Written by MilwVon on 05 Jul, 2009
While most of our time in New Orleans was spent outside of the French Quarter, we did venture across Canal Street into The Quarter for some meals. There are a lot of very famous places to eat in New Orleans, many of them in…Read More
While most of our time in New Orleans was spent outside of the French Quarter, we did venture across Canal Street into The Quarter for some meals. There are a lot of very famous places to eat in New Orleans, many of them in the French Quarter. Perhaps most notably are Pat O'Brien’s . . . known for their hurricanes . . . and Brennan’s . . . the originator of bananas foster. While we did walk by both of these establishments, we wanted to experience something a little less commercial and who participated in the Restaurant.com marketing program.The restaurants that we enjoyed included Oceana Grill and The Alpine, which are owned by the same company and feature almost the identical menus. Seafood and traditional cajun and creole dishes are featured and very good. They also have their own version of the hurricane which seemed to be very popular to guests seated in the bar area. Someone had suggested to me to try the crab cakes and they did not disappoint! Served with a crawfish sauce (that would be a sauce with crawfish in it), they were outstanding.Star Steak & Lobster was a cozy little place that really felt like New Orleans "in her day" complete with a one-man jazz band; a musician who played an electric percussion keyboard, saxophone and flute while singing from time to time. His bluesy version of House of the Rising Sun was very good, with a better than karaoke Satchmo vocal. Our meals (steaks for both of us) were good and enjoyable.One special find thanks to Restaurant.com was Daisy Dukes located just off of Canal Street less than a block into the French Quarter. We had breakfast on two of our mornings in New Orleans and thoroughly enjoyed them. Outstanding value without the gift certificates from Restaurant.com, we would have dined there again at full price. One of the mornings we walked over to the restaurant, while the second time we had the rental car and was able to park right in front of the restaurant (two hour meter parking available). The same man waited on us both times, a pleasant dude from Georgia who has come to New Orleans a few years back. Not a big grits eater myself, theirs were some of the best I had during our time in New Orleans.While not a Restaurant.com participant, a trip to New Orleans and the French Quarter might not be complete without a dining experience at Deanies. They feature mostly seafood, which can be prepared either fried of broiled. Their fried fish and shrimp are cooked without leaving an overbearing greasy taste. They have other items for those who may not want seafood.Detailed dining reviews on the above restaurants are featured in my IgoUgo trip journal "Dining in New Orleans" http://www.igougo.com/journal-j72736-New_Orleans-Dining_in_New_Orleans.html so check out more thorough reviews (and photos) there.There are also several grill type establishments in the French Quarter and while they don't look like much from the outside, they did have decent food. On Friday night, we walked from our hotel to the Clover Grill who advertises "the world's best hamburgers." While I don't know that I would go that far, and I didn't try any others around New Orleans, their burgers were good but hard to believe they might be the best. What was good were their thin cut shoestring french fries . . . outstanding!! David also enjoyed his chocolate milk shake although I thought it was a bit on the thin, milky side. The Clover Grill is at 900 Bourbon Street and out of the heavy touristy area.Another nice find was Johnny's Po-Boys located in the 500 block of St. Louis. We stopped here for a light breakfast before our cooking school experience on Saturday morning. I had an egg biscuit while David noshed on an english muffin. For me, having a good fountain diet coke was an especially pleasant surprise as most fountain beverages during this trip were rather poor (low/no carbonation and watery). David also said that his coffee was some of the best he had had during our time in the city.The front deli style case is full of meats, cheese and other provisions necessary for authentic po-boys (the New Orleans version of a sub sandwich). We would recommend a stop here regardless of the time of day for a good meal at a good price.All in all, the French Quarter has a little of everything to offer locals and visitors alike. Creole style Italian food was something that caught our eye, although we never made it to one of those restaurants. There were also some places that were throwbacks to the French Quarters' Spanish influence (the late 1700's until 1803) . . . as barbeque places that smelled more like downtown Memphis that what you might expect in Louisiana.Whatever your preferences, I'm pretty confident you'll find something to your liking. Close
Written by MilwVon on 02 Jul, 2009
In a post Katrina New Orleans, it is good to know that most of what the city is known for appears unchanged. I say "appears" because after what happened to this city and her people, there had to be changes after the disaster of…Read More
In a post Katrina New Orleans, it is good to know that most of what the city is known for appears unchanged. I say "appears" because after what happened to this city and her people, there had to be changes after the disaster of August 2005. I had been here in June/July 2004 and enjoyed my time in this friendly city. And while much of the media focuses on the continued plight of the city, I can tell you that during our stay, there was no time that we felt threatened or unsafe. Like any other big city that has poverty and crime, you have to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, but do not allow the media reports to keep you away from this wonderful city!As for our visit, we did a lot that one is expected to do. The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are about the same as I remember it. Plenty of places to buy a "to go" hurricane or a $5.00 "Big Ass Beer" . . . also enough cabarets and "sex shows" to provide