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A view of the Carousel Bar, a slowly-rotating bar structure meant to resemble a carousel ride at a carnival, with bulb lights and mirrors.
Inside Carousel Bar
Brasted

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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Inside Carousel Bar
| Brasted

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.
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Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

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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

Ace Hotel New Orleans

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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

Galatoire’s

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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

French 75

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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

Palace Cafe

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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.

Carousel Bar

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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.

A view of the Carousel Bar, a slowly-rotating bar structure meant to resemble a carousel ride at a carnival, with bulb lights and mirrors.
Inside Carousel Bar
Brasted

Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge

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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. 

Tableau

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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

Cafe Du Monde French Market

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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

Port of Call

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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

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

Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe

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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

The Country Club

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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

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

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.

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

Ace Hotel New Orleans

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.

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

Galatoire’s

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.

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

French 75

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.

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Palace Cafe

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.

Carousel Bar

A view of the Carousel Bar, a slowly-rotating bar structure meant to resemble a carousel ride at a carnival, with bulb lights and mirrors.
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.

A view of the Carousel Bar, a slowly-rotating bar structure meant to resemble a carousel ride at a carnival, with bulb lights and mirrors.
Inside Carousel Bar
Brasted

Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge

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. 

Tableau

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.

Tableau exterior
Tableau’s balcony
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Cafe Du Monde French Market

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.

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

Port of Call

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.

Port of Call
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

R Bar

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.

Outside R Bar during Mardi Gras
R Bar/Facebook

Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe

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.

Envie Espresso
Envie/Official Photo

The Country Club

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.

A pool party at The Country Club
The Country Club
Brasted

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