Outside is officially open! After 15 months of being cooped up, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic brought about unimaginable changes, down to the way we grieved our loved ones through social distancing mandates. It also brought some of us who thought we had left New Orleans for good right back home where we belonged. But with COVID-19 restrictions finally lifting, this means former 504 ex-pats aren’t the only ones who will be re-learning the city. We still have a trek ahead of us before we’re back to (our version of) pre-pandemic normal. Here are five spots where you can safely reacquaint yourself with our gorgeous city.
SHOP: Peaches Records
Walking into Peaches Records still feels like a warm hug. Spotting Peaches owner Shirani Rea, a local hip hop legend in her own right, a warm smile with whoever she’s talking to is almost guaranteed. The spacious Magazine Street location offers ample room for those casually perusing vinyl – including some rare finds – or enjoying the live music area in the back. There’s also the eye-catching handmade crate display that makes you deliberate over what area of your home needs its very own Peaches crate the most. With icons like Mia X and Mannie Fresh singing its praises, and regulars who wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else, there’s a place that is ours despite a whirlwind of change. Peaches has always belonged to the locals, and 41 years later, the vibe lets us know that they are well aware.
DRINK: New Orleans Art Bar
Lush. Deep. Those are the first two words that hit you after you ring the bell and are escorted through the ordinary white door. NOAB’s blue walls and stunning décor immediately pulls you in. Their drinks are curated as carefully as their art, with nothing that will leave you disappointed. Vodka lovers should give the Down South more than one look. There’s also a yummy assortment of bites for gnoshing, which you can enjoy anytime, including while you’re enjoying live music there on Thursdays. If getting your weekend off to a spicy start is on your agenda, Friday nights offer a burlesque show. The cherry on top of this decadent sundae is NOAB’s staff, who treats you like they’ve been waiting for you, specifically, to show up. It goes without saying that NOAB should be marked down for your date night considerations. Space is limited, so please make reservations.
ART: Studio BE
Whatever you expect of Studio BE, those expectations are blown out of the water once you walk in. Acclaimed artist (and NOCCA graduate) Brandan “BMike” Odums has selected this 35,000 square foot warehouse as home to his first solo exhibition “Ephemeral Eternal,” a passionate labor of love. Every square inch feels like you’re in a dreamland of affirmation and hope, pointing towards revolution. (It is worth noting that some of the exhibit’s murals were salvaged Odum’s “Project BE,” located throughout the lower 9th Ward’s abandoned Florida Housing Development until its demolition in 2014.) Larger-than-life images of figures like Ruby Dee, John Lewis, and Fannie Lou Hamer greet you throughout, as do celebrations of beauty that the one that answers the question “How can black people paint flowers at a time like this?” In addition to taking in the gorgeous work surrounding you, take a look at what the gift shop offers on your way in, out, or both! Reservations can be made on their website and school tours are available.
Eat: Que Rico! Cuban Café
Nestled on the corner of Magazine and Milan is the bright café owned by Iderlin Rivera and her husband Richard. Every dish sounds like a blessing. If you order the ropa vieja, don’t be surprised if you’re three spoons in before you realize you didn’t take a picture like you planned. It’s likely because the menu is full of authentic recipes handed down to Rivera by her own mother, and you need to know if it tastes as good as it smells. (It’s better. Trust me. I’ve done the research.) Que Rico is affordable and family-friendly, with portion sizes that leave you feeling full without needing a wheelbarrow on the way out. If you seek a neighborhood vibe that doesn’t let anyone feel like a stranger, this is your place. Que Rico does not require reservations. It also offers carryout and delivery (in a limited area).
PARK: The Fly (Audubon Riverview Park) at Sunset
The prevailing joke following the lift on pandemic restrictions has been “outside is expensive.” One of the most indulgent treats you can give yourself in New Orleans luckily doesn’t cost a thing. Grab your family, your dog, or your boo, spread out your blanket along the Mississippi River with the rest of the peace seekers, and just watch the sunset. The Fly is hard to beat as a location when you’re getting with friends you haven’t seen in forever, while still having enough space for social distancing. Those looking for a change of venue while engaging in a newfound pandemic hobby should put The Fly on the list. It’s also a superb place for taking stock of the things we still have and how not all those things have a price tag.