On Foot

Magazine Street offers clients eclectic shops and more

By: Cheré Coen

Upriver from the French Quarter, in an area locals naturally call “Uptown,” lovely homes grace St. Charles Avenue; Audubon Park stretches to the zoo; and Tulane and Loyola universities complement each other with ivy-covered buildings.

But head closer to the river, and you’ll find a six-mile stretch of shops, galleries and restaurants that resemble Soho a decade ago. All exist on an avenue called Magazine Street, so named for a magazin or warehouse/store where goods were housed for shipment upriver in the early 19th century. Today, the collection of old warehouses, Victorian homes, shotguns and modern architecture blend to offer foot traffic an eclectic place to shop.

“Part luxury and part funkiness, Magazine Street is owner-operated businesses with a passion for what they’re doing,” said JoAnn Clevenger, owner of Upperline restaurant. “You can’t find this in a mall.”

Every block offers a new experience. Visitors will find vintage clothing, original art, antiques and handmade jewelry, as well as pet boutiques and spas to name a few. Restaurants range from the corner grocery serving po’boys to upscale restaurants offering Creole cuisine.

On the first Saturday of every month, galleries hold openings with people spilling into the street. At Carnival, some parades have their origins on Magazine even schools butt up against the historic street.

The feeling of community has further developed since Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans. Residents call it an “island” since Magazine Street and neighboring areas Uptown weren’t flooded.

“Our neighbors have come together, and our businesses have come together more than ever before,” said Diane Lundeen, president of the Magazine Street Merchants Association and owner of Petcetera, a pet service and boutique housed in a restored 140-year-old building.

And what was trendy before Katrina has become a place to gather, be seen and find old friends. The street’s coffee shops are filled with residents enjoying a break from damaged homes, utilizing wireless capabilities and gathering for conversation.

Mapping Your Way

So, where does one start? First, get a map. The merchants association offers them for free, plus a detailed guide on its Web site, listing what’s offered on each block.

The entire stretch is too far to walk, but clients can visit the street in sections by parking in one area and walking a few blocks, then moving to the next grouping of blocks that strike their fancy.

For example, close to downtown, between Canal and Jackson streets, clients will find many antique malls and art galleries, such as Thomas Mann Gallery I/O, which offers “techno romantic” jewelry almost too wonderful to wear.

In the 2200-3300 blocks, get a facial at Belladonna, shop for trendy shoes and clothes and stop for Creole pot cooking at Joey K’s. Or clients taste French fare at Lilette Restaurant in the 3600 block and enjoy original ceramics at Shadyside Pottery and Potsalot.

Further Uptown, clients can learn how to cook New Orleans cuisine at the Savvy Gourmet or take art lessons at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. In the 5500 block, shop for eclectic gifts, take a coffee break at PJs (say hello to the natives they love to talk to tourists and tell their “storm stories”) and sample a truffle at Blue Frog Chocolates. For a true New Orleans dining experience, visit Upperline on nearby Prytania Street for dinner.

If that’s all too much to try in one day, there are numerous bed and breakfasts off Magazine and hotels on nearby St. Charles Avenue to rest up and continue on another day.