- on Mon 06 June 2011
My sister asked for some New Orleans advice so I thought I'd share.
Uptown / Garden district:
Jacque-Imo's - One of my favorite restaurants anywhere.
Right next door is the Maple Leaf, a great live music bar. I have no idea what time the music starts but you can check while you're waiting for a table at Jacque-Imo's. If at all possible, go to both on a Tuesday night, as the Rebirth Brass Band that plays every week is amazing. This combo possibly the most fun a person can have in a single night.
Make sure you drink an Abita Purple Haze at least once. I prefer the Amber but the PH is more interesting, as it is nonsweet raspberry wheat beer.
Camellia Grill - Above average diner with feisty cooks. Great for breakfast.
All this stuff is in what's called "uptown", which can be easily reached by car (or more funly) by the cablecar that runs all the way down St. Charles. This is a good way to see a lot of stuff outside the French Quarter because you can just look out the window as it goes by.
Both good reads:
A good daytime thing is to start in the garden district and walk around for a while, then down Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-A-TWO-LUS) & Magazine streets during the day; there are tons of interesting bars & shops. If you like a lot of walking, you can make a big U out of it. One thing I love about New Orleans is getting lost in all kinds of weird funky neighborhoods, especially around there.
Walk around the French Quarter for half a day, there are lots of fun discoveries in the little side streets. It's really touristy though.
I found the walking tours to be quite good; you see things you wouldn't normally notice and the tour guides are usually professional-level entertainers.
Cafe du Monde is probably the most famous place in NOLA. It is cool but sometimes so crowded you won't want to sit down. They serve 3 things, hot coffee, cold coffee, and beignets. Beignets are fresh donuts that are good but they taste like donuts so don't stand in line or anything. :) I like them better without the mountain of powdered sugar on top.
There are lots of kewl street performers and grifters around that area (Jackson Square). Standard rules for pickpockets and be-wary-of-scams apply. If you stop and talk to anyone, keep in mind they are going to want a tip at the end (which is perfectly fine and I don't mind, just know they will ask, they're not just being friendly for no reason.) If you're like me it just takes a few days to recalibrate to the avoiding eye contact and saying no a lot. :)
Walk down Bourbon street for an hour at night to get the flavor, then search for actual fun elsewhere. The crazy frozen drinks they sell everywhere are full of sugar & shitty alcohol; don't buy them unless you enjoy hangovers. If you want a daquiri or whatever, find a nice bar somewhere where you pay the same price and get a decent drink.
This is an interesting place: Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. It's supposedly the oldest bar in the country and is a bit of a tourist trap, but Anne & I had a *great* quiet evening there once where it was fairly empty and this old surly french guy just played piano the whole night. It's at the northeast end of Bourbon street.
If you keep walking northeast on Bourbon past Lafitte's you'll get to Esplanade St and and area called Faubourg Marigny. That is a great area to wander around at night because it has some of the energy, music, and food but not the Bourbon street kiddie madness.
Misc & Food:
Please stop to eat and drink frequently. New Orleans is all about that. :) Try weird stuff.
It is perfectly legal to walk around with booze as long as it's in a plastic container. Most bars have a stack of cups at the door; if you don't want to finish your drink before you leave, take it with you.
The Rock N Bowl is supposed to be super fun but I have never been there. It is likely a bowling alley with live music.
BBQ shrimp is not shrimp with bbq sauce on it; it's more like a hearty stew with giant shrimp in it. Very good.
Gumbo: super yay
Muffaletta: I've never had one worth getting excited about
Oysters: There are various oysters bars in the french quarter. Note that the general wisdom is not to eat oysters in months without an 'R' in them but I would probably do it anyway because I like them. Oyster bars with lots of traffic and they should be OK.
Crawfish: I love them, but the steamed ones that you have to crack open can be more trouble than they're worth. Better to let the chef open them and use them in some dish.
I made a Google map with some of the stuff on it. The blue line is the St. Charles streetcar.