What’s On Decatur Street?
Decatur Street runs parallel to the Mississippi River, starting on Canal and ending at St. Ferdinand Street in the Marigny. Decatur was previously known as Rue de la Levee (“Levee Street”) but was renamed in 1870 after Stephen Decatur, the American naval war hero and Commodore.
The 14 blocks of the French Quarter part of Decatur Street is a waterfront strip that in the past has catered to sailors and hosted the kinds of businesses a port would have. By the 80s parts of Decatur closer to Esplanade and Frenchmen Street became a bohemian haven with a vibrant goth and punk scene. Some places, like Cafe du Monde, Central Grocery and Tujague’s remained to this day; others are long gone. Today, the street is a vibrant as ever even though the punk clubs and dive bars had been replaced by restaurants that cater to tourists, and bars and clubs that have more traditional jazz bands.
You will also find a lot of zydeco-blasting souvenir shops lining the street, a few funky bars, lots of shopping (from national chains like Sephora to unique local artist co-ops and vintage stores), and plenty of live music. Decatur also boasts a few legendary, centuries-old institutions, historic landmarks, and a great bookstore. Here are a few highlights of what you can find on Decatur Street within walking distance from French Market Inn.
Built in 1835, the Old U.S. Mint uniquely served as both a U.S. and a Confederate Mint. The building is now a museum (free to the public) and research facility. It also serves as a site for music festivals, like the French Quarter Festival and Satchmo SummerFest. The permanent collection showcases coins and stamping presses. Upstairs, you’ll find the “New Orleans Jazz” exhibit featuring priceless pieces like Louis Armstrong’s first cornet and Fats Domino’s Steinway grand piano, plus historic recordings and rare film footage.
You’ll know when you’ve reached the historic Jackson Square, a timeless landmark located right in the heart of French Quarter. Known since the 18th century as Place d’Armes, it was renamed in honor of Andrew Jackson following the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Jackson’s bronze statue is the focal point of the square, surrounded by the lavish flora and facing the Mississippi River.
Here, you can sit on the bench and soak it all in, have your fortune read and your portrait drawn, or check out a brass band. (Or have a beer and a po-boy at Monty’s on the Square, whose French doors offer a good view of Jackson Square). This is where you’ll also come to grab a mule-drawn carriage tour, by the park’s gate on the Decatur side.
To the right of French Market Inn, past PJ’s coffee shop and the souvenir shops, you’ll see a historic landmark — the monument to the city’s founder, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. And, on the opposite side of the French Quarter, by the French Market, you’ll come across the gilded statue of Joan of Arc.
Also by the French Market, check out the historic Dutch Alley nearby on N. Peters (home of the one and only local radio station, WWOZ). And, if you have any questions about the city, or need help navigating it, go by the French Quarter Visitor Center. The visitor center is run by the National Park Service and has a gift shop along with some exhibits and walking tours.
Restaurants and Coffeeshops
Let’s start with these two city institutions, Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur St.) and Tujague’s (823). The grand dame of cafe au lait and beignets needs no introduction since it opened in 1862, so let’s just say no visit to New Orleans would be complete without getting powdered sugar all over yourself. Hectic yet charming, Cafe du Monde is open round the clock, and is busy at all hours.
Tujague’s also hardly needs an introduction. The second oldest restaurant in the city, it was founded in 1856 and has since been offering traditional, fixed-price Creole menus to many a president and celebrity. Its iconic bar takes credit for inventing the Grasshopper cocktail, and the restaurant may or may not take credit for creating brunch.
Remodeled after a fire in 2016, Fiorella’s Bistro & Wine Bar (1136 Decatur St.) fully deserves its popularity for its southern fried chicken alone. The unpretentious restaurant also serves Italian and Cajun/Creole specialties like po-boys, pasta, and seafood platters. The checkered tablecloths and sidewalk/balcony seating are a plus.
