is located at 1732 Saint Charles Avenue and is open every day.
Known for its upscale draft beer and wine list, the chic and narrow Delachaise feels like a polished French train. Outside seating faces the Avenue. They offer $5 glass of wine specials daily and a continental-inspired menu, including goose fat fries and cheese plates. Delachaise is located at 3442 Saint Charles and is open every Monday – Thursday from 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. and Friday – Sunday from 12 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Designed by famed architect Thomas Sully and on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1883 white columned Italianate mansion is a favorite among locals, both for its shaded front porch and for its wood paneled Victorian bar. Soaring ceilings and ornate trim make every visitor feel a little bit richer. The Columns offers Jazz brunch on Sundays from 11a.m. – 3 p.m and is located at 3811 Saint Charles in Uptown.
Housed in a former bank, this elegant and light-filled space on the corner of Oak Street is the perfect place to fuel up a cup of coffee and a pastry before heading back. Note: the first couple of blocks of revitalized Oak Street, with its shops and even more food options, are also worth a detour. Rue de la Course is located at 1140 South Carrollton and is open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. and weekends from 7: 00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.
Casual, inexpensive and with several vegetarian options, this popular Middle Eastern spot has been a favorite with the university crowd for years. On warm days, both Lebanon and its neighbor, Cafe Grenada, offer sidewalk seating. Lebanon Cafe is located at 1500 South Carrollton Ave. and is open every day for lunch and dinner.
Cafe Granada serves reasonably priced, flavorful Spanish-inspired tapas, including merguez and frites and a ceviche of the day as well as entrees such as seafood paella. The gourmet bocadillos sandwich menu at lunch is especially a steal. Cafe Granada is located at 1506 South Carrollton and is open every day for lunch and dinner.
About the Saint Charles Streetcar line and fares:
See the RTA website for information on streetcar routes and schedules. The streetcar does not run 24 hours a day.
One day (4 a.m. to 4 a.m.) Jazzy Passes are available in Walgreens. Unlike a regular fare which requires $1.25 in exact change, the pass is just $3 and allows riders unlimited stops. Passes can also be purchased directly from the conductor.
Allison Alsup is a writer and teacher in New Orleans and has extensive experience renovating older homes. She is the co-author of the The French Quarter Companion, a Drinking Guide to America’s Most Eclectic Neighborhood, to be published Fall 2013 from Pelican Books.