Look around the streets of New Orleans these days and it's impossible to miss that more people are traversing the city on bicycles.
Some restaurants and bars are noticing too, and nowhere more than a part of Mid-City that's becoming a crossroads of bike paths, a destination for in-town outings and, on nice days, a hub for people making the rounds by pedal power.
The focal point is the new Lafitte Greenway, a freshly-paved bike path and pedestrian park running from the edge of the French Quarter to the corner of Mid-City. It's built over a one time industrial corridor and much of it still passes open lots, the back of warehouses and rows of small homes.
When it hits Mid-City, however, the Greenway also passes near a wide variety of places to eat and drink, and more people using the Greenway are stopping off to do just that.
The fulcrum of it all is a new roundabout near the end of Bayou St. John, which links this new Greenway with a network of bike paths and bike lanes reaching from Uptown to the lakefront. If the Greenway is a bicycle highway, this is its cloverleaf and, the restaurants and bars around it feel like rest stops just off the interchange.
The prime example is Parkway Bakery and Tavern, the venerable po-boy shop a block from the Greenway. On weekends, a long iron fence around the parking lot can resemble a gigantic bike rack with all manner of conveyance locked to it. The Parkway kitchen is even concocting a new Greenway special, a somewhat lighter po-boy named in honor of the route.
A block from this roundabout in the other direction, the bar Bayou Beer Garden can look like a bicycle beer garden on some days as cyclists slake their thirst with a pint on the patio and get pub grub from the tavern kitchen. Farther up the Greenway, the path skates past a few outposts from national chain restaurants, and a local one, Felipe’s Taqueria. Bike racks have turned up here too
But not every eatery along the Greenway fits as well as the next for bike bound visits. They need to be casual, especially for people arriving in the midst of a work out. And they should be close to the route, though some contenders stand a few blocks off it too.
For instance, Norma’s Sweets Bakery, the Latin grocery and deli on Bienville Street, has become an unexpectedly popular stop on the Greenway, especially for people using the route to commute. They’re dropping in for Cuban sandwiches and bags of chicharron, grab-and-go meat pies and pastries and big cans of coconut water in lieu of sports drinks.
Speaking of energizing beverages, the bikes have been piling up outside Second Line Brewing. This tiny local beer maker is a few blocks past where the Greenway abruptly ends, and it feels tucked away down a dead end side street. But the cycling crowd has found its way to the tap room, which is open on weekends with food truck fare and a kid-friendly courtyard.
There may be a natural affinity between brewing and biking – both have a hands-on, independent streak, after all. And as the Lafitte Greenway gears up, I’m betting we’ll find more connections linking our appetites to the route.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
538 Hagan Ave., New Orleans, 504-482-3047; www.parkwayspoorboys.com
Bayou Beer Garden
326 N Jefferson Davis Pkwy., New Orleans, 504-302-9357; www.bayoubeergarden.com
Norma’s Sweets Bakery
2925 Bienville St., New Orleans, 504-309-5401
401 North Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, 504-288-8226; www.felipestaqueria.com
Second Line Brewing
433 N. Bernadotte St., New Orleans, 504-248-8979; www.secondlinebrewing.com