Editor’s Note: It’s officially summer, and we’re putting on the heat! Whether it’s places to explore to escape the humid temperatures that saturate your bones or tourist industries that need to feel the fires of truth, we’re looking at it all for this series. First up, we’re getting you fueled with the caffeine you might need (iced or hot) with a look at the best coffee spots in New Orleans.
New Orleans is a city where each street has its own story to tell, and the residents and visitors to the city all partake in the beautiful, rich culture that the city has to offer. This culture is reflected in the coffee shops of NOLA. NOLA takes its coffee seriously, and the coffee shops are as diverse as the people that frequent them. I decided to explore different caffeine spots in and around the city to understand how the coffee shops act as a mirror of the streets that surround them, all the while maintaining New Orleans’ unique charm.
I chose five coffee shops that are spread across the city, each with its own coffee crowd that tells a story of its own little part of New Orleans. I visited each one and noted its ambiance and what makes all of them beloved by the city’s inhabitants.
Cafe 1: La Boulangerie on Magazine (near Uptown)
An ode to the famous and magical Magazine Street, La Boulangerie is a beautifully noisy and bustling sight to behold. This French-influenced bistro cafe hosts a multitude of different personalities. Students studying off campus, elderly couples out for a midday snack, and young professionals taking a lunch break or mulling over a project can all be found here. It is the perfect spot if you want to settle down and take in all the liveliness around you, or go for a nice afternoon brunch with your loved ones.
Stepping inside the café felt as if I were stepping foot into a little metro coffee shop in central Paris; the décor is contemporary French with blue and white seating, bookshelves host baking books, menus are written in chalk, and the fluid movement of waiters rushing to and from the kitchen give it a fantastic bustle. The energy emanating from the coffee shop is infectious; it is brightly lit, open, warm, and inviting. The coffee shop itself has a beautiful outdoor patio and a spacious interior with plenty of space to accommodate its many patrons.
The composition of people in the coffee shop is remarkable. There was an even mix of middle-aged individuals out for brunch and students seeking a comfortable setting. While sitting there and enjoying their dark and rich coffee, I noticed that once the lunch hour quieted down, the back wall was lined with laptops as young professionals enjoyed coffee and free Wi-Fi.
And don’t forget the pastries! The delicate pastries and tarts that fill the display trays made my heart melt- — biting into their croissants is like biting into a soft, flaky, fluffy cloud.
La Boulangerie provides classical European comfort with its own New Orleans’ twist with a scenic spot on Magazine.
Cafe 2: French Press Coffee in Metairie (off Airline Hwy)
The second coffee shop on my route was French Press Coffee in Metairie. French Press is a small chain of local coffee shops sprawled throughout Metairie and Kenner. The design of French Press is simplistic, with a modern European wood design and large open windows along every wall of the coffee shop.
What struck me first when I walked into French Press was that it contains a lot of natural light; it almost resembled a ranch with a broad open space. However, this is where the European influence at French Press ended. In true American fashion, French Press hosts a mini diaspora. The visitors to the café are diverse, with different races and ethnicities spread out across the coffee shop. The café that day was full, with a crowd of young professionals and local Metairie residents. It exuded a welcoming space for anyone seeking a laid-back atmosphere.
I was surprised to find that French Press possesses a completely American twist with digital signs, slot machines, and a widespread electronic system for taking orders. The coffee itself is a bit thin for my liking, and the café features an American-style menu and desserts, including cupcakes, cake pops, turkey sandwiches, and muffins.
As I sipped my coffee I could hear the faint sound of gaming machines coming from a little room in the back corner. Despite the video gaming background noise, the rest of the coffee shop was silent except for a soft murmur of chatter. It is a comfortable place for a mother to grab a midday coffee with her kids in tow and a group of students to focus on their upcoming finals.
Cafe 3: Rue de la Course on Carrollton
Rue de la Course on Carrollton Avenue is quite famous among, as its strong coffee and artisan bagel sandwiches are a well-known force Uptown. Housed in a formidable off-white Roman-style building on the corner of Oak Street and Carrollton Avenue, Rue de la Course is a rustic niche coffee shop with high open ceilings, small wooden tables, and elegant crème walls. It is casual and comfortable with one large expanse and an upstairs retreat. This makes the coffee shop quiet and easygoing for anyone looking to focus. Professionals and undergraduates alike frequent this café — it is a 10-minute walk from Tulane’s campus. It provides some solace from college with lovely street-view seating outside and relaxed indoor seating.
