Downtown New Orleans – New Orleans, LA

One of New Orleans' most diverse and up-and-coming neighborhoods, Central City lies off the beaten tourist track even though its location puts it, as its name suggests, in the city center, at the lower end of uptown and just above the Central Business District. With a resurgence of art galleries, restaurants and cultural organizations, this historical neighborhood is also emerging as one of its most interesting.

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Restaurants & Nightlife

Central City's rich historical and cultural roots are reflected in its food and entertainment options. From traditional New Orleans fare, such as gumbo and bread pudding, to vegan and Latin offerings, the choices available in this neighborhood speak of the neighborhood's diverse history and populations. Casa Borrega features traditional Mexican dishes such as chiles en nogada, a stuffed poblano pepper covered with white sauce and pomegranate. With over 100 tequilas and mezcals stocked at the bar, Casa Borrega satisfies when you're in the mood for a south-of-the-border cocktail. Cafe Reconcile cooks up not only traditional New Orleans' Cajun/Creole dishes such as bananas Foster bread pudding and dishes featuring andouille sausages but also great opportunities for local youth. Their life skills and job training program helps young people between ages 16 to 22 to get off the streets of their at-risk communities and into a job and community. 3 Potato 4 offers vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes focused on bringing the humble potato into the realm of the exotic with homemade signature dipping sauces such as chipotle mayo. The environmentally-friendly restaurant displays its commitment to sustainable packaging by serving up its healthy, baked French fries in biodegradable paper cones. Cultural activities abound in the Central City neighborhood, with unique and diverse events that feature everything from the Mardi Gras Indians' Super Sunday events at A.L. Davis Park and Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center's Middle Eastern Film Festival to the free Central City Festival, where brass bands thump through the neighborhood streets, and the Latin Music Festival in mid-December at Casa Borrega. Casa Borrega often features live music during the weekends as well. The Ashe Cultural Center's mission to use culture to support the community brings a diverse selection of events to the neighborhood, from theater productions and art exhibitions to community music and healing workshops. Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center delivers independent cinema to the city as well as interesting musical, literary, and theatrical acts. If you are looking for a simple cocktail, go to Verret's Lounge. With its red vinyl and with enough TVs to catch the World Cup or Saints game, Verret's low-key vibe and low prices should please most anyone. Some nights feature live music, and the lounge claims to feature "weird" every day of the week. Wake up and smell the coffee at Church Alley Coffee Bar, which offers not only some of the best coffee in the city, but fresh juices and salads as well. Writers have chosen this as one of the best places to write, as well as to people-watch, in the city.

History & Culture

Once called Dryades Street, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, renamed for a civil rights leader, slices through Central City. Its renaming speaks to its storied history and heritage: Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the New Zion Baptist Church in 1957, and a street boycott in the 1960s protested the absence of black employees in neighborhood shops. Religious landmarks testify to the diverse population that settled Central City in the early 19th century, including orthodox synagogues, the state's oldest African-American Baptist church and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, designed for an Irish population by a German architect. Jazz greats such as Jelly Roll Morton and Buddy Bolden hail from this part of town, and in the late 1990s, Central City it was named a "Save America's Treasure" neighborhood. The traditional, black Zulu parade gathers here on Mardi Gras day, and Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday happens in March. Music and theater events can be experienced year-round.

Transportation

Most people drive in the neighborhood, but bikes are not uncommon. While the flat terrain makes the neighborhood walkable, its high crime rate, while improving, does not. Public and street parking is usually available and tends to be free or very inexpensive. Public bus transportation run through the city. The #15 Freret bus offers a tour through the neighborhood for $1.25 each way. Uber and United Cab Service provide easy options to get in and out, and the entrance to Interstate 10 is a few minutes away.

Cost

The cost of living in Central City is lower than that of the rest of New Orleans, with median rent for a one-bedroom residence running around $750. With public bus routes and the nearby historic street car route close by, most of the city is accessible for less than $2 each way. Grab a beer on the way for around $4. The neighborhood gas average of $2.71 sits at 3.6 percent less than the national average.

Shopping

While not known as a major shopping area, Central City lies a stone's throw from Crescent City Farmers Market in the Warehouse District, which runs year-round. Small grocery stores such as Friendly Supermarket service the neighborhood as well. One of the city's oldest bakeries, Leidenheimer Baking Company bakes the soft French bread used in traditional po' boys, the well-known long sandwich associated with New Orleans. Leidenheimer's also features an interesting mural comprised of two comic characters created by local illustrator Bunny Matthews. Despite the history of the neighborhood's major street as a major commercial hub, most visitors do their shopping outside of the neighborhood. If you prefer to stay closer to home, stop in to Prima Donna's Closet on Charles Avenue. This compact consignment store carries high-end designer items at discounted prices. Whether you need a Mardi Gras gown or a new bag, you can find a wide variety of new and used items. Keep the store in mind when you empty your closet — the staff also accepts items for consignment. In December, check out Holiday on the Boulevard where local artists vend their wares. There, customers shop, enjoy performances from some of the city's most esteemed musicians and check out the Kwanzaa demonstration on display.

Parks

The neighborhood houses three somewhat bare-bones parks, but 20 others can be reached within a 1-mile radius. A.L. Davis Park hosts the headquarters for one of the city's most important cultural celebrations: Super Sunday, the third Sunday in March, when New Orleans' fabled Mardi Gras Indian tribes converge there to show off their elaborate beaded costumes.
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