entertainment for those who seek the other (non-family) side of the tourism trade of this city. We enjoyed our dining experiences in the French Quarter and generally steered clear of those people who seemed to be looking to prey on tourists (panhandlers and such).As we walked from the timeshare resort over to the French Quarter, we had to cross Canal Street. It was there that we saw the famous streetcars. While we didn't see the one named "Desire" we did see them running frequently throughout the day and night, always filled with people going somewhere.On our return trip from the Mississippi River Road sugar plantations, we stopped at the Metairie Cemetery. OK, I realize that is a bit on the macabre side of tourism but who hasn't seen the movie Double Jeopardy and wondered about the vault that Ashley Judd was stashed in by her schmuck of a husband? The marble statues, crypts and grave markers were very ornate and beautiful. And just so you don't think I'm totally weird, there are tours of New Orleans cemeteries available. Even Frommers includes this cemetery in their "attractions" section of their New Orleans tour guide.Who hasn't been to New Orleans and enjoyed a "po-boy" sandwich? We enjoyed ours at Mother's, located at 401 Poydras. I had the roast beef, while David enjoyed the Ferdi which is pretty much a "kitchen sink" sandwich with roast beef, turkey and ham. All of their po-boys are "dressed" with shredded cabbage, pickles, mayo, creole and yellow mustard. Oh, I shouldn't forget the "debris" which is the meat drippings that fall into the gravy as the roast beef is cooking. All po-boys come with a healthy serving of that over the sandwich, which is served on a sliced loaf of french bread.While in the French Quarter, you owe it to yourself to walk up Dauphine Street to the Saint Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. The Saint Louis Cathedral is remarkable in that it is the oldest cathedral in North America, founded in 1720. Generally a hangout area for artists and musicians, the area still feels like the original area known for its French and Spanish ancestry. It was in this area that we saw the horse and buggy tours providing local stories and folklore to visitors from out of town.For those who enjoy the high stakes action of Las Vegas, you can find that here too. Harrah's has a casino right in the heart of the business district at the corner of Convention Center Blvd and Poydras. David enjoyed his time in the poker room, while I took in some 3 Card Poker. They have a full gaming area including all of the standard table games you'd expect including blackjack and roulette. They also have rows and rows and rows of slot machines from penny slots to high stakes machines.There is much to see and do in New Orleans. This serves to highlight just a few of the things we got to experience during our time in this wonderful city. Close
If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, include setting aside at least a half day to tour a couple of the plantations that this area of Louisiana is known for. They can be found along both sides of the Mississippi River about…Read More
If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, include setting aside at least a half day to tour a couple of the plantations that this area of Louisiana is known for. They can be found along both sides of the Mississippi River about 45 to 60 minutes from New Orleans.We started our morning with Oak Alley Plantation, a restored antebellum mansion located near Vacherie, LA. With the property opening to the public at 10:00am, we arrived a few minutes early so that we could pay our admission and go enjoy a leisurely breakfast in their cafe. For guests staying on the property in one of the cottages, the restaurant opens at 8:30am.This particular mansion was built in 1839 although the 28 oak trees for which the property is known, were planted in the early 1700's. Along the walkway of the back side of the house, the oaks were planted sometime after the house was built, probably around 1850.Like other plantations in the area, Oak Alley was a sugar plantation. The mansion was built by Jacques Roman, a Creole farmer, for his wife who came from an affluent New Orleans' family. She was apparently quite the party girl and socialite, hosting many events bringing friends and family out to the country.The house is completely furnished with antiques of the era, although not many were original to this home. This was probably the most impressive aspect of this particular plantation home.Oak Alley is open seven days a week, with a $15/person admission fee. (Look for $1.50 off coupons in local tourist publications and on the New Orleans CVB web site.) More information may be found on their web site: http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/visiting/.From here, you will drive past St. Joseph's Plantation. It was a smaller property and didn't seem that interesting. so we drove on by on our way to the "Top Louisiana Travel Attraction" . . . Laura Plantation.Laura Plantation is more about the history of life on the Mississippi on a sugar plantation. Much of the history of the era has been preserved and the hour plus tour tells the story to visitors from around the world. Much of the focus here is on the lives of the slaves and their existence in Louisiana.Because we wanted to make sure to get over to the San Francisco Plantation, we did not stop to take this tour. Laura Plantation is less than 15 minutes from Oak Alley and is often packaged together with Oak Alley by tour operators due to the close proximity and the significant difference between the two.Laura Plantation is also open seven days a week and charges a $15 admission fee. They have a web site where more information may be found at www.lauraplantation.com.From this point, we crossed the Mississippi River to the east bank and went out to the farthest point east in "plantation country" to see and tour the San Francisco Plantation. Described as "Steamboat Gothic" this plantation home was also built in the mid 1800's (1856 to be exact) and served as the main home on the sugar plantation. Unfortunately the man of the house died shortly after the home was finished. Several