The 13-block of Bourbon Street stretches from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and is packed with bars, clubs and restaurants. There’s more to the most visited street in the French Quarter than neon signs and brightly colored drinks in gigantic souvenir cups. Bourbon Street is home to some of the oldest bars and best restaurants in New Orleans. And after the recent renovation of the eight blocks of the Upper Bourbon (starting from Canal), it’s shinier and more walkable than ever. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, here are some suggestions for your bucket list.
Oysters and Other Gulf Seafood
Bourbon Street’s culinary offerings are a mix of high and low, with some local flair thrown in. The two seafood restaurants run by the Brennan family that are located on Bourbon Street would be solid choices for all things Gulf seafood and oysters in particular. The Red Fish Grill on the first block off Canal Street offers good happy deals and is child-friendly. Signature dishes include Shrimp Creole and double chocolate bread pudding. Brennan’s Bourbon House (on the same block) has an oyster bar and a large selection of small-batch and single-barrel bourbons.
For the pub grub and fast food, anything on the breakfast menu plus those famous little square burgers on steamed buns at the fast-food chain Krystal (116 Bourbon St.) would serve you well. The retro diner Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St.) has a huge breakfast menu and only-in-the-Quarter ambiance. Both are 24/7.
For balcony dining with a view of the French Quarter, head to Cornet (700 Bourbon St.) or Pier 424 Seafood Market Restaurant (424 Bourbon St.). Both restaurants serve traditional Cajun and Creole fare like gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and other local favorites. Pier 424 also has oysters, blackened specialties, boiled seafood, and plenty of po-boys on its menu (this might be your chance to try an alligator po-boy).
Galatoire’s: Old-World Upscale Creole
If you’re going to try just one restaurant on Bourbon St., make it Galatoire’s (209 Bourbon St.). This fine-dining institution should be on everyone’s New Orleans bucket list. Since its opening in 1905 generations of New Orleanians had been lining up for the Creole classics like crab maison, duck crepes, foie gras, and turtle soup. Galatoire’s old-world, decadent ambiance is something to experience.
The Old Absinthe House (240 Bourbon Street) dates to 1806 and has hosted its share of famous patrons, including Oscar Wilde and Franklin Roosevelt. Sidle up to the classic copper bar and have one of the potent signature absinthe cocktails. Enjoy the old-fashioned yet quirky saloon ambiance.
Hurricane and Hand Grenade
Having one of those is pretty much a must if you’re hanging out on Bourbon Street, so do it right by going to the source. Sip your Hurricane in Pat O’Brien’s courtyard (624 Bourbon St.), and make sure your Hand Grenade comes from one of the Tropical Isle locations on Bourbon St. (435, 600, 610, 721, 727 Bourbon St.). The Bourbon and Orleans location has one of the largest balconies with a view of St. Louis Cathedral (you may have seen it on TV because it’s often used for live broadcasts).
One of the Oldest Bars in America
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon St.) is a must-stop, period. Housed in a crumbling Creole cottage on the corner of Bourbon and St. Philip streets, it was built between 1722 and 1732, making it one of the oldest structures used as a bar in the U.S. Legends swirled for centuries that this location was used by the infamous Lafitte Brothers, Jean and Pierre, as a base for their privateer operation in Barataria. The bar has a unique ambiance and is popular with locals and visitors alike. If you’re feeling brave try the signature drink called Purple Drank, a frozen daiquiri concoction.
MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT
If you want straight-up jazz, the Jazz Playhouse (inside Royal Sonesta at 300 Bourbon St.) is a reliable choice. It’s located on the lobby level of the hotel and serves craft cocktails.
The Musical Legends Park (311 Bourbon St.) also hosts live music shows among its life-size bronze statues of local musical legends like Louis Prima, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Fats Domino, and others. While you’re at it, have some beignets and cafe au lait at the outside seating at Cafe Beignet inside the park.
Maison Bourbon (641 Bourbon St.) is an old-school jazz club “dedicated to the preservation of jazz” (the outdoor sign says). Take in the gleaming bar, the brick walls and the beamed ceilings. It also has a courtyard and a big balcony.
Fritzel’s European Jazz Club (733 Bourbon St.) is another great spot for live jazz and Dixieland. It’s been around since 1969, and it’s reflected in the memorabilia and the black-and-white photos lining the walls. Seating is limited because the space is intimate, but there’s more seating outside in the back where you won’t be able to see the action but still hear it pretty well. Nightly shows start at 8 p.m. on Sunday through Tuesday and 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. There are afternoon shows as well and they tend to be less crowded.
Once you walk past St. Ann St. you’ll start seeing the rainbow flags. The LGBTQIA+ section of Bourbon St. has two popular dance clubs across from one another, Oz (800 Bourbon St.) and Bourbon Pub & Parade (801 Bourbon St.). Both have several dance floors, drag shows, DJs, and wraparound balconies for people-watching. The Pub serves as the annual headquarters of Southern Decadence. Just down the block, Cafe Lafitte in Exile (901 Bourbon St.) is open 24/7 and hosts disco parties and karaoke nights. It’s been around since the 50s, which makes it one of the oldest gay bars in the country.
Karaoke and Riding the Bull
Speaking of karaoke, The World Famous Cat’s Meow (701 Bourbon St.) is THE karaoke spot to be if you must indulge and don’t mind the rowdy crowd. The party atmosphere is helped by drink specials. Riding the mechanical bull is another one of the favorite pastimes on Bourbon St., and you can try your luck at Boot Scootin Rodeo (522 Bourbon St.). The honky tonk also has a large dance floor.
See what the stars have in store for you at Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (739 Bourbon St.). Psychic and spiritual readings are available daily starting at noon. In addition to the city and ghost tours, the Bloody Mary’s Tours office (941 Bourbon St.) also offers psychic readings.
Book a stay at our historic French Quarter boutique hotel, right in the epicenter of all of the action and blocks away from Bourbon Street!