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Making a Row

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Local real estate listings sometimes shed light on the motivations of prospective New Orleans homebuyers beyond a property's lot size or number of bedrooms.

Mardi Gras fanatics might draw a bead on information like "on parade route," for instance, but a more reliable selling point can be proximity to restaurants.

"People love their neighborhood restaurants here, and if there's a selection of restaurants right around them, all the better," says Kim Arnold, a local real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty. "There's the convenience factor of being able to walk to a place for dinner, but people are also attracted to the energy and neighborhood feeling of having all of that activity nearby."

Restaurateurs zero in on that dynamic too, and when enough of them set up shop in one area what blossoms is sometimes called a restaurant row. The entire Uptown stretch of Magazine Street, for instance, could be considered a restaurant row, with travelers coming across an eating or drinking outpost at least every few blocks, while some blocks in particular teem with restaurants and taverns. What follows is an overview of other such clusters around town.

Up Around Upperline

An unmistakable sign of a nearby restaurant row turns up at the Kingpin bar each night a bit after the dinner shift when the place fills up with thirsty employees from the restaurants clustered around Prytania, Upperline and Robert streets nearby.

Within one block of each other, there's the contemporary Creole mainstay Upperline Restaurant, the long-time sushi bar Kyoto, the French bistro La Crepe Nanou, the ice cream sweet spot Creole Creamery and the post-storm newcomer Felix's Uptown, an expansion of the still-shuttered French Quarter oyster bar and seafood restaurant. Zara's Little Giant Supermarket anchors one end of the cluster and the Wine Seller wine shop sits at the other.

This collection of businesses was a key for Richard and Danielle Sutton when they decided where to set up their first business together, the St. James Cheese Co. This specialty cheese shop and deli is scheduled for a Nov. 1 opening on Prytania Street next to the Wine Seller, with which the Suttons expect to have a symbiotic relationship, given the BYOB policy they'll have for light meals and cheese plates in their own shop.

Carrollton Connection

So many restaurants are open around the Riverbend and universities area that the neighborhood can seem like one big, meandering conga line of a restaurant row -- interrupted here and there by a bank, a church or an apartment building. Among the huge roster of eating and drinking places here, some truly compelling "mini rows" have developed over the years. Around Jeanerette Street and South Carrollton Avenue, for instance, the pizza parlor Café Nino, the Middle Eastern style Lebanon's Café and the Thai restaurant Basil Leaf are all long-time neighbors that now share their block with the post-storm additions of the Fiesta Bistro -- a Mexican/Spanish hybrid -- and Iris, the intimate neighborhood bistro that took the place of Mango House.

Maple Street abounds with casual eateries geared toward the student budget, plus some offbeat neighborhood favorites like the Tunisian cuisine served at Jamila's Café. On Oak Street, a substantial part of at the crowd at the Maple Leaf Bar on any given night was likely fueled up at the adjacent Jacques-Imo's Café, the Japanese restaurant Ninja or Philip Chan's Asian Cajun Bistro, recently relocated from the French Quarter.

For those after contemporary Creole fare, a knot of restaurants just past the Carrollton and St. Charles intersection includes some of its best purveyors: Brigtsen's Restaurant, Dante's Kitchen right across the street and Mat & Naddie's Restaurant around the corner.

A Fat City in the Suburbs

While the nightclub scene that once dominated the densely built center of Fat City has died down a bit, a collection of restaurants emanating from the intersection of 18th Street and North Arnoult Street is hopping. The restaurants are packed so closely together here that they appear to share parking lots, but the styles of food that they serve come from different corners of the globe. Crazy Johnnie's Steak House stakes out one corner of that intersection, with gleaming motorcycles usually parked out front like horses at a hitching post and filet mignons going for less than $15 inside. Across the street is the Italian fare at Salvatore Ristorante, and one parking lot over is Kanno, an unsung but exquisite Japanese restaurant with a chef (known to all his regulars as Elvis) wielding the sushi knives. Hop back over 18th Street and a quite different slice of Far Eastern cuisine turns up at Korea House, where patrons can barbecue their meats at table-mounted grills. Right next door, is Drago's Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar, where the menu revolves around Louisiana oysters procured from Croatian fishermen in Plaquemines Parish.

Legends Around the Courthouse

When Verena Benker walks her dog each evening, she passes a collection of some of the most famous names in New Orleans dining without traveling more than two blocks in any direction from her French Quarter apartment on St. Louis Street. The faade of Antoine's Restaurant waits right outside her door; the Rib Room is a few doors down in the Omni Royal Orleans hotel. Brennan's Restaurant is around the corner, and on Chartres Street she passes K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen and Napoleon House. Though she and her husband Chris have visited some of these landmarks in the year since they moved to the Vieux Carre, the modest pricing of Johnny's Po-Boys on St. Louis Street makes it a more realistic place for them to become regulars.

"But everyone seemed to know us when we went to Nola," Benker says of Emeril Lagasse's restaurant across from Johnny's. "As soon as we walked in, they said 'Oh, we see you every day walking your dog. We wondered when you'd come in.' That made us feel like neighbors. Still, I miss all the restaurants in our old neighborhood."

Mid-City Melting Pot

The neighborhood for which Benker pines is Mid-City. Before Katrina, she and Chris had lived a few blocks away from a thriving collection of restaurants centered around the intersection of Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue where they could find Manuel's Hot Tamales, Vietnamese noodle dishes from Pho Tau Bay, falafel from Jerusalem Deli, French-style steaks from Chateaubriand Steakhouse, po-boys from the Brewhouse Grill, hamburgers from Michael's Mid-City Grill, muffulettas from New York Pizza and sushi rolls from the buffet at Kanpai. All of those restaurants are victims of the flood, with their empty buildings up for lease or devoid of activity 13 months after the storm. But Benker hopes to be back in her rebuilt Cleveland Street shotgun before the end of the year, and by then a number of businesses also expect to be back on this resurgent restaurant row. Doson's Noodle House should be open in October serving Vietnamese and Chinese food; Venezia hopes to reopen by Thanksgiving, and Mandina's Restaurant is aiming to reopen in December.

The September reopening of Angelo Brocato's Ice Cream, the addition of a gourmet pizza kitchen at Wit's Inn, the new diner Rooster's Grill and the reopened WOW Café & Wingery, Juan's Flying Burrito, Liuzza's Restaurant and Mona's Café all nearby are returning a once-dark stretch into something like its bustling old self.

Carrollton Avenue has a bustling row of restaurants keeping the universities neighborhood busy. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Carrollton Avenue has a bustling row of restaurants keeping the universities neighborhood busy.

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