Once again, I have been lured away from the YA I'm writing right now and back to ma blog to address a request. It seems that a number of my dear friends are visiting New Orleans this fall and need suggestions for things to do. Well. WELL.
Anyone lucky enough to be heading to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras can go armed with the sage knowledge I provided in my Mardi Gras Do's and Don'ts post, but what about folks heading to the Big Easy for the other forty-someodd weeks of the year? Don't worry. I've got y'all's backs with some hot picks from a former NOLA resident.
The French Quarter is only six blocks by thirteen blocks, but most people have a hard time remembering to go anywhere else when they come to New Orleans. There's just so much to do! French Quarter residents have reported to me that they've literally gone six months without leaving the bounds of the Quarter. So without further ado, I present to you:
My pick: Galatoire's Restaurant
photo credit: jussissipi's flickr
You have to eat some French Creole food while you're in New Orleans. You just have to.
Maybe it's because it's the first place I ever ate in New Orleans, I don't know. There are a lot of fancy historical French Creole restaurants in the French Quarter--Antoine's, Broussard's, Tujaque's--but Galatoire's is the spot as far as I'm concerned. This is French Creole cuisine at its finest. I'd recommend something on the menu, but why bother? Chicken Clemenceau? Poisson Meunière Amandine? Close your eyes and point at one. It's all incredible.
I don't even know what this is and I'd eat it
It's expensive, but hey, this is the Fancy Food section! It doesn't' matter how much you spend, anyway. You will walk out of that place feeling like you should probably just Lieutenant Dan it into the Mississip' out of pure prandial delight. Just don't forget to have a cup of the turtle soup au sherry before you go.
My pick: Verdi Marte
photo credit: melinnis's flickr
Sandwiches are a very important part of New Orleans cuisine. You've got your muffulettas, of course, which can only be purchased at Central Grocery. If you need a burger, you head to Port of Call. But far and away the most important sandwich in NOLA is the po boy. It's a sub sandwich done as only New Orleans can do it--on halved French bread with incredible fillings like fried shrimp, roast beef, or even french fries.
photo credit: Ryan Boren
If you need a po boy--and believe me, you need a po boy--you need to take yourself to Verdi Marte. You're going to get there and say Are you kidding me? but trust me. This is the best fast food in the city. It burned down a couple of years ago, but it's cool--Verdi Marte is back and better than ever. So go get you some.
You should probably also have breakfast at Mother's on Poydras (just outside the Quarter), lunch at Angeli on Decatur, and cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde across from Jackson Square. You're going to need to eat a lot while you're there.
My pick: Snug Harbor
Sort of like you're going to need to eat a po boy, you're also going to need to see some jazz. Even if you think you hate jazz. Trust me. There's nothing quite like sipping a cocktail and listening to a little bit of jazz in the midst of your crazy New Orleans night.
The best jazz bar ever ever ever was Funky Butt, which, unfortunately, never reopened after Hurricane Katrina. It was dark and full of couches and shadowy nooks, the music was always hot, and the bartender Wheaties knew how to keep a glass full of Funky Butt Juice. Funky Butt was my go-to French Quarter hotspot. New Orleans perfection. RIP.
With Funky Butt dead and gone, I must send you all instead to a very different establishment: Snug Harbor. Snug, along with The Spotted Cat, is on Frenchman Street, which means its actually just outside the French Quarter in the Faubourg Marigny. But trust me, it's still the place to go. While four hundred tourists try to climb into Preservation Hall, you'll be up on the second floor with plenty of elbow room and a bird's eye view of the best jazz musicians in New Orleans. Charmaine Neville plays here on MONDAY nights, if that gives you any idea. Just look at this schedule. Definitely worth checking out any night of the week.
My pick: Chart Room (300 Chartres St)
If you are looking for a bar in the French Quarter, my friend, you are in the right place. You can't swing a whatever in New Orleans without hitting a bar.
First up, you have to walk down Bourbon Street and see what's up. Marvel at the flashing lights and all the drunk people. It's like an R-rated Disney World. If you want to party where your loved ones can keep tabs on you, go to Cat's Meow, which has a live streaming webcam of the karaoke stage. Take advantage of the lack of open-container liquor laws: buy a daiquiri or a hurricane at an open-air bar and then just walk back out with it to the street. I once--and this is 100% true--bought a frozen daiquiri in New Orleans so large that it came with a commemorative plastic tub and neck strap because it was too heavy to carry unassisted when full.
But when you're done with all that mess, check out one of the more chill bars. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar is (arguably) the oldest bar in the US. Hookah Cafe on Frenchman is now The Hookah on Decatur, but I bet it is still an excellent place to smoke hookah and get your drink on. I really adore Chart Room, a small rowdy bar on Chartres I love going to with my pal Karen. It's straight up French Quarter--open to the sidewalk, big beautiful bar, cheap drinks. It's an old familiar favorite.
Food and drinking is enough to keep a person entertained in the French Quarter pretty much indefinitely, but I guess if you get bored with that somehow, you could...
Go shopping! Hit the French Market, or the antique stores on Royal Street. Be sure to stop by Fleurty Girl--I love their shop on Oak Street Uptown, and I bet their new Quarter shop is amazing too! If you're going to buy any souvenirs, do it at Fleurty Girl and support a very cool local business.
Get pierced! Rings of Desire might just be the best piercing parlor in the country. Elayne Angel, the master piercer, has pierced over 40,000 people. She has hands so gentle a person can barely feel a thing. And she's trained a whole team of amazing piercers to give the same kind of care. These people specialize in serious piercings, and they're they only people on Earth I'd ever trust to pierce my goodies with metal if I ever decided to go that route. Just don't try to do it drunk--they will not go near you if you are.
Go to high tea! After you get your goodies pierced, head over to the Ritz-Carlton for high tea. I can't explain it, but there is something really fun about doing something so proper in the City That Care Forgot.
Discussion Question: What's the most fun you've ever had in the French Quarter?