The two most recent additions on the 1100 block, Trinity (1117) and Cane & Table (1113) are both sleek foodie havens. Trinity’s dining room is modern and airy, with open kitchen. It also has balcony seating, which is great for people-watching on this buzzing block.
Cane and Table describes its menu of small plates like ropa vieja and seviche as “rustic colonial cuisine” with the ambiance of Old Havana. The cocktail menu showcases seriously crafted concoctions, many of which are rum-based, imaginative updates of the classics.
The next block is home to the always busy Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe (1241 Decatur St.), an airy coffeehouse with comfortable sidewalk seating, popular with the locals. It has a full bar and a big breakfast menu, plus small plates like hummus, and panini and burgers. Envie also serves smaller menu of breakfast sandwiches and quiches at another location, 308 Decatur St..
Across the street, Palm Court Jazz Cafe is a must for jazz and Creole cuisine fans alike. The dining room is pure old New Orleans elegance, with high ceilings, a mahogany bar, mosaic-tiled floor, jazz photos all over its brick walls, and a Steinway grand piano. The place has hosted numerous jazz greats and their fans since 1989. Palm Court closes for a few weeks at the end of summer, but otherwise the bands play every Wednesday through Sunday. The menu is classic Creole: shrimp remoulade, gumbo, oysters Bordelaise, chicken Clemenceau, and so on.
One of the French Quarter’s bright stars and mainstays is the always bustling Coop’s Place (1109 Decatur St.). Coop’s is a no-frills bar and restaurant with a surprisingly extensive and excellent menu that goes way beyond barfood grub. The hands-down standouts are the seafood gumbo and rabbit and sausage jambalaya (the “supreme” version also has shrimp and tasso). Cajun fried chicken won’t steer you wrong either. Popular with the locals and the visitors, Coop’s can get busy and loud. Please also note that it’s 21 and older only, even the restaurant seating area, because of the video poker machines on premises.
On the corner of Ursulines at 1104 Decatur is BBQ King’s Blues Club, a chain southern food/BBQ and live music restaurant. It replaced Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and what used to be Margaritaville’s store next door is now occupied by Pepper Palace, another chain that sells salsa, seasonings, rubs, hot sauce, and so on.
On the same side, you can’t miss the striped awning of The Original French Market Restaurant (1001). Open since 1803, the restaurant specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine and seafood in particular. Across the street, two adjacent restaurants also serve Cajun/Creole fare, but the biggest draw of the Market Cafe (1000 Decatur St.) and Gazebo Cafe (1016) are their patios and the constant stream of live music. The Market Cafe has been around since the early 80s, occupying the building that dates back to 1823 and was part of the French Market (check out the original cypress ceiling and columns). Bloody Mary and baked muffuletta are the restaurant’s specialties. Gazebo Cafe‘s covered patio and courtyard are often packed, the bands mostly play jazz, and the ice cream daiquiris are delicious.
Moving past the statue of Joan of Arc, you’ll come to yet another New Orleans landmark and home of the muffuletta, Central Grocery (923 Decatur St.). This sprawling old-fashioned Italian grocery store is still run by the family of its founder, a Sicilian immigrant named Salvatore Lupo. He was credited for creating the famous sandwich, which now ships worldwide, along with the Central Grocery’s famous olive salad by the jar. Eat your made-to-order muffuletta at one of the few tables in the back or take it to go.
Past the shops of Jax Brewery (a multi-story historic landmark that holds retail stores, cafes, restaurants, and a small museum dedicated to the brewery), you’ll come to the corner of Toulouse Street, the home of Cafe Maspero (601 Decatur St.). The always-open enormous windows provide a great view of the busy corner, and you’ll like its heaping seafood platters. The next block houses Crescent City Brewhouse (527 Decatur St.), a two-story, 17-barrel microbrewery with balcony and courtyard seating, an oyster bar, and lots of live jazz.
