Hot days, hot beignets, live jazz, street performers, hurricane drinks, and excellent gulf seafood are among things this fine town of New Orleans is known for. They really know how to have a good time and eat well and I admire that. New Orleans has been on my list of places to visit for quite a long time so when we had to opportunity to meet up with here with friends, I knew my chance had come. I booked us some plane tickets and didn’t look back. Here’s a super condensed glimpse of what we got up to.
Bourbon Street Madness + French Quarter
We arrived late in the day and were absolutely famished from all of the travel. Our first stop was a bee-line for Napoleon House to quench our thirst with their classic Pimm’s Cup, a side of red beans and some po’boys. I definitely recommend Napoleon House for their refreshing Pimm’s Cup. The inside alone is worth a peek. This is the kind of place I dream of… authentic, historic, dark, and if those walls could talk, what a feast for the ears it would be.
But before I get ahead of myself, lets get to first things first. No matter what, if this is your first trip to New Orleans you must witness the madness that is Bourbon Street at night, in all of its glory. I’m not saying you need to spend a lot of time here, even a quick stroll through the streets will give you your fill. Just do it. Oh, and if you really want to get in on the festivities, get yourself a grenade or a fishbowl if you’re fealing adventurous. Let the good times roll…
All that walking around Bourbon Street will work up a fierce appetite. Duck into one of the many eateries for a quick snack. We chose to try Acme Oyster House for their fresh local oysters, gumbo, and my personal favorite, the fried crawfish. I could not get enough of those suckers which were not only finger licking good, they were slap yo mama good. For real.
It’s amazing in our tired state we were able to continue on, but somehow we managed to keep going. We happened upon Pat O’Briens Pub and were immedately smitten with their courtyard and instantly taken by the piano bar in the other room. We proceeded to get ourselves a table, hurricanes, and enjoyed the raucous sing alongs and even put in song requests. All in all, a very good time.
I think it was about this point when we decided to call it a night since we’d been on the go since before 5AM west coast time and were in full zombie mode by now. On the way back to the hotel, we searched for some good fried chicken and finally hit the gold mine… in a convenience store! Yes, you read right. A convenience store. Brothers Fried Chicken was freshly fried and all of the goodness we hoped for. We took it to go and feasted back at the hotel with greasy fingers, napkin bibs and all. The works.
The next morning, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise. Hot beignet s from Cafe du Monde! Yesssss!!!! Our firend woke up early and walked down to CdM and got some beignets to go and man, were they good. They were every bit as delicious as I had imagined. In fact, I enjoyed them so much, we went back a few more times. Self-control was long gone by now. K ate one and I finished the rest. Even licked my sticky fingers clean, no shame.
From French Quarter, hop on the St. Charles street car and take a short ride up to the Garden District.
One would be remiss to visit New Orleans without making time to stroll the Garden District. Architecture fans will definietly enjoy seeing the opulent homes and ornate gardens albeit from a distance and on the opposite side of the gates. But no matter, it is time well spent on a nice day. Put on your walking shoes, get yourself some coffee, and bring the camera.
If you need a rest, a good place to stop by is Mojo Coffee House in lower garden district where you can get your coffee, latte, teas, or a pastry snack. Since we were there in September and it was sticky hot, I opted for an iced tea and we sat for a spell snacking on coffee cake and planning the next move.
No trip for me would be complete without a stop to the cemetary. To be honest, there were too many I wanted to see while visiting, but not sure if K had the fortitide to be dragged through all of them. Since we were in the Garden District, we decided to go to Lafayette Cemetary No. 1 early in the morning to takle advantage of the good natural lighting and avoid crowds. This turned out to be a successful plan as we hardly had any company and were able to leisurely take it all in.
Side note: Most cemetary entrances require a tour and few let in unguided guests. Lafayette is one of the few that do not require a tour.
After our cemetary stroll, we were good and hungry so we stopped by District Doughnuts for what else, doughnuts and coffee. Oh, and I should mention this was our second visit in a few days where we sampled even more flavors and K got a slider. My favorite doughnut was the pistachio brown butter. So good that I still think of it and wish I could transport myself back just to have another (or three) of these.
A good place to go if you’re with a group of people is the St. Roch Market in Fauborg. It is a food and drink hall that has somthing for everyone. Stocked with local vendors selling coffee, regional specialties, wines, dry goods, and fresh prepared foods it is a one-stop-shop for pleasing everyone in your party.
Further afield, there are plantation houses all along both sides of the Mississippi River. It is a beautiful drive and a nice way to spend a quieter day out of the city. We chose to tour the Whitney Plantation located about an hour outside of New Orleans near Wallace in St. John the Baptist Parish. An antebellum estate and sugarcane plantation, the entire tour is centered around slavery and details the history of what life was like as a slave on the plantation, from birth to death.
Side Note: If you go when the weather is hot, make sure to bring plenty of water and perhaps an umbrella to shield you from the sun because the majority of the tour is outdoors.
Back in Town
One of the many things I had on my “must do” list was to try all the fried shrimp po’boys I could get my hands on. I love me some shrimp and if it’s fried, all the better. Let the glutton bowl commence. Hands down, our absolute favorite was at Parkway Bakery. The breading on the shrimp was mouth watering delicious and the french bread with its delicate crisp crust making way to a soft and tender inside was just too good. And, with a glass of local Abita beer and bag of Zapps, I throw in the towel. I found my spot.
Our final night in New Orleans was spent at Commanders Palace for a meal extravangaza. I had no idea how large this restaurant was and how many dining rooms they have. We passed several dining rooms, went upstairs, and menadered thought another before arriving at our table in the garden room. While I can’t remember everything we all ordered, some of the highlights were: turtle soup, chicken and sausage gumbo, gulf fish, and veal chop. In between that, there were copious amounts of cocktails, wines, and desserts. A fabulous night to end this leg of the trip, indeed.
I have to say, although New Orleans is a touristy town, we did not have a bad meal for all the days and nights we spent in this city. It took some obsessive searching but was well worth sifting out the gems that made for a great time. Here are a few other noteworthy places we tried but are not shown here:
Bacchanal in the Bywater district for live jazz, relaxed backyard patio sitting and casual dining. Grab a bottle of wine from their shop and a cheese plate and relax under the twinkling lights while listening to live music.
Toups Meatery in Midcity for a carnivorous meal that will leave you absolutely stuffed. Highlights of our meal included chicken liver pate, gulf shrimp, and lamb’s neck.
Buffa’s Bar and Restaurant in Faubourg Marigny for a super casual drinks, food, and live music. We also loved their red beans and rice.
Courtyard Brewery great spot for local beer (IPA and Saison) and food trucks.
Crescent City Farmer’s Market for prepared foods and fresh produce.
Frenchmen Street for live jazz music. Pop in and out of bars and listen to live jazz without the raucous Bourbon Street crowds.