There are many restaurants in the French Quarter that offer jazz brunches on the weekends but a few of the more popular venues feature live traditional music on a daily basis.
The Palm Court Jazz Café (1204 Decatur) celebrated its 30th anniversary this past January and it is absolutely one of my favorite destinations. In that month’s issue of Offbeat Magazine, owner Nina Buck reminisced about its origins. What began as a warehouse for the GHB (George H. Buck) Jazz Foundation and a little coffee shop is now a recording studio with ample storage for thousands of CDs, records, publications, and archived treasures. Other retail shops occupy the street level spaces and multiple living units are on the second floor—the Palm Court is a lively anchor for the international guests that gather to celebrate the six or seven piece band that occupies its stage five nights a week, Wednesday through Sunday.
Nina is a warm, delightful hostess that began her tenure in the kitchen, conjuring up the gumbos, soups, red beans & rice, and other sauces, etc. that emerged from the back room. Eventually she found her spot at the front door, greeting and welcoming all diners, drinkers, and music lovers. The musical director is Lars Edegran (a recent Preservation Hall Legacy Awardee) and his wife Kathy is a co-hostess. Chef Bobby Davis began his career there at the age of 14 and after schooling and college, now oversees the kitchen. Several members of the Davis family also work the bar and front areas.
The musicians are some of the finest in the city and being able to see and hear them for an evening is definitely my happy place. With a “supper club” environment, the Palm Court is a must for any visitor to the French Quarter. You will be treated like family and will meet many diners from across the world that have a strong connection to the traditional jazz world, as musicians, travelers or enthusiasts.
The Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal) offers a daily jazz brunch from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm— this historic site boasts the largest courtyard in the Quarter with a building dating from 1832. In 1886 Sisters Emma and Bertha Camors opened a “notions” shop at the site catering to the wealthier residents of the Quarter. They provided embellishments for Mardi Gras costumes, created lavish gowns, and imported perfumes and various accessories from Paris. As early as the late 1920s the building was occupied by restaurant or refreshment enterprises.
The Fein family purchased the property in 1963 and now the third generation is involved in the daily operations of this large venue. There are dining rooms on both levels for special events, weddings, evening dinners, etc. The wisteria laden courtyard features the daily brunch which offers dozens of items with breakfast specialties from 9:00 am to 11:30 am and additional lunch entrees beginning then—the best time to visit is about 11:00 am to enjoy traditional eggs benedict and a plate of delicious cold or hot morning entrees while enjoying the music. Then have some roast beef or other Creole and Cajun items as the servers prepare the banquet tables for the heartier luncheon fare—The Best of Two Worlds!
As you leave take note of the Devil’s Wishing Well, the beautiful Charm Gates from Spain and the three flags above the entry acknowledging the sovereigns of France, Spain and the United States.
Buffa’s is a local spot across Esplanade at Burgundy (1001 Esplanade) and is open 24 hours. It has been on the Border of the Quarter since 1939 and is very casual. Live music some afternoons and every evening showcase many great musicians and is an off-the-beaten-path place for a burger and a beer although other Creole and Cajun fare is equally delicious. The special honey praline ham is a signature side. Steve Pistorius (p) plays regularly and the Some Like It Hot band entertains the Sunday brunch crowd.
The Maison across Esplanade on Frenchmen (508 Frenchmen) is another casual place with lots of daily/evening music—traditional sets begin at 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm (beginning at 1:00 on Saturdays); after 10:00 pm other bands and types of music provide lots of entertainment from two stages. Again the typical and tasty “bar” food is burgers, sandwiches, snack items and Creole and Cajun specialties.
The Three Muses (536 Frenchmen) offers great evening entertainment with incredible “small bites” worth savoring. The kitchen is open to 10:30 pm each evening but the bar is available to 11:00 pm on Thursday & Sunday then midnight on Friday & Saturday. Regular performers include Tom McDermott (p) and Shotgun Jazz Band (see Joe Bebco’s interview with Marla Dixon in the January 2019 issue of The Syncopated Times).
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro is the grande dame of Frenchmen (at 626) and is open daily from 5:00 pm for dining in a separate room from the music and stage—there are two shows each evening with the same performers and one can easily enjoy a delightful meal in time to attend the performance in the next room (I highly recommend the lightly fried mushrooms). The bar is open during the sets and the small tables will accommodate any libations. There are two floors and the seating is not assigned so get in the line that forms and head straight to your desired area. This is a no-talking, no cell phone venue for serious music lovers, be sure to catch one of the sets on your next trip. Several members of the Marsalis family are regularly featured (Ellis, Jason, or Delfeayo), Charmaine Neville is there every Monday evening, and both Topsy Chapman and Germaine Bazzle are often on the calendar.
Arnaud’s on Bienville at Bourbon features music every evening from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm in the Jazz Bistro. Celebrating its 100th year, this icon is known for originating the cocktail known as the French 75—brandy and champagne. Overlooking Bourbon, The Gumbo Trio will make you forget the chaos outside the door and bring you to an earlier place in time. Visit the Mardi Gras Museum upstairs for a lesson in the original elegance that was reflected in the parades, balls and events of that celebrated season. With vintage photographs, masks, faux jewels, party invitations and favors, the Museum is worth a stop in your intinerary.
The Palace Café is a great setting on Canal (at 605) and has a featured Jazz Brunch on the weekends. On the site of the historic Werlein’s music building since 1991, the Palace is two stories with available rooms for the upcoming Mardi Gras parades, definitely front row viewing!
Another Dickie Brennan restaurant, Tableau at Jackson Square, also has weekend live music and is attached to the Le Petit Theatre. With a balcony overlooking Jackson Square, people watching has never been so much fun! Both of these restaurants expand their menus with regional ingredients and classic Creole dishes.
There are so many French Quarter restaurants that feature weekend jazz brunches, be sure to gather at one of them during your next visit!
After 48-1/2 years, Shelly Gallichio is a retired Real Estate Associate Broker in Tucson, Arizona and despite growing up in Chicago, fell in love with the clarinet and the New Orleans sound at the age of three—she intends to spend the next 48-1/2 years seeking that sound!