Been there, Done that


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Restaurants

  • Brigtsen’s — Located at the intersection of St. Charles and Carrollton, this restaurant is a ways from the usual tourist haunts, but it’s worth the trip. It focuses on foods with a Creole/Acadian flair. The wait staff was friendly and attentive, and chef Frank Brigtsen came out to say hello to diners. It is located in a converted house and does not seat too many, so reservations are recommended.
  • Emeril’s New Orleans — Wolfgang Puck said the banana cream pie here is the Best Food He Ever Ate in New Orleans. I don’t know how you’d just pick one item, but this would be in the running. Not super expensive. Emeril has two other restaurants in the city.
  • Emeril’s NOLA — Located on St. Louis Street in the Quarter not far off Decatur, this restaurant is easy to get to. Frankly, I haven’t had better food in New Orleans. We ate there for a Sunday lunch, and the prices were not expensive. We had two entrees, dessert, drinks and coffee, and our bill was just over $87. We made reservations the day before, but they may not have been needed for lunch.
  • K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen — From Chef Paul Prudhomme, cooking up dishes that honor his Louisiana heritage.
  • Red Fish Grill — This is casual dining, but delicious New Orleans food. Located at 115 Bourbon St., so it’s just inside the Quarter, not far from Canal Street. BBQ oysters are a specialty, and save room: desserts are decadent.
  • Commander’s Palace — This is THE New Orleans restaurant, and the place that gave Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme their start. A bit on the pricey side and tie or jacket are preferred, although business casual will suffice. It’s worth the effort.
  • Cafe du Monde — Beignets and cafe au lait. Just as good at the end of the day as the beginning. Don’t expect to order bacon and eggs; you can get beignets or beignets. Try the chicory coffee — you’ll either love it or hate it. On Decatur Street at the edge of the French Quarter near the Mississippi.
  • Cafe Beignet — The storefront location is on Royal Street right next to the police station. Hmmm, a French donut stop right next to a police station. The beignets are good, and, unlike Cafe du Monde, they do offer other kinds of food, such as eggs, French toast, et cetera. They are not open 24/7. If you order a “coffee,” you will be given chicory coffee, so if that’s not what you want, be sure to specify your selection.
  • Mulatte’s — Near the convention center, this casual restaurant features Louisiana food and live cajun music every night. It used to be our favorite spot for corn and shrimp bisque, but the food quality has been spotty on our last couple of visits. Not sure I’d recommend it anymore.
  • Deanie’s Seafood — In the French Quarter. Worth eating here for the free appetizer of new potatoes cooked in crab boil (read: spicy).
  • Drago’s Seafood Restaurant — Located in the Hilton Hotel at the end of Canal Street and adjacent to the convention center. Charbroiled oysters are the best. Even if you don’t like oysters, give them a try. The corn and shrimp bisque is darn good, too.
  • Mandina’s — Located in Mid-City at 3800 Canal Street, Mandina’s can easily be reached by the Canal Street trolley, but it is a ways out. This has been a neighborhood restaurant for decades and offers a mix of Creole and Italian food — what an interesting change of pace!
  • Cochon Butcher — The muffuletta is a unique New Orleans sandwich and is offered at many places around town. We’ve sampled several — including Central Grocery’s —  and none that we’ve found does it better than Cochon Butcher. Search the blog posts for a more extensive story and photos. This little restaurant is located near the World War II museum.
  • Bon Ton Cafe — An authentic New Orleans Creole and Cajun restaurant on Magazine Street in the CBD, so it’s close to the Quarter.
  • Napoleon House — This French Quarter bar and restaurant, just a couple blocks from Jackson Square, was recommended by a couple bloggers for its muffulettas. On a quest to find the city’s best, I had to check them out. Here’s a post on what I thought.
  • Antoine’s — We went here for dinner on Valentine’s Day 2014. It’s located in the heart of the French Quarter at 713 Saint Louis St. The food is old-school New Orleans, and in my opinion, lacks the flair and creativity of a Brigtsen’s or Emeril’s.
  • Adolfo’s — A top-notch restaurant over one of Frenchmen Street’s jazz/R&B clubs. What a concept! We took our best friends here on their first night to NOLA, and it was a great start to the trip. Several of them commented it was the best stop of their trip.

Bars with a musical flair

  • Bacchanal — Rapidly becoming our favorite hang-out spot. Aptly described on their website as “NOLA’s backyard party.”

