New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood, located next to the French Quarter, is one of the most historic neighborhoods you can find in America. It’s the first historically Black neighborhood in the country, and is home to restaurants that have fueled the Civil Rights Movement and gone on to win James Beard Awards. In Tremé, you’ll find delicious New Orleans cuisine, landmarks with fascinating pasts and museums that help tell Tremé’s history.
Tremé is home to some of the most famous and delicious restaurants in New Orleans. Since 1941, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant has been a spot not only for incredible food, but for gatherings around music, culture, and civil rights. Creole cuisine is always on the menu along with stunning African American art in the restaurant. The restaurant is unsurprisingly a James Beard Award winner, too, plus Disney fans will recognize the late Chef Leah Chase as the main inspiration for Princess Tiana in the 2009 Disney hit, The Princess and the Frog.
Another spot, most widely known for its fried chicken is Willie Mae’s Scotch House, which was opened in the 1950’s as a bar and quickly also became a famed restaurant serving up Louisiana and Mississippi cuisine. Willie Mae’s is yet another James Beard winner, taking home the award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region” in 2005, and both The Travel Channel and Food Network have described Willie Mae’s chicken as the best fried chicken in the country. You can expect to find a line most days, but take our word for it – Willie Mae’s is worth the wait.
If you’re looking for a quick place to refuel, an easy lunch spot or a great space to settle in and read a book, Backatown Coffee Parlour is an absolute must. More than just a place to grab a cup of coffee, this neighborhood cornerstone also hosts a variety of cultural events, performances and more in a beautiful and airy setting.
Kermit’s Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge is a spot that makes locals proud to be New Orleanians, and make visitors book their next trip back. This Tremé lounge was opened by NOLA jazz legend Ernie K-Doe in 1994, and has been a hotspot for musical greats like Kermit Ruffins to frequent. Dance, eat, drink, and experience what New Orleans is all about here. Every night of the week is a different Southern food specialty, so be sure to come hungry. Tremé’s Candlelight Lounge is another favorite, featuring some of New Orleans’ most talented brass bands throughout the week, as well as red beans and rice on Wednesday nights.
The New Orleans African American Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of and elevating the art, culture and contributions of African Americans in New Orleans and the African Diaspora. Visitors enjoy both established and emerging artists' work in sculpture, painting and other artistic expressions. The museum also hosts a monthly market featuring local Black vendors and artisans in addition to other events and programs.
As the first historically African American neighborhood in America, Tremé is filled with history and stories of pain, resilience, and cultural preservation. Around the neighborhood are landmarks with great historic importance. Congo Square in Armstrong Park is one of these spots. During the time of slavery, Congo Square is where enslaved Africans gathered on Sundays and preserved their cultural traditions, which still live on today. You can also find a number of free festivals in Armstrong Park throughout the year, including November’s Treme Creole Gumbo Festival and Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival in the spring, just to name a few.
This beautiful and historic church is among the most significant buildings in the Tremé. Founded in 1841, St. Augustine is the oldest African American Catholic parish in the country. The annual Treme Fall Festival takes place right outside of its doors, and the church also hosts a series of Christmas concerts during the holiday season, as well as regular mass. Visitors can also pay their respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Slave, which is located on the church grounds as well.
What better way to learn about all of these landmarks, influential musicians, and the history of slavery and freedom in Tremé than in one of the neighborhood’s very own museums? There are quite a few museums that offer unparalleled glimpses into different facets of Tremé’s culture. Le Musee de f.p.c., for example, is one of America’s only historic house museums that preserves artifacts and tells the story of free people of color. See art and experience a tour by the museum’s fine historians here, because New Orleans history is Black history, and this museum will touch every person in an impactful way. Musee de f.p.c. is currently open by appointment only.
The Backstreet Cultural Museum is another gem and must-visit museum if you’re interested in learning about Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, Baby Dolls, and Skull and Bone Gangs. The museum is home to the largest and most comprehensive collection of NOLA’s African American community-based masking/processional traditions, so on top of being one of the most educational spots in town, it is also one of the most beautiful.
*Editor’s Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Petit Jazz Museum is temporarily closed.
Music lovers and history buffs will delight in the experience of visiting the incredibly charming Petit Jazz Museum, which tells visitors the story of jazz where it first started, right in Tremé. The museum’s founder, Al Jackson, grew up in Tremé and has taken great pride in sharing the musical side of the neighborhood’s history with visitors and locals alike in this small-but-mighty must-see attraction.
*Editor’s Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all festivals are currently suspended. Virtual celebrations may be held in lieu of the event.
Festivals in Tremé invite both New Orleans locals and visitors to the city to see and experience food, music, and more. If you want to experience a festival in Tremé, there are quite a few that you should put on your bucket list, including Tremé Creole Gumbo Fest, where you’ll taste all varieties of delicious gumbo, and Tremé Fall Fest, a fall festival with food, music, kids’ activities, and more to fundraise for the restoration of St. Augustine Church. Jazz in the Park is a weekly music series in Armstrong Park during the fall and spring featuring local musicians, and Congo Square New World Rhythms Fest is a spring fest honoring the cultural traditions in NOLA that stem from the African diaspora.