Welcome to New Orleans (and the USA)!
Leslye has asked me to put together some recommendations for you based on the scant information that:
1) you're going to be in town for about a week; 2) you're a lot of fun; and 3) you like to eat and drink.
Happily, being a lot of fun and liking to eat and drink are just about the only skill set one needs to bring to
I'll start off with ten fun things do and ten memorable places to have a meal and a drink. I'll finish up with a
word about directions, crime and Katrina.
So let's go!
Ten Fun Things To Do:
1. Well, you're going to want to hear music, right? Plan your time wisely. Go here: www.offbeat.com
and click on Listings.
2. You'll hear a lot about swamp tours. Some of them are interesting, but many of them have a kind of a
"Voyage of Cajun Damned" aspect to them. Also, don't expect to see much in January. If you're really
interested in swamps, save some money, rent a car, and drive out to the Jean Lafitte National Park
Barataria Preserve http://www.nps.gov/jela/barataria-preserve.htm. Instead of tales of twenty-foot long
alligators, you'll learn about the four kinds of swamps and see examples of each. If the weather is nice and
you're into kayaking and/or canoing, this is a great place. I don't know if they rent them at the park, but if
you're interested, call ahead. After you've seen the park, stop at Restaurant des Familles for lunch or
dinner. It's just across Highway 3134 from the park on Barataria Boulevard
3. Speaking of voyages of the damned, it's a fact: riverboat cruises are awful. If you're attending almost
any sort of business meeting, there will inevitably be one on the schedule somewhere. You'll see what I
mean. But seeing the city from the river is worthwhile, so here's an alternative. At the foot of Canal Street
(across from the casino and the aquarium) is a ferry that shuttles back and forth across the river. It leaves
every 15 minutes, and it's free. Take it across and back. You won't even have to get off, if you don't
want to do so. You'll get the view, and you'll get a couple of hours of your life back to do more interesting
4. See what's on at the House of Blues (www.houseofblues.com, click on New Orleans) on Decatur
Street. As you're coming out or going into the club, look across the street. You'll see a place called the
Louisiana Music Factory at 210 Decatur Street (www.louisianamusicfactory.com) If you really like New
Orleans music (I won't judge you, if you don't), or if you're looking for great souvenirs for music-minded
friends, this is the place to go.
5. Speaking of souvenirs, if you're thinking of getting food type souvenirs, save yourself a lot of money by
getting them at a real grocery store, not a gift shop. The closest and best is Rouse's Market, 701 Royal
Street (corner of St. Peter, just down the block from Pat O'Brien's).
6. If you like aquariums (can't say that I do), the Aquarium of the Americas is one of the best. It's run by
the Audubon Institute, which also runs the zoo and other museums around the city. The most interesting (I
think) is the Insectarium. It's in the old Customs House building (America's largest building until the US
Capitol was finished in the 1860's) on Canal Street. Great butterflies.
7. The landing craft on D-Day (also called LST's, or Higgins boats) were built in New Orleans, so that's
why the National World War 2 Museum ended up in New Orleans. It's in the Warehouse District, and it's
worth a visit. (www.ddaymuseum.org)
8. The New Orleans Museum of Art (www.noma.org) always has interesting traveling exhibits.
Currently, there's an exhibit of artwork from Disney films.
9. The French Market (www.frenchmarket.org) is the oldest city market in the US. It's in the French
Quarter, next to the river. Unless (unlike me) you like to look at everything. It won't take long to get
through it. Ask the cab driver to drop you at the "downriver" end of the market, so that when you've
walked through all of it, you'll be at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, where you can stop for a cocktail.
10. Are you (also unlike me) a hipster? If so, check out what passes for the avant garde of New Orleans
at 3 Ring Circus.(www.3ringcircusproductions.com) They integrate visual and performance arts--and
liquor. (I was just looking at their website, and I noticed that on Tuesday nights, they have "free British
humor". Oh my. That sounds cringe-worthy.) If you go, look for my friend, Adele Mondale, and tell her
I said hi. She's one of the three proprietors.
Ten Memorable Places to Eat The first five are expensive but worth what you get. Reservations are
recommended. The second five are very affordable, and reservations are not necessary.
1. Commander's Palace (www.commanderspalace.com). My personal favorite. When you call to make
your reservation, ask to be seated in the Garden Room.
2. Galatoire's (www.galatoires.com) It's on Bourbon Street, and I always prefer to go for lunch, not
dinner. Although you CAN make a reservation, don't. They'll know you're a tourist and seat you upstairs
with other tourists. Just go stand in line and tell them you want to sit downstairs. I love the red snapper
almondine and puff potatoes.
3. Antoine's in the French Quarter (www.antoines.com) is America's oldest restaurant--and worth the
trip. Enjoy the seafood, and walk around and look at all the private dining rooms. Many of them tell the
story of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
4. Restaurant August (www.restaurantaugust.com) is the new "it" place, and John Besh is the new "it"
cook in New Orleans. When I lived in New Orleans, the restaurant, across the street from the Windsor
Court Hotel, was an Italian place and notorious as the local Mafia hangout. Sadly, that crowd is
gone--replaced by businessmen with credit cards. But the food is really good and highly recommended.
