If you have the open mind, patience, and spirit of exploration there are few things as fun as watching a city bloom. It doesn’t happen everywhere, all at once, but springs from many tiny seeds – all over the place – especially where you least expect it.
All these cool places spring up. I’ve been watching it here in Dallas for years. Sometimes it’s in a spot where I remember fast times from long ago and sadly watched fade until a miraculous Renaissance appears – places like Deep Ellum or Lower Greenville. Or maybe its an area that has never been hip – or at least has been forgotten for generations – like Bishop Arts, or The Cedars. It may be an area conceived in high places and supported by big money like the Dallas Arts District or Uptown. Or it may be someplace bootstraping itself up out of a blasted industrial wasteland like Trinity Groves or the Design District.
Use your internet connection and your feet and your bicycle and get to know these places… before they are too hip and unaffordable. It’s a roller coaster ride and you need to get off before the crash… but in the meantime – it can be a fun ride.
All cities go through ups and downs – but nowhere has higher ups or lower downs than New Orleans. It, more than anywhere else is a city of unique neighborhoods – every one worth exploring, learning, and immersing.
One little new stretch of entertaining street is near where my son lives – it’s a district called Freret.
From an article on Gadling.com:
Freret began as a commercial area for people who were left out of New Orleans’ most powerful social groups: the French Creoles, who governed old society, and the wealthy “English” traders and business owners, who dominated the CBD and built their homes in the Garden District. Instead, the neighborhood, named for brothers William and James Freret, became a refuge for Italian and Jewish residents, who shared the commercial district.
But population shifts took place in the 1950s, driving middle class residents to the suburbs, and by the 1980s, when bakery owner Bill Long was shot and killed in the doorway of his store, Freret was disintegrating.
Help came in 2001 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation adopted Freret Street under its Main Street program. Yet, the neighborhood took a body blow from Katrina, whose damage can still be seen, and its comeback never seemed farther away.
But seven years after the storm, Freret is a symbol of the New New Orleans, where a handful of business pioneers and long time stall warts provided the nucleus for its growth to take place. Bars, restaurants, businesses, and a monthly fair have popped up in a few short years, and the sounds of construction resonate as cars and pedestrians ply the bumpy street between Tulane and Loyola Universities.
Lee was working and I needed to find some place to eat… and I had seen on Thrillist that a hot dog place called Dat Dog was listed as one of the “Coolest Restaurants in Town.” So I rode my bike down there.
It is a special, cool little stretch of street – it stands out in variety and quality even in a city as full of options like New Orleans. Restaurants, bars, specialty shops – even a couple of small theater spaces… Every night there was a young, hip crowd spilling out onto the sidewalks… and even filling overhead balconies with mirth and conversation.
Unfortunately, I had to settle for an excellent hot dog (local spicy dog, with bacon and sauerkraut – next time I need to be more adventurous on the toppings) before it was time to head back. But if you are looking to get out of the French Quarter (and you should be) Freret might be a place to look for.