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The Best People Watching Spots in New Orleans

From historic restaurants to dive bars, where to see New Orleans’s movers, shakers, oddballs, and tourists

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Who needs reality TV when there’s New Orleans? A moveable feast of humanity in all its fleshy glory, the sheer diversity of the crowds drawn to this epicenter of music, culture, and food is mind-boggling. And while everybody should saunter down Bourbon Street’s storied byway of honky tonks, buskers, hustlers, strippers, and inebriated masses at least once, there are plenty of other spots around town to see well-heeled locals and NOLA characters with their freak flags flying.

Did we miss your favorite place to people watch? Let us know.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

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2301 Orleans Ave
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 821-0600

More deals have been brokered at Dooky Chase’s than anybody would every admit to. Lunch is a magnet for local movers and shakers, who table hop and hunker down to talk business. You just never know who is going to be at the next table, although it’s for sure that the late Miss Leah Chase is hovering ever-present in the dining room.

US Democratic presidential candidate Ill
Senator Barack Obama eats gumbo with restaurant owner Leah Chase during a visit at Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 7, 2008
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

2. Ace Hotel New Orleans

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600 Carondelet St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 900-1180
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If you like hip hotel bars, the kind that draws vaguely familiar celebrity types and millennials in town for power meetings and film projects, you’ll love the lobby bar at the Ace. In a setting dripping with art and crowded with comfy seating, slurp a cocktail and keep those eyes peeled. When you need a change, head to Bar Marilou next door, also a scene.

The lobby bar at the Ace Hotel
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

3. Galatoire’s

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209 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-2021
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Depending on the time of year, gussied Uptown locals line up outside of Galatoire’s as early as 10:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, and that’s where the show really starts. Friday lunch is a storied tradition at this Creole Palace, a champagne-soaked networking session that lasts until dinner. These regulars don’t only want the trout amandine, they ask for their waiter by name at a place where the staff has tended to the same families for generations.

Friday lunch at Galatoire's
Friday lunch at Galatoire’s
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

4. French 75

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813 Bienville St
New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 523-5433
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The historic, James Beard Award-winning French 75 continues to evoke the vibe of an intimate, upper crust English club. Look for the groups of business men at the gorgeous polished wood bar and try to guess their work and where they’re from; it’s the best. And the best people watching of all takes place on the walk to and from, right through the heart of the French Quarter.

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

5. Palace Cafe

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605 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-1661
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Dickie Brennan’s French Quarter restaurant Palace Cafe reopened a few years ago with an upgraded kitchen, swanky new rum bar, and additional sidewalk seating on Canal, the prime people watching seats. There is never a dull moment on that stretch of the gritty thoroughfare; your eyes won’t know where to look.

6. Carousel Bar

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214 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-3341
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A celebrated local landmark for 65 years, the Carousel Bar’s location in the swanky Hotel Monteleone means it’s always full of interesting people; visitors and locals alike. A lounge adjoining the (very slowly) rotating bar offers club chair and sofa seating that’s better for groups, but make sure to order from a server if you sit there (and not from the bar). Live music some afternoons and evenings add an additional people watching opportunity.

Inside Carousel Bar
Inside Carousel Bar
Brasted

7. Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge

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1500 N Claiborne Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 975-3955
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With bright and jazzy murals covering its colorful exterior, Mother-in-Law announces its role at the epicenter of New Orleans’s most historic neighborhood, Treme — for Mardi Gras, Second Lines, Sundays, anything really. Come for the vibe, the people, and to see Kermit Ruffins, not for craft beers or cocktails. Free crawfish boils on Fridays when they’re in season and red beans on Monday. 

8. Tableau

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616 St Peter
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 934-3463
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It doesn’t get more in the thick of things than at Tableau, just off Jackson Square. The balcony offers a bird’s eye view of the artists, fortune tellers, mule-drawn carriages, pedicabs, shoppers, tourists, and beleaguered workers below, plus a polished seafood-centric menu.