And if you go up toward Canal Street, you’ll find the Coterie Restaurant & Oyster Bar at 135 Decatur St., and Creole House Restaurant & Oyster Bar, located in an historic building on the corner at 509 Canal St.
Past Conti Street, Decatur Street is pretty quiet, with the exception of the House of Blues that takes up most of the 200th block with its concert venue and the restaurant/bar. The block livens up on most afternoons, with the trucks unloading band gear and people lining up to see the shows. The dimly lit, laid back Kerry Irish Pub (331 Decatur St.), also features live music, but on a much smaller scale.
On the other edge of the French Quarter, on the corner of Esplanade and Decatur (1331 Decatur St.) is Balcony Music Club (BMC), a bar with live music and pub grub. It seems to have music spilling onto the street at all hours, from brass bands to rock to traditional jazz. And, across the street, you’ll find Checkpoint Charlie and the beginning of Frenchmen Street and Faubourg Marigny.
If you can settle for less than a craft cocktail, the 24-hour dive next door, the dark and cool longtimer The Abbey (1123), or Molly’s at the Market (1107) are two classic, laid back, and welcoming bars of the French Quarter you should definitely check out. Molly’s is home to an excellent jukebox, a back bar courtyard, and frozen Irish coffee. The bar was (and, to an extent, still is) a favorite of local musicians, journalists, and service industry workers since the late founder Jim Monaghan opened it in 1974. It still serves as a starting point and lingering must-stop-hang for the annual Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Across the street from French Market Inn, you’ll find the sprawling H&M, Urban Outfitters, Vans, and the most recent addition, Sephora, next to one another. If you walk toward Canal St., you’ll find one of the best bookstores in the city, the bi-level Beckham’s Bookshop (228 Decatur St.). It specializes in used, antiquarian, and rare books, as well as CDs and vinyl. A gem of a place, Beckham’s has been around since 1979 at this location. It’s crammed floor to ceiling, and is beer- and dog-friendly.
On the same block, at number 216, is a funky retro-inspired boutique not unlike Trashy Diva, called Dollz & Dames. It has a sister store in Seattle and sells vintage-inspired clothing, shoes and accessories. You can’t miss its eye candy of a storefront on an otherwise sleepy side of the block.
Going toward Esplanade, don’t miss the funky novelty store Funrock’n, with a sister store called Pop City, at 940 Decatur St. Those sell collectibles, toys, and clothes. Funrock’n also has binders full of t-shirt transfer designs, so if you want to score a t-shirt with a NOLA-centric design, this is the place.
The Christmas-themed Santa’s Quarters (1025 Decatur St.), open all year round, is a great spot to stock up on NOLA-centric ornaments in Mardi Gras colors and every possible take on a fleur de lis. The next block is home The Artist’s Market and Bead Shop (1228) and SecondLine Arts & Antiques (1209). The Artist’s Market and Bead Shop has two entrances, one on Decatur and another on the French Market side, and is filled with unique, well-priced local art and beads.
Formerly Greg’s Antiques, SecondLine Arts & Antiques has equally expansive indoor and outdoor spaces full of both serious antiques and funky junkyard-type salvaged pieces like ironwork, signs, and windows, plus lots and lots of local art — all priced to move quickly. The space multi-tasks as a daily outdoor art and flea market. You can also rent a bike or book a tour while there, and even get a snowball.
Nearby, the French Market’s Shops at the Colonnade, a strip of shops, some with Decatur and some with N. Peters addresses, is worth a visit if you’re shopping for souvenirs or local specialties like pralines. Another Christmas store, Merry Christmas & All That Jazz, has lots of cool ornaments with local flair.
One more place of note is the eclectic David’s Found Objects (1319 Decatur St.). Its quirky display of collectibles and antiques often spills onto the street, from costumes to kitchenware to paintings. David’s has quite a collection of costume jewelry and vintage glass Mardi Gras beads.
As you can tell, there is so much to see, eat, drink and buy on the historic Decatur Street near French Market Inn. Happy exploring!