Easily one of the best things about living in a metropolis, even a smallish one like New Orleans, is the bounty of great eats and drinks mere blocks from your front door. Every main street in town, even ones not-so-main, includes a diverse array of restaurants offering everything from breakfast to a midnight snack, and yes, meals that will effortlessly fit into your budget.
Certainly not one of the largest of the city's thoroughfares, Banks Street only stretches through Mid-City from S. Rocheblave Street bottoming out at St. Patrick Cemetery #1, but it makes up in quantity (and quality) what it lacks in length. Plus, Banks Street, like other popular corridors around town, seems to be growing slowly, but surely.
One of the latest spots to hit Banks Street is the highly anticipated Echo's. A collaboration between the folks behind 1000 Figs (and the Fat Falafel food truck) and Kate Heller, who owns Leo's Bread (a small-batch wholesale bakery), Echo's is a wood-fired pizza joint located inside a historic building that was once a corner store. The space has lain vacant since the levee failures in 2005, and now it’s bustling with business and filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread and savory pies. All of the pizzas, which are quite a feast for one, are priced at $16 or less, not to mention a bevy of lunchtime sandwiches served on semolina focaccia and accompanied by a house salad. Try the caprese with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes (pictured above) and add some house-made bacon for a stuff-yourself kind of lunch, priced at only $12.50.
Heading away from the river, you only have to coast for five blocks or so before hitting one of the most popular Irish bars in the city, Finn McCool's. Known for its stellar St. Patrick's Day celebrations and the city's premier soccer club, this pub also houses Rum and the Lash, a kitchen installation created by Chef Michael Gulotta, the beloved local chef behind restaurants MoPho and Maypop. With what could only be described as creative bar food, their menu features dishes like their “Toas-Tites,” similar to meat pies, but filled with items like soft-ripened cheese with figs and bacon or cheddar and andouille with stout-braised onion. Nothing at Rum and the Lash will run over $12, making a dinner of pimento cheese dip and a “griddled” beef burger easily affordable.
Amble two blocks up Banks Street, and you'll hit one of the city's oldest Mediterranean restaurants, Mona's Cafe. Open for over a quarter of a century in Mid-City, Mona's also has two other locations, one on Magazine Street Uptown and one on Frenchmen in the Marigny. All three locations offer similar menus, featuring Lebanese cuisine, and both the Mid-City and Frenchmen locales have “international markets,” where one can find everything from baklava and Turkish delight to Middle Eastern teas and spices. Mona's is known for its more-than-fair prices, so hungry patrons could easily stop in for some baba ganuj and a falafel sandwich and still have ample money left over for a Turkish coffee or their signature Lebanese iced tea with rose water and pine nuts.
On the other side of S. Carrollton Avenue, Banks Street offers a cluster of spots near the corner of S. Alexander Street. If you're seeking breakfast (or brunch), there are two places to choose from. First, there's Biscuits & Buns on Banks, a single shotgun house-turned-restaurant run by husband and wife team Yvonne Collazo and Gary Stall. Guests are welcomed in through the kitchen and seated in the brightly painted and decorated dining room in the back, where they can sip their coffee and enjoy the artwork of Skip NOLA while waiting for their meals to arrive. Feast on dishes like chicken and waffles, fried andouille sausage hash cakes with Creole cheese sauce (pictured above), or a plate of their mini-biscuits with gravy for dipping. Though the menu changes seasonally, there's nothing priced over $12.50, which leaves plenty of room for an extra side of bacon and lots of coffee.
The other breakfast option on Banks Street is the feel-good, hippie-esque joint dubbed Wakin' Bakin'. This tiny restaurant has lots of outdoor seating and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering dine-in, take-out, and delivery to folks in the Mid-City area. Like Biscuits & Buns, Wakin' Bakin's menu changes up with the seasons, but there are some delicious constants on the menu you won't want to miss. Jump on the Gravy Train with two biscuits and eggs smothered in a white sausage gravy or stick a fork into their “pancrepes” and pork—three delicately thin pancakes served with two eggs and bacon, sausage, or ham (pictured above). Almost everything on the menu will cost you less than a ten-spot, leaving a lot of money for scrumptious sides and several icy cups of CoolBrew coffee.
Next door to Wakin' Bakin' and across the street from one of the city's best live music venues, the Banks Street Bar, is Mid City Pizza. Located in a gorgeous, relatively new red building adorned with colorful, cartoon-like murals, Mid City Pizza is a simple pizzeria with only one thing on its mind: pizza! Though they do offer a couple of salads and sandwiches, the main attractions at Mid City Pizza are the pies. For $17, you can order an 18-inch T-Bird Special with pepperoni, Italian sausage, herb-roasted chicken, asparagus, and roasted red pepper. It's more than enough for lunch with lots left over for another meal or two.