Tableau exterior
Tableau’s balcony
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

9. Cafe Du Monde French Market

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800 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544
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Cafe Du Monde is one of those places that both tourists and locals dearly love. But tourists tend to go at prime time, lining up for the chance to drink lukewarm cafe au lait and powdered sugared beignets hot from the fryer. There’s usually a musician or two outside playing for tips. Open 24/7, the views change dramatically as the wee hours commence.

A queue at Cafe du Monde.
Cafe du Monde French Market
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

10. Port of Call

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838 Esplanade Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 523-0120
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Although Port of Call is home to a killer burger and excellent baked potato on the edge of the Quarter, the people watching is outside the restaurant. Hungry crowds queue up for hours, a head scratcher to locals allergic to waiting on line for grub. Never mind, the waiters can be entertaining, fueled by potent margaritas and monsoons, the bar’s version of a hurricane.

Port of Call
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

11. R Bar

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1431 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 948-7499
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Sitting at the corner of Royal and Kerlerec Streets, the classic R Bar offers either a dimly lit respite from Frenchmen Street crowds, or during Mardi Gras, the best front row seat to the madness. Reasonable prices, pool tables, and full of locals drinking boilermakers, it’s a solidly New Orleans dive bar experience. When you’ve regenerated, wander back to Frenchmen for live music and more people watching, albeit of the tourist variety.

Outside R Bar during Mardi Gras
R Bar/Facebook

12. Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe

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1241 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 524-3689
Visit Website

There are tons of coffee houses in and around the French Quarter, but this place is especially, well, interesting. Often raucous, always colorful, sometimes less than savory, Envie seems to draw a particular and very loyal crowd — especially to the outside seating. Just pass by and see for yourself.

Envie Espresso
Envie/Official Photo

13. The Country Club

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634 Louisa St
New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 945-0742
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Whether drinking by the pool at back, squeezing into a table for Saturday drag brunch, or watching a Saints game from the bar on a rainy Sunday, the Country Club in Bywater always delivers an over the top scene. Be prepared for an escalating club-like setting out back on nice days and for the ear-splitting din of bachelorette parties at brunch.

A pool party at The Country Club
The Country Club
Brasted

1. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

2301 Orleans Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119
US Democratic presidential candidate Ill
Senator Barack Obama eats gumbo with restaurant owner Leah Chase during a visit at Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 7, 2008
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

More deals have been brokered at Dooky Chase’s than anybody would every admit to. Lunch is a magnet for local movers and shakers, who table hop and hunker down to talk business. You just never know who is going to be at the next table, although it’s for sure that the late Miss Leah Chase is hovering ever-present in the dining room.

2301 Orleans Ave
New Orleans, LA 70119

2. Ace Hotel New Orleans

600 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130
The lobby bar at the Ace Hotel
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

If you like hip hotel bars, the kind that draws vaguely familiar celebrity types and millennials in town for power meetings and film projects, you’ll love the lobby bar at the Ace. In a setting dripping with art and crowded with comfy seating, slurp a cocktail and keep those eyes peeled. When you need a change, head to Bar Marilou next door, also a scene.

600 Carondelet St
New Orleans, LA 70130

3. Galatoire’s

209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Friday lunch at Galatoire's
Friday lunch at Galatoire’s
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Depending on the time of year, gussied Uptown locals line up outside of Galatoire’s as early as 10:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, and that’s where the show really starts. Friday lunch is a storied tradition at this Creole Palace, a champagne-soaked networking session that lasts until dinner. These regulars don’t only want the trout amandine, they ask for their waiter by name at a place where the staff has tended to the same families for generations.

209 Bourbon St
New Orleans, LA 70130

4. French 75

813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

The historic, James Beard Award-winning French 75 continues to evoke the vibe of an intimate, upper crust English club. Look for the groups of business men at the gorgeous polished wood bar and try to guess their work and where they’re from; it’s the best. And the best people watching of all takes place on the walk to and from, right through the heart of the French Quarter.

