The French Quarter is without a doubt the most well-known neighborhood in New Orleans. Its iconic architecture, Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, and jazz clubs all immediately come to mind even for someone who has never stepped foot in the city. And for good reason–those landmarks and vistas are all part of the fabric that makes the historic neighborhood feel like nowhere else in the country (and honestly, even the world). And so, when visiting New Orleans, whether it’s your first time or your fifth, a visit to the Quarter should always be on the agenda.
But if you’ve visited the area before and checked off some of those bucket-list French Quarter items (which we highly recommend–icons are icons for a reason), or if you’re the type of traveler who likes to find the more under-the-radar spots while still staying close to the action, you may find yourself wondering… can you experience one of the most-visited areas and still find hidden gems that feel off-the-beaten-path? The answer, of course, is YES. Here are our locals’ picks for the best places to eat, drink, shop, and see without leaving the Vieux Carré.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Dining in the French Quarter
This tucked-away Cuban delight is known for its light fare and specialty cocktails. The intimate space is perfect for spending a Havana night in the Crescent City.
This hotspot for East Asian cuisine opened in 2021 and has quickly become a local favorite. Like Manolito, it’s nearer to the French Market and Esplanade Avenue, keeping it a bit away from the major tourist haunts of the Vieux Carré.
For a taste of luxury Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and high-quality, in-house dry-aged prime beef, look no further than Doris Metropolitan. Their menu pairs each delectable option with an extensive selection of wine and spirits.
Keep it casual (but still tasty) at Mona Lisa on Royal Street. This Italian eatery is filled with riffs on da Vinci’s famous portrait as well as Italian favorites and affordable wines.
Located just steps away from Jackson Square, Sylvain feels like a private club, only without the attitude of exclusivity. While you can peer in from the street, you enter through a long alleyway along the side that empties into a charming courtyard. The dining room just feels cool, with great, moody lighting and a menu that somehow perfectly straddles classic Southern cuisine with a fun, modern twist. Just looking for a fancy snack? Opt for the champagne and French fries. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
This quaint café’ offers a host of healthy and hearty options to start your day. Fuel up properly with house specials like the Bayou Biscuit smothered in crawfish étouffée or the Love Bug - a yogurt bowl topped with fresh berries and fixings. No matter your craving, Wakin' Bakin' has you covered.
This quaint French patisserie is a perfect stop for a quick, delicious bite. For over 30 years, Le Croissant d’Or has been known for it its savory and sweet items, each homemade and handcrafted with locally produced, fresh ingredients.
Another taste of Caribbean flavors in NOLA, Cane & Table is a mini oasis in the bustling French Quarter. Plus, its creative cocktails made this local gem a James Beard Foundation Outstanding Bar Program semifinalist — in other words, it’s an experience you can’t pass up!
This quintessential Irish pub is best known for its frozen Irish coffee – a perfect treat for any time of year! Watch a football match and catch up with some friends in this homey French Quarter dive.
For a more upscale evening in the Quarter, this wine bar caters to the casual and knowledgeable wine enthusiast who desires a tasteful atmosphere where they can have a unique experience unlike any other in the French Quarter. Patrick's Bar Vin is the perfect gathering place; before going out or winding down after a night in the Vieux Carré.
For all its flashy tourist spots, the French Quarter’s dive bars are often laid-back, local hotspots and the Black Penny is one of them. With a beer menu that’s over three pages long, a fun crowd of eclectic locals, and even a bingo night, it’s definitely worth a stop inside.
Hidden off the beaten path in the French Quarter, Bar Tonique has long been a favorite of locals looking for quality cocktails without the pretense. This casual hang has a fun and varied menu of booze and offers special discounts for service industry workers, as well as free drinks for your designated driver!
Cosimo’s is known across the city for its legendary bar food, including specialty personal pizzas, mozzarella sticks, cheese fries, wings, calzones, and sandwiches all made to order. On Tuesday nights in the spring, be sure to check out their crawfish boils.
The Gold Mine
This iconic local dive’s claim to fame is the Flaming Dr. Pepper cocktail, and its funky atmosphere and arcade cabinet-lined walls bring you straight back to the 1980s. Dance the night away, play some pool, and hang out.
This gorgeous Creole cottage on the edge of the Quarter is definitely worth a stop for any craft cocktail enthusiasts. This is another spot with the side-alleyway-to-back-courtyard entrance, lending to the IYKYK vibe, and the indoor dining room is intimate enough to feel like not everyone is in on the secret. They also have a full menu if you’re feeling hungry–or you can treat yourself to their caviar service.
Shopping in the French Quarter
Gimme is home to all things pink, sparkly, and unique. This shop is full of accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, local artwork, and much more. For a one-of-a-kind souvenir, costume piece, or a quirky way to spice up your wardrobe, look no further than this French Quarter boutique.
This treasure trove of apparel offers high-fashion brands at affordable prices – around 70-90% off retail. With an abundance of shoes, clothes, and more, you may want to bring a second suitcase.
If nostalgia’s what you crave, Swamp Rags is your perfect match. This vintage shop curates t-shirts, décor, and other bits of ephemera from decades past. They often have great vintage local finds from the Saints, LSU, and even the 1984 World’s Fair.
Nestled above the nearly floor-to-ceiling shelves of Beckham’s Bookshop (a great stop in itself) is this groovy little record shop. Along with buying and selling a great selection of vinyls, they host album signings, live music events, and other pop-ups inside.
This art gallery brings the best of Modern Folk/Outsider, Low-Brow, Pop Surrealism, New Contemporary, and Street Art to the Vieux Carré. They focus on mid-career and emerging artists who are both innovators and masters of their craft.
With two locations in the French Quarter, NOLA Rock Co. sources hand-picked collections of jewelry, mineral specimens, art, and stone furniture. The extensive collection and price ranges have mean there’s something for everyone.
Glitter Box not only showcases female artists and makers but also acts a space for celebration and community advocacy. Find art, apparel, accessories, and more, all while supporting programs of female and female-identifying people in New Orleans and beyond.
Located inside the apothecary of America’s first licensed pharmacist, this unique museum contains documents and artifacts depicting the history of 19th-century medicine and healthcare. This space also hosts other events, including concerts and lectures.
Since 1969, Fritzel’s has become a favorite spot for both musicians and jazz-lovers alike. Pop in any afternoon or evening to catch some world-class live music from local artists in this beautiful and historic French Quarter building.
The Toulouse Theater is the French Quarter’s largest, artist-owned independent venue and features live shows and events of all kinds. Check out a show or stop by the full bar to grab a drink at the bar.
Magic and mystery abide at this art gallery. View and shop for art, décor, and more inspired by the unknown, the surreal, the mythical, and folklore.
Located between Bourbon and Frenchman Streets, this venue showcases NOLA’s up-and-coming musical talent, mainly in the blues, jazz, and funk scenes.
If you’re a fan of all things Seuss, this gallery features and sells pieces created and adapted from the art of Dr. Seuss himself. From “unorthodox” taxidermy to illustrations to bronze statues, there’s lots to find at this whimsical spot!