years later, his German wife returned to Munich and is said to have never spoken about her life in Louisiana again. Apparently, she did not care much for the climate or plantation life.The mansion today has been completed restored by Marathon Oil, the company who owns all of the adjacent land surrounding the plantation grounds. The restoration was necessary after the floods of 1927 nearly destroyed this wonderful and unique mansion. One of the other results from the Great Flood of 1927 was the construction of the levee at the front of the home along with the road which largely took the entire front yard of the property.Many of the items in this plantation home are reproductions of the period. Additionally, much of the interior has had to be restored, including the lovely hand-painted ceilings that are in five of the 14 or 16 rooms included in the guided tour. The detail to accuracy is very precise. Of the hanging chandeliers, only one of the originals remained but it served as the guide for the recreation of the others throughout.Unlike some of the other plantations of the period, this one was built with the service areas in the lower (ground) level and the living quarters and the part of the house that received guests were on the second floor. At the front of the home, there is a very unique feature allowing the large doors to be removed from two rooms (the men's sitting area and the ladies' sitting area). With these doors removed, the entire front of the house became a large ballroom for entertaining.Photos of what the mansion and grounds looked like before 1927 may be found on their web site: www.sanfranciscoplantation.org. Tours are offered daily and are $15/person.The last plantation that we stopped by during our drive was Houmas House, also known as "The Sugar Palace" . . . the self proclaimed "Crown Jewel of Louisiana's River Road." This particular plantation home has an interesting history in that it started out as a very modest two story brick house that was built in the 1770's. Later the property changed hands (actually several times) and each time the new owner added on changing the entire look of the home.Today the plantation and gardens are well maintained and available to visitors year-round. On this particular day, we arrived rather late and decided to take a pass given the 95 degree temps in Southern Louisiana. They do provide all guests a 15 minute video that tells the history of Houmas House and her people dating back to the Native Americans for whom the house is named (Houmas).Tours are available for $20 per person. There is a cafe on the premises for lunch and the fine dining restaurant is open for dinner most nights (closed Monday and Tuesday). NOTE: Reservations are required. More information on Houmas House may be found at: www.houmashouse.com. Close
Written by Travel'in Gal on 19 Dec, 2008
This was a wonderful adventure my husband and I had in New Orleans on March 3-5, 2003 before Hurricane Katrina hit. We really enjoyed it and even met Anne Rice at Emeril's Delmonico Restaurant. Bourbon Street is party central in the French Quarter of New…Read More
This was a wonderful adventure my husband and I had in New Orleans on March 3-5, 2003 before Hurricane Katrina hit. We really enjoyed it and even met Anne Rice at Emeril's Delmonico Restaurant. Bourbon Street is party central in the French Quarter of New Orleans, it is synonymous with sin, and yet the name has nothing to do with bourbon, despite the string of bars that line this legendary street. Bourbon Street is named after the French royal family of Bourbon. During the day I took my daughter for a walk to Bourbon Street, there were quite a few people walking around with beer at 10:00 in the morning. This is not really my preferred time to start drinking but whatever. There were aheck of a lot of bars for such a small street and tons of gaudy little souvenir shops, which were interesting and quite fun to shop in and buy cheap souvenirs. Now the most noticeable thing about Bourbon Street is the smell, it is like enormously stinky, horrible stinky, like walking in a sewer stinky. Now I know New Orleans is below sea level, but this was ridiculous. So we returned to the hotel laden with our cheap treasures, went sight seeing and then to see what the nightlife was like, and you guessed it returned to Bourbon Street. Now, not only is it stinky, it is over crowded with drunks. There were drunk people everywhere, drinking, spilling drinks, and being loud. I have been to sin city (Las Vegas) many times and I've never seen anything like this. There were peep shows, topless and go-go dancers all in this small area. It was truly unbelievable. I love New Orleans, I love to party like the next guy or gal, but Bourbon Street should be avoided at all costs. There is plenty to do in New Orleans without including this shady, stinky little street in your plans. We got back to our hotel on my husband told me that Pat O'Brien's is the birthplace of the internationally renowned "Hurricane Cocktail", and Fritzel's is the only traditional European jazz club in New Orleans, so back we went the next night and you know after a few drinks. You don't even notice the smell. (Yeah!) Walking around The French Quarter is pretty spooky; there are ghosts around every corner. Here are just a few: The Bombay Club is what I like to call a Yuppie Bar; they were serving great martinis before the current on slot of trendy martini bars. In fact the Bombay's martinis were the best in town, the food wasn't all that good, but the staff was extra chatty. But in New Orleans you don't always go to restaurants for the food, you go for (you guessed it) the "alleged haunting". Now I love a good haunting like the next guy, but making a posh piano and martini bar out of an ex-coffin factory is tres bien in my books. In addition to being a coffin factory this building was used as a public bathhouse for over fifty years. In the kitchen, a bartender claimed that the dishwasher has a mind of its own. It would turn itself on at odd times when it wasn't suppose to and it would not turn on when it was suppose too. He claimed the activity increased or decreased depending on who was around. Now, it seems to me with this one we could go two ways: 1. Actual haunting. 