The row of nine cafes, which run about the length of a block inside the food-market section of the French Market, were added as part of a four-year marketplace renovation project that ended in 2009. Almost all of the cafes include countertop seating, and café tables have been added as recently as this year. (J's Seafood Dock is one of the nine cafes)
Tourists and locals will discover a rich mixture of backgrounds and recipe origins when talking with café owners. Some tout strong New Orleans and South Louisiana roots, using traditional Cajun and Creole cooking methods and old family recipes in their dishes.
“My boiled crawfish are cooked with a Creole recipe from my uncle in Pointe a la Hache,” said J’s Seafood Dock owner Justin “J” Duncan.
Café owners say they largely serve tourists. Mid-day on a chilly, drizzly Saturday, the cafe tables were packed with shoppers from across the United States digging into boiled crawfish and raw oysters.
Dawn Nelson of Indianapolis, in New Orleans with her family, said she likes the fresh, diverse offerings of the marketplace eateries.
“There are a lot of choices, and you don’t always have to have fried stuff,” Nelson said.
Ted Nelson of Jackson, Tenn., unrelated to Dawn, agreed as he finished a dozen oysters at the Seafood Dock while his wife and daughters dined on black-bean soup at another spot. Ted Nelson said his family always visits the French Market to “get the local flavors and the wide variety and the entertainment.”
Duncan, and others, are working to draw in more locals through various methods. He hands out tokens allowing 25 percent discounts to “Friends of J.”
In 2011, the French Market added a stage to the marketplace, offering occasional live music and cooking demos.