Day Tripping - March 2019
- story by Lisa Monti
Wherever there are two cities that bump up against each other, there’s a sort of identity crisis that results from shared geography, climate, cuisine and of course, history.
So if you’ve had a bit of trouble differentiating between the neighboring St. Tammany cities of Covington and Mandeville, you’re not alone.
“The two kind of blend together at I-12, and it’s hard for people to know where one starts and the other one ends,” noted Renée Kientz with the St. Tammany Parish Tourist & Convention Commission.
is sponsored by
As a handy reference, remember that Covington is the parish seat with its old courthouse anchoring downtown. Mandeville, somewhat smaller in population, is the one that put the “shore” in the Northshore.
“If you come across the causeway, Mandeville is where you land,” Renée says. Indeed, it’s no surprise that many Mandeville residents commute to work in New Orleans and retire there.
Mandeville’s sweeping lakefront is what drew – and still draws – New Orleanians, whether it’s for a nice meal, a day of shopping or sightseeing, or the place to have a new (or second) home.
“Lake Pontchartrain played a huge part in Mandeville’s history and it’s still important,” Renée says.
The city’s sweeping Lakeshore Drive, with its picture-perfect sunsets over the water, stately old homes and ancient oak trees, are part of Mandeville’s character. Or personality, as Renee describes the city’s inviting lakefront.
The tourism bureau notes that Old Mandeville is being discovered by more and more visitors who can find an abundance of restaurants, shops, nature outposts, festivals and live music.
“It’s a great getaway and less than an hour from New Orleans. A lot of visitors spend a couple of days in New Orleans and a couple of days here,” Renée said. Likewise, more people are heading over from the Mississippi coast.
Old Mandeville was developed in the 1830s by Bernard Xavier de Marigny, who was from a prominent New Orleans family. He came across the lake, bought thousands of acres and maintained a sugar mill and plantation where Fontainebleau State Park is today. “He developed that area and to the west of it as a subdivision and sold building lots to affluent New Orleanians as a getaway from the city. That’s how Mandeville developed,” explains Renée.
We can thank Marigny for decreeing the grassy land on the lake side would never be developed. “That green belt is like a big park for everybody,” she said. Look for the wooden gazebo to sit awhile and take all in all the scenery.
Houses along the lake date back to the mid-19th century. One significant structure near the lakefront is the Jean Baptiste Lang House, a Creole cottage that was moved inland from the lakefront after Hurricane Katrina and was restored as a small museum depicting life in the 1850s. The museum and gardens are free to explore.
A great place to enjoy the sunset is at the end of the two-mile lakefront where you’ll find a beautiful stand of old cypress trees. Nearby is the free fishing pier that juts out into the lake, as well as picnic tables, a sand beach and playground. Sailboats from the nearby yacht club come and go on the lake.
For those who want to enjoy more of the outdoors in Mandeville, there’s prime bird-watching along the boardwalks at Northlake Nature Center and trails along Bayou Castine. Look for a variety of great species including Great Blue Herons and Pileated Woodpeckers, egrets and owls.
The Trailhead in Old Mandeville is a center of activity with lots of free concerts, a fun Saturday farmers/crafts market and bike rentals for the adjacent Tammany Trace bike path. Renée notes that loads of people rent bikes and ride around the lakefront or on the Trace.
On the day of our visit, after some relaxing lakeshore time, we sought out a relatively new restaurant for lunch that has quickly become a favorite. Hambone has to be one of the all time best names for a restaurant. Set in a red roofed cottage at 544 Girod Street, Hambone is a find, thanks to the talents of Chef Luke Hidalgo and his wife Marci, who opened Hambone in 2018. Chef Luke was the sous chef post at Commander’s Palace and executive chef at Palmetto’s on the Bayou, the popular Slidell restaurant, before the couple opened their own place.
Hambone uses house-made ingredients and buys from a local bakery and local farms. The lunch menu is as tidy as the dining room, with a handful of small plates and sandwiches, sides and dessert custards.
The Hambone Gumbo, listed under Small Plates along with fried boudin, deviled eggs, catfish dip, Oysters Marci and Caesar Salad, was exceptional. It was as dark as all gumbo makers try to achieve but rarely do, and topped with scoop of potato salad. The combination is enough for a satisfying lunch.
The standing daily lunch special is fried chicken but at Hambone you’ll notice the dish is billed as Fried Chicken! That exclamation point is not to be taken lightly. Chef Luke’s version, a quarter fried in pieces and served with an honest to goodness biscuit and sweet pickles, deserves the punctuation. Judging from the gumbo and chicken, it’s safe to assume that everything else on the menu, from the fried pork chop sandwich to sautéed farm greens to blue crab and boudin omelet, also are standouts.
Liz’s Where Y’at Diner is also a popular destination which has earned a huge following for its down-home food, great breakfasts (served all day) and welcoming atmosphere.
Girod Street, not far from the lake, is the main street in Old Mandeville for shopping and is chock full of boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Other concentrations of shops can be found on the east and west Causeway entrances and along Highway 190. Outlet shopping is available at Premier Shopping Centers 1 and 2.
The shops have it all: gifts, jewelry, clothing and shoes, kids clothes, and food items. Familiar New Orleans names such as Fleurty Girl, Acme Oyster House, Martin’s Wine Cellar and Mandina’s have outposts around Mandeville.
Music fans have a couple of favorite destinations here. Mandeville is home to the Dew Drop, billed as the world’s oldest unaltered jazz hall. Live music is also available at Ruby's Roadhouse, which has the distinction of being called one of the best roadhouses in the country by Rolling Stone magazine.
Getting to Mandeville takes under an hour and with a little planning, you can make the most of a day trip with all the town has to offer. Check out www.louisiananorthshore.com for more options.
Fountainbleau State Park
Jean Baptiste Lang House & Gift Shop
605 Carroll St.
Northlake Nature Center
23135 Hwy 190 East
Mandeville Trailhead and Cultural Interpretive Center
675 Lafitte St.
Liz's Where Y'at Diner
2500 Florida St.
544 Girod Street
Wednesday & Thursday: 11pm - 3pm & 5pm - 9pm
Friday: 11pm - 3pm & 5pm - 10pm (Dinner)
Saturday: 10pm - 3pm(Brunch) & 5pm - 10pm (Dinner)
Sunday: 10pm - 3pm(Brunch)
Happy Hour: Wed - Fri: 5pm - 6pm
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall
430 Lamarque St.
840 Lamarque St.