    Bacchanal

    Located in the Bywater, and there are a number of other good spots popping up in the area — The Joint for barbecue, Parleaux Beer Lab, etc. Not sure if this should be under “bars” or “bars with musical flair.” There is usually some live music, and while the musicians are fun, they haven’t been the main attraction — the outdoor, laid-back vibe is the main attraction. You generally grab a bottle of wine and the makings of a charcuterie plate on your way in. They also offer good cocktails at the upstairs bar.

  • Kermit’s Treme Mother-In-Law Lounge — What a fun spot to watch the guy who is probably my favorite New Orleans musician: Kermit Ruffins! Originally owned by Ernie K-Doe (famous sin

    Me and Kermit during my birthday visit to the Mother-In-Law Lounge.

    ger of the song “Mother in Law”), Kermit bought it a few years back and is making it his NOLA headquarters (although he plays other places, too). Kermit plays there most Mondays and Thursdays, but be sure to check the calendar on the website to be sure. It’s a small joint, so get there early. They have a limited food menu — and Kermit or friends will likely be doing the cooking.

  • Spotted Cat Music Club — Located on Frenchmen Street, this little bar is a great place to listen to live jazz. It opens in the mid-afternoon and closes late. It’s one of dozen or so bars with live music on Frenchmen Street. Check out the Apple Barrel, Blue Nile and Snug Harbor, too.
  • d.b.a. — A much bigger venue than the Spotted Cat, which is just across the street, with lots of floor space for listening or dancing, and the band is spread across a large, elevated stage. A big wooden bar is accessible from two sides of the building. It offers a large variety of beers from across the country and even around the world, including a large selection of beers on tap, which isn’t always the case in NOLA. It also offers a number of specialty cocktails, but the night we were there, the bartenders weren’t keeping up with the simple orders, let alone the complicated ones.
  • Tipitina’s — Another landmark music spot is Tipitina’s, located at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon streets. The concerts start late and there is no place to sit; we may be getting too old for the joint. Tip’s history, as related on their website: “Tipitina’s began as a neighborhood juke joint, established in 1977, by a group of young music fans (The Fabulous Fo’teen) to provide a place for Professor Longhair to perform in his final years. The venue, named for one of Longhair’s most enigmatic recordings “Tipitina,” has survived in an ever-changing musical climate. In the past three decades, Tipitina’s has grown from a small, neighborhood bar into an international music icon. The venue has expanded into a two-story music venue…” Here’s a link to a music video of the famous song of the same name, popularized by Fess, as he’s known popularly. This music video features another one of his popular tunes, “Go To The Mardi Gras,” which also features a prominent role on “Treme.” We’ve seen a couple of shows at Tip’s, but we prefer the Sunday night Fais Do-do, or Cajun dance party. Bruce Daigrepont generally plays this gig, and we had a blast.
  • Rock ‘n’ Bowl — Located in Mid-City on South Carrollton Avenue, this bowling alley/bar/music venue books some of the best musical acts in town. We saw Bonerama here in February 2014, and it was a great spot for a concert. The Cajun Fais Do-do also may be held here instead of Tipitina’s, depending on venue availability.
  • Mark and Kermit

    Mark and Kermit at the Little Gem Saloon

    Little Gem Saloon Just outside the French Quarter on Rampart Street, the Little Gem Saloon features good food and a great venue for listening to music. We booked a dinner table pretty early, got a choice spot by the stage. And watched one of my favorite New Orleans’ performers — Kermit Ruffins — up close. Visit the Little Gem on a night when Kermit’s playing! Total sad face! This place closed down in mid-2019. At the time, the new owner had promised to bring jazz back to the area, but so far, it remains empty.

  • Maple Leaf Bar — Within walking distance of Brigtsen’s, this place is known for its music. Good thing — the bar isn’t much to brag about. Rebirth Brass Band plays there every Tuesday.
  • Circle Bar Another spot mentioned in the lyrics to “Crescent City Sneaux.” At least with its truncated name, the bar, located along what was known as Lee Circle, won’t have to change its name. Small place. Known for good music; not much happening there in the off hours.

Bars

 

View from the rooftop bar at Hot Tin.

 