Rue de la Course’s coffee is almost addictive — I ordered a large coffee, and it disappeared before I knew it! The coffee shop was brimming with students; at its busiest time, it was almost impossible to find seating within the coffee shop. The back wall features coffee beans from all over the world, marking Rue de la Course as a paradise for coffee lovers and locals alike.
Cafe 4: Coast Roast Coffee at Auction House Market
My next stop was a coffee kiosk within a bustling food hall. I decided to include Coast Roast Coffee Shop at Auction House Market among my hit list since it is in the lively heart of downtown.
Auction House Market itself is clean, chic, and modern. It contains a lot of natural and artificial light and ample seating, with artificial plants adorning the center bar in the middle of the food hall. The coffee shop itself was quiet and barely noticeable in the corner, but it contains all the classic coffee drinks anyone could ask for, and the coffee is amazing.
Located in a nice touristy pit stop for anyone visiting New Orleans’ bars or downtown attractions, Auction House Market is an elaborate yet unforgettable stop for students trying to find a spot to socialize, city visitors wanting a quick treat, or just a lunchtime retreat for anyone visiting the bustling area. While there, it was easy to witness many of the native New Orleanians mingling with city visitors who wanted to get a taste of what New Orleans has to offer. During my time there, I saw a group of girls out for brunch, an elderly couple ordering mimosas, and many other diverse characters exploring the many options available. As such, the food court style makes it easy for you to pick up a coffee from Coast Roast and then enjoy Vietnamese, Indian, sushi or more.
Within the winding beauty of the hall itself, it is easy to find lots of open sitting space—there were a few professionals settled within the hall working on their laptops. Overall, Coast Roast Coffee at Auction House Market provides tourists and locals alike with a friendly and open space to socialize.
Cafe 5: Treme Coffeehouse
Out of all the coffee shops I visited, I was most intrigued and pleasantly surprised by Treme Coffeehouse. No one in New Orleans can go far without hearing about the beautiful and rich history that stems out of the neighborhood of Treme, so I was excited to see if the coffee shop lived up to its namesake. And I was not disappointed! Treme Coffeehouse is a force to be reckoned with within the legendary Treme — I was there for only two hours, but I witnessed locals from around the neighborhood popping in and out throughout the day.
A short juant from the French Quarter, I can imagine the shop being quite busy during the tourist season. The style of the coffee shop itself is classical New Orleans and Creole culture. It is beautifully furnished with ample seating and a cute little courtyard overlooking the street. The walls of the coffee shop boast an eclectic mélange of orange and green, and the coffee shop is packed with local art and black and white jazz photos.
Treme Coffeehouse caters to visitors and the neighborhood of Treme alike; it was hard to keep track of all the different personalities who entered the shop, but I witnessed a dog walker, two police officers taking a coffee break, a lady reading on a Nook, a little cadre of middle school boys fresh off the bus, and a group of pre-adolescent girls stopping in for a snowball treat while I was there. I also witnessed an adorable interaction between an old Creole man and the barista. The man came in to pick up his mail from the barista; he chatted with her and socialized around the coffee shop. This interaction struck me as incredibly warm; he had told the mailman to drop his mail at the coffee shop. It is truly a friendly neighborhood coffee spot full of characters. There was one barista manning the coffee bar itself, and she knew everyone who walked in and out of the shop.
Besides the bustling energy of the locals swinging out of the coffee house, the shop itself is quiet except for lively jazz playing at a low volume from the radio. The coffee was by far the most affordable option on my list, and I found their coffee to be bitter yet flavorful, almost as playful as the neighborhood of Treme itself.
After visiting all of these coffee shops, it was easy to see why New Orleans is such a unique and vibrant city. It embraces visitors and locals alike, with a blend of cultures that varies based on your location within the city. This is seen in its boisterous coffee culture, which demonstrates how each area of the city has its own magnetic appeal. The college culture of Rue de la Course, the jazz society of Treme Coffeehouse, the suburban comfort of French Press Coffee House, and more coffee shops around the city all represent the soul of New Orleans.