2. Electrical problems and too many martinis. I vote for number two. Also a ghost is seen wandering in and out of the bar as well as the kitchen, which could explain the dishwasher incidents. There was no paranormal activity at The Bombay Club while we were there that we could tell, but pictures of booth number three in the bar seem to have a misty quality about them and one has (what I believe to be) an actual orb in it. Also this club is one of the many stops on the Haunted History Tour. Another great haunted destination was Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop. Reverend Zombie's sells oils, candles, "how to" books on Voodoo, Voodoo dolls, sacred arts and jewelry. Of course this dark, dank little shop has a haunting of its own. The American Homestead Company constructed the building where the incident (that caused the haunting) took place. On September 19, 1788 Master Carpenter, Joseph Fernandez, agreed to build a house for his brother Andres Fernandez. The house was to be built of brick with wood flooring and a shingle roof. The house was to cost 4400 pesos. The house was never built-Joseph ran off with the dough. Andre later hired a man by the name of Francisco Gagnie, a Frenchman, to build a house for him on the same property. The original contract for the house, which was originally written in French and later translated to Spanish, called for the house to be build of the finest materials available, glass doors and windows, double paneled exterior walls and a well in the patio. On October 15, 1795 Andre filed suit against Francisco for failure to comply with provisions agreed upon for the construction of the said house. After a great deal of litigation, on January 16, 1799. Francisco was ordered to pay Andre the sum of 210 pesos and 3 reales, quite a bit of money at the time. Shortly after the judgment was made Francisco met Andre at the property to explain that he was unable to pay such a large sum of money. Francisco Gagnie was never seen again, but it was noted in the investigative report that the well at the rear of the property had recently been filled in with bricks and sand. In the 1960's, the owner at the time, had installed a very elaborate alarm system due to his belief that someone cursing in French was constantly kicking has door in the middle of the night. Also tenants of the rear slave quarter apartments have complained of missing construction tools. Today this building is the home of Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop and courtyard apartments. A current resident of one of the apartments, has stated that she has left her hammer out one evening on the ledge of the old well. Although she was the only one on the property, the hammer disappeared from the ledge. In January 1999, on a very foggy night, she felt a cold clammy hand grab her ankle as she sat on the edge of the well. Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 13 Dec, 2008
Only a foundation slab and three concrete steps remain of what was once somebody’s home. Ed and I sat there quietly on the corner of Tennessee and North Galvez Streets in the Lower Ninth Ward. The effects of Hurricane Katrina tragically hit this…Read More
Only a foundation slab and three concrete steps remain of what was once somebody’s home. Ed and I sat there quietly on the corner of Tennessee and North Galvez Streets in the Lower Ninth Ward. The effects of Hurricane Katrina tragically hit this New Orleans neighborhood on August 23, 2005 after the storm moved inland. The levee system and floodwalls here catastrophically failed sending flood waters to the roof levels. Life there changed forever.Traces of the emergency efforts can still be seen as painted graffiti on the fronts of houses and apartments. A poodle had been evacuated from the 2nd floor of one high rise. But mostly, we saw the ghostly remains of tree-lined streets with no houses on any of the city blocks in this distinctive region of New Orleans.Now and then, noise interrupted the silence. We’d hear the sound of a hammer from a home being built or a lawnmower cutting the calf-high grass on a vacant lot. There was a little activity. A California film crew occupied a block for the staging of movie scene. We could see a boat glide along the water and under a drawbridge along the Industrial Canal.We watched a woman carry boxes from her car into a second floor apartment. She told us that some families were beginning to return to the community. Her family was moving back because this neighborhood was where her husband grew up and her children grew up – this place was home. Close
Written by RoBoNC on 28 Jun, 2007
When most people think of New Orleans, Mardi Gras is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Although, Mardi Gras did not originate in New Orleans, it is by far the most recognized throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands converge on the city for…Read More
When most people think of New Orleans, Mardi Gras is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Although, Mardi Gras did not originate in New Orleans, it is by far the most recognized throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands converge on the city for two weeks of parades, partying, and an all around good time leading up to Fat Tuesday. For my first trip to New Orleans, I wanted it to be during the biggest block party in the world and Mardi Gras 2007 did not disappoint. If you are like me, I did not know anything about Mardi Gras except for what you see on the COPS show. Mardi Gras have its roots in the Roman Catholic religion. Mardi Gras begins on January 6, and goes until midnight on Fat Tuesday. The date of Fat Tuesday changes each year as it follows the schedule of Easter. Fat Tuesday could be as early as Feb 3 or as late as March 9. Mardi Gras typically refers to the last two weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of the Lent season. On my first visit to the city known as "The Big Easy", I had no idea what was in store for me as I made my way down to the famous French Quarter. I lucked up with a parking space on the street which was a lot better than paying $30 to park