5. Emeril (www.emerils.com) Before he opened his own restaurant in 1990, Emeril Lagasse was the
chef at Commander's Palace. Now he has restaurants everywhere, but the first is still the best. If you're a
foodie, sit at the food bar and watch them cook. (BTW, as you look out the window on the Julia Street
side of the restaurant, you'll see the big ugly apartment building I lived in for twelve years.
6. NOLA (www.emerils.com) is also owned by Emeril Lagasse, but it's a more affordable alternative to
the flagship restaurant. It's in the FrenchQuarter on Chartres Street. If it's a nice day, ask to sit on the
7. Napoleon House (www.napoleonhouse.com) is in the French Quarter is across the street from
NOLA. The building the restaurant is in was built as a home for Napoleon, if he had been allowed to
leave exile. Obviously, that didn't happen, so it's a restaurant. Have a muffaletta, a meat and cheese
sandwich served warm. If it's a nice day, ask to sit on the patio.
8. Mother's (www.mothersrestaurant.net) is a lunch place. Great sandwiches and fried seafood. If you
like roast beef, order the "debris" sandwich. It's roast beef--plus all the tasty bits that fall off as it cooks.
9. Mandina's (www.mandinasrestaurant.com) is a cab ride from downtown, but it's an old-time New
Orleans neighborhood restaurant where people go for tasty seafood at reasonable prices.
10. Camelia Grill (www.camelliagrill.net) This is also a cab ride from downtown, but worth the trip. It's
an old-time "greasy spoon" diner where you sit at a counter and watch the cooks prepare the food. (On
one occasion, this prompted a Scottish visitor to remark, "I think they're trying to make us vomit.")
TEN GREAT PLACES TO HAVE A DRINK
1. Rock N' Bowl (www.rockandbowl.com) is indeed both a bowling alley and a music venue. Generally
speaking, it's the best place to hear Cajun zydeco music. Check it out. (Note: the Carnival season [that's
Mardi Gras to most of us] starts on January 6th. To kick off the season, a band called Bennie Grunch
and the Bunch will be appearing at Rock N' Bowl. They're noted for their funny songs about New
Orleans. If I were going to be in the area, I'd go see them.)
2. Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel (www.therooseveltneworleans.com) Why not have a cocktail
where the cocktail was born? The Sazerac is in the lobby of the Roosevelt, which has recently undergone
a very expensive renovation. It was nice before, but it's now a destination.
3. Pat O'Brien's (www.patobriens.com) Yes, you have to go. Some people like the piano bar with the
dueling pianos staffed by ancient crones, but I just like the patio, if the weather is nice. Unless you have a
high tolerance for sweet drinks or you just really, really want the souvenir glass, stay away from the
hurricane punch. They have a drink called a squall that's a little more tart and tasty.
4. Carousel Bar in the lobby of the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter. No, it's not you. The bar
really is going around in circles.
5. Club 360 (www.club360neworleans.com) also spins around, but this one is thirty stories high, atop
the World Trade Center Building, across the street from Harrah's casino. It's a great view of the city and
6. Columns Hotel (www.thecolumns.com) No one has ever seen the hotel. We don't know if there IS a
But we do know that it used to be a brothel. It's an old Italianate mansion on St. Charles Avenue, a cab
ride (or--if you must, a streetcar ride) from downtown. Very laid back.
7. Mother-in-Law Lounge (www.k-doe.com) New Orleans' own Ernie K-Doe once sang a catchy tune
called "Mother-in-Law". He named a bar after the song that made him famous. Mother-in-Law is not for
the squeamish. By all means, take a cab. When you get ready to leave, ask them to call you a cab. This
is a iffy neighborhood, and frankly, I'm not sure I recommend it for first-timers. But you'll never forget it.
8. Maple Leaf Bar (www.mapleleafbar.com) is way Uptown on Oak Street--definitely a cab ride.
Check the website and see if there's a band you think you'd like. I once took David and Leslye here to
see a zydeco band, and they danced until they were sick--literally.
9. Café du Monde (www.cafedumonde.com) If your idea of a drink is coffee, this is the place to be. Be
sure to go to the original place next the river and across Jackson Square from the cathedral. They have
locations in malls, but it's not the same. Have an order of beignets, but remember, powdered sugar is not
10. Windsor Court Hotel (www.windsorcourthotel.com) If your idea of a drink is afternoon tea, the
Windsor Court hotel is the ticket. The Windsor Court itself is an interesting place. It was built in the
1980's by a local businessman who was quite an Anglophile. He built the hotel thinking that President
Reagan would name him ambassador to the Court of St. James. That didn't happen, but the hotel is
incredible. During the twelve years I lived in New Orleans, it was named twice as the best hotel in the
world. So naturally, they've got a great high tea.