The People's Guide is Curbed NOLA's tour of neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, neighborhood experts, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome T. Cole Newton, owner of the neighborhood "cocktail dive" Twelve Mile Limit.
Tell us something we don't know about Mid-City.
Mid-City was the home of Pelican Stadium, a minor league baseball park, from the 1910s through the 1950s. It was the spring training home to the Yankees in the 1920s, so Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the rest of the Bronx Bombers spent a lot of time in Mid-City during those years.
Are there any neighborhood traditions of note?
Endymion, the only major Mardi Gras parade left that hasn't been moved onto St. Charles Avenue, rolls through Mid-City once a year. Bayou Boogaloo is a free annual music festival on Bayou St. John that's still a lot of fun—it hasn't gotten so popular that it needs to be avoided (*cough* French Quarter Fest *cough*.) My favorite Mid-City tradition, the annual New Year's Eve Christmas tree bonfire on Orleans Avenue, was shut down by the fire department a few years ago. That's probably for the best; it was only a matter of time before it ended in disaster.
Hidden gems in Mid-City:
The Tulane Avenue corridor is experiencing an economic revival with the arrival of the new hospital complex between Mid-City and downtown, but there are a couple of hidden gems there that have been holding out for a while. I really like Boswell's Jamaican Grill, which makes up for its wholesale lack of ambiance with spot-on jerk and curry dishes, and Avery's On Tulane is great for well-executed casual Louisiana fare. Their Buffalo shrimp po-boy alone is worth the trip.
Do you need a car to get around?
You do not need a car to live comfortably in Mid-City. Most of the area is in walking distance of the Canal streetcar line, one of the more reliable options for public transportation in New Orleans. Mid-City is extremely pedestrian and bike friendly as well. The newly opened Lafitte Greenway provides a safe bike and pedestrian corridor that connects Mid-City with the French Quarter and is free from motorized vehicles.
Good for kids?
Mid-City is great for kids, the rare kind of urban neighborhood where parents are mostly comfortable letting their children play outside with minimal supervision.
Beloved neighborhood joints?
Mid-City has a couple of bars left over from the era when neighborhood pubs were embedded in their 'hoods, instead of on main commercial corridors. Pal's, on the bayou side of Mid-City, has been a fixture of the area for years. My bar, the cocktail dive Twelve Mile Limit, is on the other side of Mid-City, between Banks Street and Tulane Avenue. Both are embedded in otherwise residential areas. Finn McCool's, a block away from Twelve Mile Limit, is rightly one of the most popular bars in the city, and they're also the best business neighbors a guy could ask for.
City Park is a treasure. They have everything! The New Orleans Museum of Art is there, and it's world class. They have so many styles of golf, from mini golf to disc golf to, um, regular golf? Huge tracts of City Park are basically still wild, so you can go traipse around in the woods. There are sports complexes, and botanical gardens, and a beignet shop, and a miniature train, and ... I could go on for a while. I love urban parks, and we've got one of the best.
What's not-so-great about your "perfect" neighborhood?
Socioeconomic conditions vary wildly from one section of Mid-City to another, and the amount of litter on the streets of the lower-income areas is frustrating. Also frustrating are the shootings, which are concentrated in the same areas as the litter. My friend Ryan caught a stray bullet in his leg while doing yard work last year. It's on the decline, but gun violence is still a major issue.
What's the neighborhood housing stock like?
Mid-City is blowing up! Empty lots, common five years ago, are increasingly rare, and blighted homes are being bought and renovated at an astounding rate. I thought my wife and I overpaid for our house when we bought it last year, but since then each comparable house around us has sold for a little bit more.
Better for buyers or renters?
It's a hard time for either group right now if price is a concern, but my impression is that rent prices are moving up at a slower rate than sale prices. That said, compared to the Marigny/Bywater or Uptown areas, things are still relatively affordable in Mid-City for both renters and buyers.
When people think of Mexican food in Mid-City, they usually think of the fun local chains Juan's and Felipe's. Both are great, but if you're looking for a more authentic Latin dining experience, check out El Rinconcito or Taqueria Guerrero, which are adjacent to one another on Carrollton. I suppose the recently opened Broad Theater (on Broad Street by the Whole Foods), a new independent movie theater and event space, qualifies as a secret, but only because it's new. Within a few months everyone in the city will have been there.
It's hard to pin down a single stereotypical resident since Mid-City varies so much from section to section. The more affluent areas are typified by older, white, upper middle class people who like the idea of living within walking distance of Jazz Fest. The less affluent areas, on the other hand, may be best represented by my next door neighbor, a retired cop who spends most of his free time working on the Jeep in his driveway with no shirt on.
Most common sight?
The most common sight in Mid-City is people, walking dogs, sitting on porches, working on lawns, and saying hello to each other.
What kind of person would love this neighborhood?
Mid City is possibly the most diverse area of the city. On a walk to the grocery store and back the other day I heard five different languages. If you like the idea of living in an area where not everyone looks, sounds, and acts like you, but everyone still mostly gets along, Mid City is hard to beat.
What kind of person would NOT love this neighborhood?
Some sections of Mid City, especially around Tulane Avenue and Broad Street, are still very run-down. If you can't stand the sight of litter, blight, or people who make less money than you, stick to the main drags and more affluent areas.