and at night it can get very crowded in the French Quarter. I made my way down an alley until I arrived on Bourbon Street and was immediately lost in the crowd. I grabbed an ice cold beer and began my journey down the street toward the parade route. Although I only walked a couple of blocks, I had already accumulated enough beads as to make it seem like I had been there all day. I felt like I was in a Girls Gone Wild video as women everywhere were flashing to get beads. Alcohol can make even the pastor’s daughter turn into Paris Hilton. The next day was Fat Tuesday and for Mardi Gras 2007 that happened to be February 20. It is a good idea to arrive early in the morning to grab a parking space. Be prepared to walk about a half mile to get to the French Quarter. During the last two weeks, the parades increase in size and frequency and whether you arrive during the day or at night, you can always catch one. If you want to see a particular parade, consult the schedule on the Mardi Gras website so you can plan your day accordingly. Just as the floats were elegantly decorated, so were the party goers. Many came dressed in drag; others looked like they stepped out of a sci-fi movie, and even the Pope showed up. As night fell, the party got even wilder as Lent slowly approached. Since Lent forces you to give up something you like until Easter, i.e. alcohol, everybody is trying to get their fair share before the clock chimes midnight. As the hour approached to signal the beginning of Ash Wednesday, the police got in position to take back the streets. At exactly at midnight, the police using officers on foot, horses, motorcycles, and patrol cars, began clearing the streets. Weeks of partying day and night finally comes to an end. If you plan to take your kids to Mardi Gras but are concerned with the nudity and the many sex shops that line Bourbon Street, there is an alternative. Many Mardi Gras parades take place in the suburbs such as Metairie, which are more family oriented and still has the festival spirit but without the nudity and excessive drinking. There are a couple of things to remember to make your Mardi Gras experience a pleasurable one. First, stay in the French Quarter or downtown. New Orleans has a high crime rate and ending up in the wrong neighborhood could cause you problems. Second, keep your wallet in your front pant’s pocket. With hundreds of thousands of people in a confined area, it is a breeding ground for pickpockets. Lastly, watch where you walk in the French Quarter as the streets is covered in beads and it is very easy to slip and fall. My visit to Mardi Gras is everything that I thought it would be. Three days was not enough, but I am already planning for Mardi Gras 2008. Close
Written by jenandfrank on 14 Jan, 2005
New Orleans, best known for its food, music, and Bourbon Street shenanigans. Bourbon Street is the mecca for those traveling to New Orleans. For anyone who is unaware, New Orleans is below sea level and therefore has a major sewage problem (that’s why…Read More
New Orleans, best known for its food, music, and Bourbon Street shenanigans. Bourbon Street is the mecca for those traveling to New Orleans. For anyone who is unaware, New Orleans is below sea level and therefore has a major sewage problem (that’s why they bury their dead above-ground, in mausoleums). That said, the town has a certain smell to it, especially on Bourbon Street (located within the French Quarter). Once you have spent some time there, you get used to the smell, but for those who aren’t expecting it, it can be quite a shock. Bourbon Street is like no place that we have ever been, filled with food, drinks, strip clubs (male, female, and the excessive), regular clubs, bars with live music, trinkets shops, voodoo shops (big here), hotels, etc. It’s loud, smelly, and packed with people, and there is always a party going on. If you go during Jazz Fest, we found the crowd to be a lot more laid-back than during Mardi Gras, let’s say (with bare-breasted women and people doing just about anything for beads).
There are a few great restaurants (like Galatoires) and some great clubs that you can walk in and out of, get a drink, listen to some great music, or dance. There are no cars allowed on Bourbon—only on the side streets. Drinks are allowed in cups on the streets here, so expect to see it. In one way, it’s nice, because if you buy a drink and get sick of the music or the people at one place, you can leave with it without having to dump it and buy a new one at the next place. The downfall, of course, are the people who drink too much and spill their drinks on you while you are innocently walking and/or have drunk so much that they are on the side of the road, vomiting. Obviously, during the day this area is a lot mellower, so if you want to see what goes on but don’t want to deal with the crowds, I suggest going during the day. Keep in mind, though, that early in the morning, you will see a lot of what has not been cleaned from the night before—sort of a catch 22, I guess. Police are in large supply (usually on horseback), so safety is never an issue. Not for children at night—ever.
The French Quarter is a rectangular-shaped neighborhood within New Orleans, home to Bourbon Street, Pat O’Brien’s, and the French Market (to say the least). Pat O’Brien’s, located on St. Patrick Street, is famous because it’s the "home" of the hurricane (alcoholic drink). This drink really catches you by surprise, so drink it in stride. This place has "dueling" pianos, where two pianos that face each other take requests and sing together/against each other—a lot of fun, very entertaining (with a few hurricanes in you, everything is entertaining). The French Market (North Peters St.) is your average flea market, with vendors inside and out who will try to sell you just about anything with their best sales pitch. Of course, once you leave, "they can’t promise it will be here if you come back". If interested, you can buy spices, beignet mix, hurricane mix, CDs, voodoo paraphernalia, jewelry, paintings, etc. Chartres Street (also in the French Quarter) is home to the W French Quarter hotel, K. Paul’s Kitchen, and many antiques shops—the most in town.