813 Bienville St
New Orleans, LA 70112

5. Palace Cafe

605 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Dickie Brennan’s French Quarter restaurant Palace Cafe reopened a few years ago with an upgraded kitchen, swanky new rum bar, and additional sidewalk seating on Canal, the prime people watching seats. There is never a dull moment on that stretch of the gritty thoroughfare; your eyes won’t know where to look.

605 Canal St
New Orleans, LA 70130

6. Carousel Bar

214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Inside Carousel Bar
Inside Carousel Bar
Brasted

A celebrated local landmark for 65 years, the Carousel Bar’s location in the swanky Hotel Monteleone means it’s always full of interesting people; visitors and locals alike. A lounge adjoining the (very slowly) rotating bar offers club chair and sofa seating that’s better for groups, but make sure to order from a server if you sit there (and not from the bar). Live music some afternoons and evenings add an additional people watching opportunity.

214 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70130

7. Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge

1500 N Claiborne Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116

With bright and jazzy murals covering its colorful exterior, Mother-in-Law announces its role at the epicenter of New Orleans’s most historic neighborhood, Treme — for Mardi Gras, Second Lines, Sundays, anything really. Come for the vibe, the people, and to see Kermit Ruffins, not for craft beers or cocktails. Free crawfish boils on Fridays when they’re in season and red beans on Monday. 

1500 N Claiborne Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116

8. Tableau

616 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116
Tableau exterior
Tableau’s balcony
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

It doesn’t get more in the thick of things than at Tableau, just off Jackson Square. The balcony offers a bird’s eye view of the artists, fortune tellers, mule-drawn carriages, pedicabs, shoppers, tourists, and beleaguered workers below, plus a polished seafood-centric menu.

616 St Peter
New Orleans, LA 70116

9. Cafe Du Monde French Market

800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
A queue at Cafe du Monde.
Cafe du Monde French Market
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Cafe Du Monde is one of those places that both tourists and locals dearly love. But tourists tend to go at prime time, lining up for the chance to drink lukewarm cafe au lait and powdered sugared beignets hot from the fryer. There’s usually a musician or two outside playing for tips. Open 24/7, the views change dramatically as the wee hours commence.

800 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

10. Port of Call

838 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116
Port of Call
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Although Port of Call is home to a killer burger and excellent baked potato on the edge of the Quarter, the people watching is outside the restaurant. Hungry crowds queue up for hours, a head scratcher to locals allergic to waiting on line for grub. Never mind, the waiters can be entertaining, fueled by potent margaritas and monsoons, the bar’s version of a hurricane.

838 Esplanade Ave
New Orleans, LA 70116

11. R Bar

1431 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Outside R Bar during Mardi Gras
R Bar/Facebook

Sitting at the corner of Royal and Kerlerec Streets, the classic R Bar offers either a dimly lit respite from Frenchmen Street crowds, or during Mardi Gras, the best front row seat to the madness. Reasonable prices, pool tables, and full of locals drinking boilermakers, it’s a solidly New Orleans dive bar experience. When you’ve regenerated, wander back to Frenchmen for live music and more people watching, albeit of the tourist variety.

1431 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70116

12. Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe

1241 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Envie Espresso
Envie/Official Photo

There are tons of coffee houses in and around the French Quarter, but this place is especially, well, interesting. Often raucous, always colorful, sometimes less than savory, Envie seems to draw a particular and very loyal crowd — especially to the outside seating. Just pass by and see for yourself.

1241 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

13. The Country Club

634 Louisa St, New Orleans, LA 70117
A pool party at The Country Club
The Country Club
Brasted

Whether drinking by the pool at back, squeezing into a table for Saturday drag brunch, or watching a Saints game from the bar on a rainy Sunday, the Country Club in Bywater always delivers an over the top scene. Be prepared for an escalating club-like setting out back on nice days and for the ear-splitting din of bachelorette parties at brunch.

634 Louisa St
New Orleans, LA 70117

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