  • Hot Tin — This rooftop bar on top of the Pontchartrain Hotel along St. Charles Avenue may have the best view of New Orleans. Come by after dark and visit the outdoor seating area to admire a panoramic view that stretches from the Superdome to the Crescent City Connection. Very good cocktails.
  • Pat O’Brien’s — The inventor of the Hurricane. Located in the Quarter. They serve food, too… but I never make it past the Hurricanes. They are best consumed while singing at the top of your lungs in the piano bar.
  • Tujague’s — This bar (pronounced Two-jacks) along Decatur Street has an accompanying restaurant, too. But I never get past the bar. (Do you detect a theme here?) Don’t bother with a beer. Order the Ramos Gin Fizz and then ask the bartender what else is good. No doubt, it will be. UPDATE: Finally ate at Tujague’s. They offer a unique approach. They have a limited list of entrees every night, and every meal features five courses. The meal was OK, but I’d stick with the Gin Fizzes. An interesting sidenote: We ate there on Feb. 16, 2013, and were greeted by owner Steven Latter. He died on Feb. 18. UPDATE 2014: Faced with closure after Latter’s death, Tujague’s was sold and re-opened by Latter’s son, Mark. The new owner spruced up both the dining room and the menu. I’m eager to give this landmark another try.
  • Tracey’s — This sports bar in the Irish Channel is a great place to watch a game. It has 18 TVs, and you’re sure to find some fans supporting your team. We’ve watched several Husker games here over the years — this is the official watch spot for New Orleanians for Nebraska — and there are sure to be fans of nearly any team watching a game there.
  • Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel — Named for what is believed to be the world’s first cocktail, the Sazerac is a New Orleans staple. The bartenders will gladly mix you one, and they’ll share a little history about the bar and the town. It’s an upscale bar, but feel free to walk in off the street. Be sure to take the link above to the website and read the story about how Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long educated New Yorkers on how to make another NOLA staple: the Ramos Gin Fizz.
  • Cooter Brown’s — Located Uptown past Audubon Park on Carrollton, this funky bar has good oysters and decent food. It’s a good place to down a few beers on a 4-high or sit on the picnic benches outside. With plenty of TVs, it would be a good place to see a game, too.
  • Wrong Iron— Nice bar in Mid-City (3532 Toulouse) with lots of outdoor seating, games and food trucks. Really cool vibe to the place; highly recommended when you can sit outdoors.
  • The Avenue Pub— Great selection of bourbons and beers in a laid-back location along St. Charles. Food available — but go for the bourbon.

Places To Go/Things To See

  • Bourbon Street — Do I need to describe?
  • Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
  • Audubon Park
  • Garden District Walking Tour — There are many companies that offer walking tours. You can see the houses of many famous residents — John Goodman, Trent Reznor, Anne Rice, Archie Manning — and tour a cemetery or three, among other things.
  • City tour — Again, several companies offer tours. Ours took us through many different neighborhoods, past Lake Pontchartrain and through some of the Lower 9th Ward that is still rebuilding following Katrina. ADDENDUM: In November 2012, they stopped offering tours through the Lower 9th. Apparently, residents are tired of the tours going through their neighborhood … without some sort of compensation for the disruption.
  • The National World War II Museum — This sprawling complex started out as the D-Day Museum, which was established here because the landing craft that made D-Day possible were manufactured in New Orleans. On my recent visit to New Orleans, the women attended a cooking school, and the men visited the WW II museum. It was a day well spent.
  • Ghost tour — Several companies offer night tours of the supernatural in the Quarter.
  • St. Charles Avenue Streetcar and other routes — A great way to get around in lots of areas in NOLA. The St. Charles streetcar will drop you very near Brigtsen’s. Have you ever heard of “A Streetcar Named Desire”?
  • City Park — You can visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), the sculpture garden, see holiday lights at the Celebration in the Oaks and much more.
  • Lake Pontchartrain — Looks more like an ocean than a lake.

Places to stay

  • Crown Plaza New Orleans French Quarter — On Canal and right at the corner of Bourbon Street, the location can’t be beat. We’ve had good luck with rates — particularly by big-city standards. The room was clean, but the hot water was spotty. All in all, it’s a good value.
  • The Saint Hotel — Located in the 900 block of Canal. We stayed at The Saint shortly after its grand opening. It was built in 1909 as a hotel but was never opened as such. It was converted into office and retail space, and, after sitting abandoned for several years, was recently converted back to a hotel. It has a contemporary lobby and rooms. We stayed here during its first month or so in operation and it was a good deal; the rates have increased substantially since.
  • Courtyard by Marriott near the French Quarter — This hotel is just a half block off Canal Street across from the French Quarter. At $179 a night, I thought it was a good value.
  • Chateau LeMoyne – Just one block off of Bourbon and near Canal, this hotel was clean and a pretty good value. It may be our favorite spot for a price-to-value ratio, although you’ll spend less at the Crown Plaza.

3 Responses to “Been there, Done that”

  1. Robin Dickerson October 16, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Hey, Just found this!! I also have reservations at Commander’s Palace, Emeril’s, and Brennans…I think I’m going to eat my way through NOLA.

    Like

  2. msmidt October 16, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    Brennan’s is a great place, too! Good call. Be sure to leave time for drinking your way across NOLA, too. 🙂

    Like

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