What’s on St. Charles Avenue
Gallier Hall Photo by Tom Bastin on flickr
You probably know St. Charles Avenue as the gracious, oak- and mansion-lined thoroughfare connecting downtown and Uptown New Orleans, or as the glittering, bead-hung route favored by New Orleans’ most prominent Carnival krewes. The “jewel of America’s grand avenues” is all these things and more–it’s home to a number of equally charming businesses, restaurants and historic venues. Here are a few must-see destinations that are worth hopping off the streetcar to visit.
The longest continuously operating streetcar line in the U.S., the St. Charles streetcar has been trundling up and down the neutral ground since 1835. A ride on the vintage streetcar costs $1.25 each way (exact change required) and takes about 40 minutes. Open the window, peer out and take in the grandeur.
AIA New Orleans Center for Architecture and Design (1000 St. Charles Ave.)
The original American Institute of Architects, founded in New York in 1857, was a stickler for rules and regulations. In typical New Orleans style, the local branch formed in 1909 after flagrantly deviating from the regs in a design competition. The upstart continues to color outside the lines with exhibitions like Salvations 2019, and is open to the public Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
PJ’s Coffee (135 & 840 St. Charles Ave.)
The iconic New Orleans coffee house bookends St. Charles with locations on both ends of the Avenue, but Lafayette Hotel guests can grab their morning java or an afternoon refresher most conveniently from the 840 branch. Beyond variations on all the classics, from cappucchinos to lattes to granitas, PJ’s also dishes up yummy smoothies and exotic local specialties like Bananas Foster Cold Brew Iced Latte.
Aunt Sally’s (750 St. Charles Ave.)
The original Aunt Sally’s store in the French Market is still going strong on the far end of the Quarter. But you can find the same deliciously creamy Creole pralines, and other delights, just a couple blocks from the Lafayette Hotel. Stock up on everything from Aunt Sally’s famous Pecan Log Rolls and Pecan Pepper Jelly to Oak Alley Plantation Mint Syrup. You’ll also find a bounty of regional cookbooks and gift baskets galore.
Desi Vegas Steakhouse (628 St. Charles Ave.)
Filet mignon, bacon-wrapped shrimp, andouille crawfish mac and cheese…these menu items let you know Desi Vegas is New Orleans’ answer to a classic steakhouse. The prime cuts are tender and sizzling, and the ambience is bright and welcoming. If you’re fortunate enough to be in town during a New Orleans Saints game, do yourself a favor and watch it from Desi Vegas’ bar. P.S. This steakhouse is conveniently located inside Lafayette Hotel.
Between the Bread (625 St. Charles Ave.)
Located right across from Lafayette Square, Between the Bread is a terrific lunch option for guests staying at the Lafayette Hotel. Keep things simple with deli classics like Hot Pastrami or a Reuben or get fancy with an Open Face Smoked Salmon topped with capers and herbed cream cheese. Daily specials include soup and salad combos that can be paired with wraps.
Lafayette Hotel (600 St. Charles Ave.)
You couldn’t ask for a better jumping-off place to St. Charles Avenue than a hotel right on the famous street. Perched on the edge of a lush park, Lafayette Hotel is ideally located between New Orleans’ most desirable neighborhoods: it splits the difference between French Quarter, Arts District and Lower Garden District. Treat yourself to a balcony room overlooking St. Charles Avenue and watch the world roll by.
Gallier Hall (545 St. Charles Ave.)
Gallier Hall served as City Hall in the mid 1800s, and the marble exterior, fluted Ionic columns and ballrooms are evidence of its past life. Today, the historic site is an events space and reception hall. During Carnival, many major krewes parade by its viewing stands, where the mayor toasts their kings. Just standing under its roof is enough to make you feel like royalty.
Stella Jones Gallery (201 St. Charles Ave. #102)
Dedicated to the work of contemporary African and Caribbean artists, Stella Jones curates socially-conscious exhibits. The gallery also spotlights up and coming artists like abstract expressionist Jammie Holmes, a Thibodaux native, and hosts frequent book signings and openings. Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Meyer the Hatter (120 St. Charles Ave.)
Need a snappy fedora to top off that Rubensteins suit? The biggest and most renowned hat store in the South is just down the block. Family-owned since 1894, Meyer the Hatter stocks everything from formal top hats to casual newsboy caps, and boasts an extensive collection of fine Panama straws. A splurge here won’t break the bank, either. Frequent sales abound, and even top-tier toppers like the Stetson Aficionado Panama ($125) are well under $200.
Rubensteins (102 St. Charles Ave.)
Founded in 1924, this classic old school men’s haberdashery is one of Esquire magazine’s perennial gold-standard stores. Known for its made-to-measure bespoke shirts and suits, which fit each individual customer like a glove, Rubensteins also stocks a fine selection of off-the-rack designer suits, sportcoats, shirts, sportswear, shoes and accessories. Keep an eye out for special-event sales, when free libations enhance your shopping experience.