The food at Jazz Fest is an essential part of the experience, and indeed most people who return to the event year after year have certain vendors and dishes on their minds when they pass through the gates. But on the way back out afterward in the nearby neighborhood, there are some interesting options for dinner or snacks. Don’t let the crush of people coming out of the Fair Grounds fool you. Most are bee-lining it for home, the hotel or the next show, not rushing the doors of the restaurants. Stick around for a little while with a drink and some dinner and watch the after parties take shape.
3312 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans
Always a popular neighborhood spot, this traditional Spanish restaurant has just the right casual vibe for a post-fest visit and the sort of shareable dishes that make great group meals. They don’t take reservations, so put your name on the list (or you might score a table right away) and revive with inexpensive sangria, cool ceviche and great pans of paella.
3201 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans
This Latin cantina probably sees the biggest transformation during Jazz Fest (apart from Liuzza’s by the Track, which clears out its dining room and switches to take-out mode entirely). The covered patio fills with folks sipping margaritas and wolfing down enchiladas, fajitas and towering plates of nachos. In past years, Santa Fe has also set up a little counter service outdoor bar for margaritas, empanadas and other quick snacks from its menu. The party should be rocking here again.
845 N. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans
A little farther down the line from the Fair Grounds, but definitely on the main transit route, this modern Cajun restaurant can be just the place to cool your heels until the traffic dies down. It’s neighborhood-casual, but the bar has an impressive wine list and cocktail program. Try to get a table outside under the oak tree and split a Cajun-style charcuterie plate, fried shrimp with ham and jalapeno and see who’s brave enough to order the lamb neck (it’s delicious).
514 City Park Ave., New Orleans
This is the first Jazz Fest season for Mopho, which is just past City Park on the way to the interstate from the Fair Grounds. The buzz has been strong on this Vietnamese-inspired (but not really Vietnamese) restaurant. The offbeat approach to pho proves remarkable restorative, an important consideration after a day of fest-ing, and the spring rolls, chicken wings and creatively conceived banh mi sandwiches are good smaller items if you just want a snack.