Jackson Square is located along the river, on the outskirts of the French Quarter. Lots of performers, people showing off their weird cars, little shops, tarot card readers, mom-and-pop-style dining, people playing chess, and the St. Louis Cathedral all around a big square area with trees and horses and buggies. This is where many walking tours begin, where the largest number of street vendors are located, and it’s across the street from Café Du Monde. Towards the other edge of Jackson Square, you will find the mall, which is fairly new and loaded with all of your basic big-name retailers (with a few local places too). The bottom line—it’s a mall, and is that really why you went to New Orleans?
Magazine Street is filled with different and very eclectic shops—nothing run-of-the-mill here. It’s mostly antiques shops, art galleries, boutiques, bookstores, and Belladonna, the best day spa in New Orleans. The shops here are sporadic and spread over quite a distance of a few miles, at least, so bring comfortable shoes and plan to spend the afternoon. If you have some free time, take the St. Charles Streetcar (on the corner of Canal) to the Garden District and back. (Hint: to avoid long lines, pick up the street car from the stop before Canal and St. Charles, about a 5-minute walk north.) For a few dollars round-trip, it goes from one side of town to the other and is a scenic and very relaxing ride. This streetcar is the oldest in the U.S. Riding down St. Charles Avenue in open-air cars, you will pass elegant estates, the old MTV Real World New Orleans house (which now looks like it’s in shambles), and the former homes of Anne Rice, Jefferson Davis, and Edgar Degas. It’s inexpensive and a great way to see the older, plantation-like part of the city. If gambling is your desire, there is a Harrah’s casino located on Peters Street. It’s the largest casino in the south and still fairly new, decorated with a Mardi Gras theme (go figure). It’s always very busy with locals and tourists alike. Harrah’s is also a hotel for those who just can’t get enough and don’t want to leave.
Some important facts to know while in New Orleans to avoid walking around, screaming, "I am a tourist!": New Orleans is pronounced "N’awlins"—embrace it. People say "y’all" instead of "you all"—deal with it. Beignets "ben-yays" are the most delicious fried French doughnuts you will ever have, only buy them at Café du Monde and try to control yourself. Gumbo is a brown soup—think stuff (meat, seafood, etc.) with some liquid—whose ingredients vary, so ask first. Gumbo is spicy and is as common as New England clam chowder is in Boston. Jambalaya is dark rice (dark because of the spices), served with either chicken, sausage, or seafood (sometimes all three), with a red, spicy sauce. Again, it’s about as basic here as fried rice is at a Chinese restaurant. A Po’ Boy is a long sandwich served on French bread (contents vary), and having it "dressed" means you want lettuce, gravy, mayo, and pickles.
Overall, New Orleans is a great city that can be pricey or not, depending on what you want to accomplish, with beautiful weather and super-friendly people (from the cabbie at the airport on down). There’s something for everyone, and it’s a great weekend trip, but you must go with an open mind and be willing to try new things.
Steamboat Natchez Riverboat Cruise
This was a two-hour cruise from the French Quarter down the Mississippi on an authentic steamboat. The boat itself was beautiful and very well-maintained. The cost was $18.50 for the cruise only and $26 if you included lunch. Tickets were…Read More
Steamboat Natchez Riverboat Cruise
This was a two-hour cruise from the French Quarter down the Mississippi on an authentic steamboat. The boat itself was beautiful and very well-maintained. The cost was $18.50 for the cruise only and $26 if you included lunch. Tickets were available at the riverfront. Lunch is served in a cafeteria-style manner. The food was okay—not great, buffet-style out of tin trays (like the ones they use in sterno set-ups), and we ate off paper plates. I think I was expecting more after hearing the words "cruise down the Mississippi," but nevertheless I was disappointed. First of all, the water is brown… very brown. And along the part of the Mississippi that the cruise takes you down, there is absolutely NOTHING to see. It’s literally empty fields, a few barges, and brown water with a mediocre lunch. There is a decent jazz trio which plays in the "dining room," and they start when lunch is served. Ultimately, it was nice because we were together, the weather was nice out, there was plenty of seating both inside and out, and it was relaxing. At the same time, if we were short on time, I would have been annoyed that we wasted 3 hours (when all is said and done) on this! You are allowed, however, to tour the boat and see the paddle wheels, the machinery, and take a tour of how things work, the history of steamboats, etc. (My husband had just finished reading "Life On The Mississippi" by Twain and was over-joyed at all of this.) However, I lost interest after a few minutes. Of course, there was a gift shop located by the dining area. It was overpriced, and they sold the same items that you could buy in town just about everywhere. Not Recommended.
