Destinations editor Eric Moya was in the Big Easy last week for the grand opening of the Hyatt House New Orleans. Read his first dispatch here; his second dispatch follows.
"Do you use Uber? You should probably download it." You don't hear that from a cab driver every day.
I was walking along St. Claude Avenue when I flagged him down to continue my journey to New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood, and he was right; a couple blocks past Bourbon Street and the odds of hailing a cab had dropped precipitously.
The sight of construction barriers, gas stations and big-box stores along St. Claude proved weirdly serene, the nondescript stretch of a decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly thoroughfare a contrast to previous nights amid the cacophony of Bourbon and Frenchmen (fun though they were). No tour guides, no street musicians, no clear plastic cups filled with Abita Amber.
My destination was Red's Chinese, co-owned by Tobias Womack, formerly chef at Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese Food in New York, and offering a similarly irreverent take on Chinese food. With its friendly staff of pierced and tattooed 20-somethings, it was a fitting eatery for the burgeoning bohemian vibe of the Bywater, and worth the trek. Kung pao pastrami (with the "holy trinity" of onions, bell pepper and celery added for local flavor) might sound like a pretty weird combination, but it makes perfect sense once you've had a bite.
As I made my way back downtown on foot, I recalled my conversation with my cab driver, a college student attending Tulane, new in town from D.C. He had said my destination was about as far as he'd taken visitors, mostly folks who had booked a home stay (thus his Uber advice).
I waited at a rail crossing for about 15 minutes while a freight train linked up a few more cars, further evidence that the Bywater is relatively inaccessible from the city's more visited areas. If the Bywater is ever to become a visitor attraction on the level of, say, Magazine Street, with its charming boutiques and antique shops, transportation would certainly have to be addressed. Though maybe the folks of the Bywater aren't interested.
My trip to the Bywater was a worthwhile diversion, and I was happy to see another side of the city. Still, if the next day was to hold muffulettas, buskers and Sazeracs in the French Quarter, I sure wasn't going to complain.