Mid-City is known figuratively as the heart of New Orleans. Its central location, adjacent via a short drive or bike ride to so many New Orleans neighborhoods (Treme, Downtown, the French Quarter, Marigny and Bywater, Lakeview, and parts of Uptown), makes it a desirable place to live, work, and play. It’s got City Park, the city’s largest park, as its backyard and lots of terrific dining spots, outdoor activities, and sightseeing. Put simply, Mid-City has it all.
You can explore Mid-City on foot, but other transportation options like streetcar, bus, and bike make it even easier to get around.
Mid-City by Streetcar
Take the red Canal Streetcar line (either Cemeteries or City Park/Museum) and you’ll wind up at the central crossroads of the Mid-City neighborhood at the intersection of Canal Street and North Carrollton Avenue. From there, you’ll discover a hub of casual dining and drinking options all within eyesight. You’ve been let in on a locals’ secret.
Filipino cuisine is being cited as the next big emerging cuisine in the United States, and chef Cristina Quackenbush’s devotion to the cuisine of the Philippines is on full display at the new hotspot Milkfish, with rich adobo, kare-kare (savory oxtail stew), fried rices, and the country’s quirky dessert, halo-halo.
Nearby, there’s the century-old Italian gelato and pastry shop Angelo Brocato’s with the city’s finest traditional gelato and cannoli, along with modern upscale neighborhood restaurant Rue 127 (don’t miss their fried chicken skins when you go). Belly-satisfying Tex Mex and cocktails are at Juan’s Flying Burrito, and a newcomer to the neighborhood Brown Butter Southern Kitchen and Bar, with hearty food from the Deep South.
Take the Cemeteries line to the end of Canal Street, and you’re within short walking distance to Metairie Cemetery, Greenwood and St. Patrick’s Cemeteries, as well as beer central with a killer courtyard at The Bulldog Mid-City, and ultra-modern, Vietnamese-meets-Louisiana food at MOPHO.
If you continue on the City Park/Museum line on Carrollton, you’ll find Chef Isaac Toups’ contemporary Cajun restaurant Toups’ Meatery (definitely go on an empty stomach), as well as Pandora’s Snowballs for a sweet NOLA treat. Shopping wise, there’s Sopo for southern-inspired clothing and housewares and unique gifts; scope out sci-fi and geek-chic books at Tubby & Coo’s, too.
From the end of the line on Carrollton, you’re at the enormous City Park with bikes, boats, tandems for rent, the incredible New Orleans Museum of Art and its adjacent Sculpture Garden, Morning Call in the Oaks for beignets and cafe au lait available 24/7, the Storyland amusement park with its historic carousel and kids’ fantasy playground, City Putt for mini golf, and more outdoor beauty with the city’s oldest and largest assortment of live oak trees along the park’s bayou. Across from City Park is Bayou St. John, where nearby kayak and paddle board rentals are an option. The bayou is a picturesque spot to grab a po-boy from Parkway Bakery & Tavern and have an impromptu picnic.
Mid-City by Bus
From the edge of the French Quarter, the Esplanade Avenue bus (Route 91 /Jackson-Esplanade) passes through Treme and crosses Broad Street into the Fairgrounds neighborhood of Mid-City (home of Jazz Fest and horse and exotic animal racing) toward one of the cutest, village-like hubs of restaurants and shops around.
At Ponce de Leon and Esplanade, there’s 1000 Figs, home to the city’s best falafel and light Middle-Eastern inspired cuisine. Swirl wine shop has wines by the glass available and Fair Grinds Coffeehouse provides a caffeine perk. Try Cafe Degas for traditional French and Lola’s for old-school Spanish paellas, plus Liuzza’s By the Track for some of the city’s best po-boys, including oyster and stuffed barbecue shrimp varieties.
Continue a few blocks farther on the bus, and you’re near St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, City Park, and Bayou St. John.
Mid-City by Bike
The best way to get to Mid-City by bike from Downtown or the French Quarter is typically via one of several routes, like Esplanade Avenue, with its shade-lined oak trees and mixture of shared and dedicated bike lanes.
Biking down Orleans Avenue will get you quickly to Parkway Tavern and Bayou St. John, outdoor courtyard drinking at Bayou Beer Garden, and stick-to-your-ribs food at Katie’s. Pedal down Broad Street over to Banks Street to one of the best Irish bars in the world, Finn McCool’s, or continue farther down Banks and find Mid-City Pizza, the Banks Street Bar for live music with no cover, breakfast and lunch at Wakin’ Bakin’, nightly crawfish boils at Clesi’s, and another drinking paradise at Mid-City Yacht Club.
By bike, it’s easy to take a quiet side street (I’m partial to Ursulines Avenue near Bayou St. John and Pal’s Lounge) and check out the variety of architectural styles throughout the neighborhood. See just what it is that inspires locals to live here, and maybe find a bit of inspiration and beauty in the unexpected.
In summer 2015, the Lafitte Greenway will open, and bicyclists and joggers/walkers will have a new, green route through Mid-City as a reclaimed old canal and freight line becomes the city’s newest urban green space.
All photos by Paul Broussard