Honey Island Swamp Tour, 985-641-1769
The front desk/concierge at the W was kind enough to setup this tour up for us. The tour’s van picked us up for an additional $5 per person. He spoke to us about New Orleans facts and history on the way to the swamp and made the ride very enjoyable and quick (about 45 minutes to an hour, although they tell you it’s a half-hour ride). The "ticket office" at the site was a shack with a woman and a fan inside. Tickets were $20 per person, and that included a 10-minute airboat ride. After paying and boarding this long, flat-looking boat with a small awning over it, we were ready to go. The tour was about 2 hours, there were about 30 people on board, and we were able to see different areas of the swamp and lots of wildlife, including tons of moss, Cyprus trees, birds, and even alligators. The ride was very tranquil and felt safe, despite the fact that we were in a swamp. Honey Island swamp is different because it’s one of the least altered river swamps in the country. The name "Honey Island" was derived from the fact that honeybees once inhabited the island. At one point, in an area that I could only refer to as a cul-de-sac (if it was a street, that is), the captain stopped the boat and went chumming for gators. A few jumped up out of the water for the food and for pictures, obviously. It was exciting and not scary, even though a few were rather large. The captain had a very heavy Cajun accent and took some time to speak to us about the swamps in New Orleans and their inhabitants. We ventured back to land and had a short break before moving onto the airboat portion of the trip. There are no bathrooms and no food around, so go prepared—bring water with you, at least. The airboat was very exciting, with four levels of seating and a big (huge) fan in the back. You must wear ear plugs, a helmet, and your seat belt, since the boat tends to take sharp turns and spins. Hearing is out of the question, since the engines are so loud and get louder the faster you go; they go as fast as 50mph. Now, that might not seem very fast, but when you are on a small boat with leveled seating, zig-zagging, with the wind pumping in your face, it’s fast and it’s scary. This part of the tour was more for excitement than to see many alligators. We were going too fast to pay attention to any of that. Highly Recommended.
French Quarter Walking Tour
We bought tickets for this tour at the ticket booth for the steamboat cruise (by the riverfront). Tickets were relatively inexpensive, at $12 per person for a two-hour tour. The tour goes on, rain or shine, and the guides are very informative. We met in Jackson Square and stopped at: St. Louis Cathedral, one of the country's oldest places of worship; the two Spanish buildings that flank the cathedral called Cabildo and Presbytere; the Ursuline Convent, the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley; Pontalba, the oldest apartments in the United States; sites where literary geniuses created some of their finest works (Rice, Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, etc.); pirates alley; and the Le Petit Theatre, the oldest community theater in the U.S. The tour introduces you to the old city, away from the crazy nightlife. You walk as far north (away from the river) as Burgandy Street to see one of Tennessee Williams’s residences and as far east as Esplanade Ave to see the Old U.S. Mint. Pack walking shoes and a thirst for knowledge and history, because this tour is jam-packed with it. Not recommended for children or parents with strollers, as there is a lot of walking around people and crowds. Recommended.
Written by eviet on 16 Jun, 2005
New York, Miami, Berlin, Darjeeling, Sydney, Kathmandu, Florence, and Vienna are just a smattering of cities where I’ve torn through appetizers, entrées, desserts, and cheese plates, but no meal has been so delicately prepared as to end my search for foodie perfection – until Commander’s…Read More
New York, Miami, Berlin, Darjeeling, Sydney, Kathmandu, Florence, and Vienna are just a smattering of cities where I’ve torn through appetizers, entrées, desserts, and cheese plates, but no meal has been so delicately prepared as to end my search for foodie perfection – until Commander’s Palace. From the warm Southern greeting of the valet boys and maitre’d to our attentive but discreet waiter Scott to the refined, complex flavors of the actual food, Commander’s, as it is known by locals, shows how fully satisfying and worth the price tag a high-end meal can be.
Scott, who I’m fully confident could explain the preparation method of every option on the menu and choose the perfect wine pairing for each, invited us to sit at a garden-view table in the, not surprisingly, Garden Room by pulling out our chairs and draping napkins over our laps with the ease of a seasoned waiter. Out came a plate of garlic bread drizzled with rich butter, and maybe a dab of cheese, shortly after, the perfect opportunity to make my first fine-dining faux-paux by grasping onto the plate to place it down, only to be received by puzzled eyes and an explanation to take one before he placed it on the table. Silly me to think I would have to do anything remotely seen as effort at a place like Commander’s.
Then came our $35 plate of caviar, the least expensive of the three presented on the menu, along with Scott and Tim, the maitre’d, to explain the several options for topping the caviar, including chopped onions and egg whites, the two that best complemented and contrasted the strong salty flavor of the dark fish eggs. To fill my stomach further before my entrée was a perfectly sized portion of turtle soup au sherry, which, after forcing out the images of my pet turtles from sophomore year in college, I found to have soft pieces of turtle meat strewn throughout what seemed to be a tomato-based broth with various hints of spices I won’t even pretend to know the names of.
Sticking to New Orleans tradition, French bread was laid out on the table as an accompaniment to our main meal, which equated to a pecan-crusted gulf fish for me. Now, I’ve had pecan-crusted fish plenty of times over, but in this entrée, the pecan crust was so smooth and broken down into the tiniest bits that it tasted like the fish had been born with a skin of pecans. The creamy sauce enveloping it enhanced the fresh-from-the-water flavor, while the whole pecans dropped here and there gave a subtle crunch to every other bite, all accompanied by a Grüner Veltliner smooth enough to avoid competing with the food for attention.
Naturally, what comes next would be dessert. But for this dessert, a bread pudding, and two others on the menu, you can’t wait to see if you have a miniscule amount of empty space in your protruding stomach for one last thing: you must order it with the rest of your meal – it takes that much effort to prepare. If you think bread pudding is bread pudding anywhere, you have to do away with such craziness at Commander’s, where the pudding, the richest, most succulent smooth sweetness I’ve tasted, is topped by a crisp meringue cover that Scott poked open to drizzle in a smooth whiskey cream.
And since a restaurant deemed worthy enough to receive the Lifetime Outstanding Restaurant Award by the James Beard Foundation needs a little extra pizzazz besides attentive service and food serving so much more a purpose than to nourish the body, every room in this authentic-looking Southern estate has a different personality. Besides the Garden Room, the top floor has a room painted in a deep orange of elegant old money, one where an artist painted intricate designs onto the wall, and a last that seats only 13, the crème de crème for a college graduation or 50th-birthday celebration. All the while, the top floor smirks with the devious history of once having been the walls to a brothel.
But let’s not forget the downstairs jumble of tables and its celebratory air, where you also find hidden secrets, each painting on this floor containing an upside-down heart in memorial to the artist’s mother. So no matter where you are seated to partake in something so much more than food, you will step into the muggy but breezy night air knowing that if in this moment you were destined to be hit by the suddenly barreling horse cart of the Roman Candy Man, no matter how unlikely at 10pm, your last meal had not only been the best in the U.S., but the world.
Written by diminor1929 on 12 Jan, 2004
On our most recent trip to New Orleans, my husband made it his obsession to find the perfect New Orleans Hurricane. For the uninitiated, a "Hurricane" is a combination of various potent liquors topped with a splash of available fruit juices, then topped with…Read More
On our most recent trip to New Orleans, my husband made it his obsession to find the perfect New Orleans Hurricane. For the uninitiated, a "Hurricane" is a combination of various potent liquors topped with a splash of available fruit juices, then topped with more potent alcohol. It is always shaken,not stirred, and served with a cherry and orange slice. They are usually served in plastic "to-go" cups and are always drunk through a straw - a mainstay of Mardi Gras revelers.
Fine dining establishments do not serve them, nor do many restaurants outside the French Quarter (with a few exceptions). But after 3 years of tasting, evaluating and imbibing in a cross section of what New Orleans has to offer, Glenn has come up with his choices for the "Top 5 Hurricanes in N.O."
#1-The Gazebo Cafe
An outdoor cafe with live jazz next to the French Market, this place stole the lead out from under Lafitte's Bar in the 2003 visit. Glenn required several samplings on a variety of days, prepared by bartender Cody, to make his decision. They also make a great Louisiana Lemonade and Mudslide. Try the appetizer sampler with your drinks (popcorn shrimp and crawfish and fried alligator sausage).
This dark,dingy hole in the wall is touted as the oldest bar in the French Quarter and is reputed to be haunted. This is perfectly believable. But it is a great place to stop in for a drink...Glenn loved the hurricanes here so much he collected a set of eight "to-go" glasses with the Lafitte logo. That's devotion. Can't wait to use them as water goblets at our next dinner party.
#3 Tied for Third Place
Former #1 spot - The French Market Cafe on Decatur Street (across from French Market). Still good but not AS good as #1 and #2.
The Old Coffee Pot - The site of our very "first hurricane" it seems to be the one we remember most. For Capt. Glenn, this spot will always be a favorite - not only for the hurricanes but for the great catfish po'boys and friendly, down-home service. (see review in dining)
Honorable Mention - In a class by itself - Jaques-Imo's. Not only is the bartender super...the drink is great and is served with much personality and gusto!
Last Place - Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes
While the atmosphere with the dueling pianos and courtyard may be fun, the Hurricanes SUCK. So does the mix that they sell. Highly overrated - Yuck!
Places where you don't want to request a Hurricane:
Upperline - "No - we definitely don't make those here..."
Dominiques - "NO...sorry" (with a good-humored and only slightly condescending look)
Liuzza's - "We don't make them here...but I'll make you one anyway, hon" (and it wasn't bad).
Joey K's - "Margaritas and beer only..."
Windsor Court Hotel - Bartender just chuckles and shakes his head..."How about a Cosmo?" (which was fabulous!)
Dante's Kitchen - "Are you kidding...those are made only for tourists. Locals never drink that stuff!"
And there you have it...one man's look at the most famous drink in New Orleans - the Hurricane. But don't trust Glenn's opinion - take your own tour and find the perfect Hurricane for yourself. Write down the places you go...after one, it's easy to lose track!