Absolute Awesomeness in New Orleans
Back in November, Nate and I took a four-day trip to New Orleans to celebrate our 30th birthdays, which are exactly a month apart. We both love food (which should be obvious at this point!), so our plan was to eat our way through the city. And that is exactly what we did! Our flights were free with my frequent flier miles and the hotel (Hilton on St. Charles) was free with Nate’s hotel points, so the only thing in our budget was food. The hardest part was deciding which restaurants, cafes, bars, etc to go to: there are SO many and most of them serve the same sorts of things, so how do you know which is best? Luckily, one of my friends went to Tulane and regularly goes back with her friends, and she was able to give me a bunch of great suggestions, most of which are listed here. Without further ado, here are our favorite New Orleans restaurants, bars and attractions (none of which are on Bourbon St.):
Cafe du Monde: How could I not mention this cafe which for most tourists is synonymous with New Orleans? Mountains of beignets covered in fluffy powered sugar and smooth, rich cafe au lait to wash it down. In a word, perfection. It’s also extremely touristy, but you can line up towards the back and get your beignets and coffee to go in order to avoid the horde. There are other places in New Orleans to get beignets, but even the non-tourists said Cafe du Monde was the best!
Cochon Butcher: Not in the French Quarter, this a true gem that you don’t want to miss. I’m not one to use the word “gem,” but this place is absolutely amazing. First of all, don’t confuse Cochon Butcher with its sister restaurant, Cochon. Cochon is fancy and expensive, while Cochon Butcher is a butcher shop with a bar in the back where you order and then there are tall bar tables where you can sit down to eat. Cochon is well-marked on the corner and Cochon Butcher is down the side street and not so obviously marked. Some of our favorites here: duck pastrami sliders, pancetta mac and cheese, muffaletta (huge enough to split and still be a big sandwich), and brisket sliders. We tried the hot boudin (some sort of New Orleans sausage) and that was a little strange– maybe we just don’t like boudin. Their cocktails are good too.
Stanley: This place is known for their variations on Eggs Benedict. I got an oyster po boy, which was good, but I wished I’d gotten one of the Eggs Benedict (which is what Nate wisely chose). It’s right on Jackson Square, so the people watching is fantastic.
Mimi’s:In the Marigny, this bar downstairs/restaurant upstairs is totally worth the hike. Mimi’s has the best tapas I’ve ever had outside of Spain: simple small plates with a couple of uncomplicated ingredients cooked to perfection. Our favorites: mushroom manchego toast, goat cheese croquetas, ensalada a la plancha (who knew grilled lettuce could be so good?), and the “trust me,” which is a surprise from the chef. Our “trust me” was some sort of homemade pâté and toast. It was incredible. If I had a neighborhood bar like Mimi’s near my house, I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven.
Mother’s: Right down the road from our hotel, Mother’s quickly became our go-to breakfast stop. It’s quite touristy, but the line moves quickly and the food is excellent. The first morning we had eggs, ham (incredible!), biscuits and grits. The following morning I had a biscuit with debris (the little pieces of meat that are left over after it’s cooked) and a blueberry muffin, and Nate had a huge omelet, as you can see below.Coop’s: Where the masses in-the-know come for cheap beer and good food. It’s known for the rabbit and sausage jambalaya and we loved the “taste plate,” which included gumbo, fried chicken, beans and rice, shrimp creole, and jambalaya for about $12. It’s the sort of place that’s perfect for lunch when you just need a break from walking around, you don’t feel like waiting forever, and you know the food will be good.
K-Paul’s: This was our splurge, and man was it worth it. Reservations are necessary and they have a “business casual” dress code, which means no tank tops or sleeveless shirts, flip-flops or cut-off shorts. I got away with jeans, a cute (yet modest) top and nice shoes, and Nate wore khakis and a polo. Back to the food: we ordered the fried green tomatoes with shrimp appetizer, and then I had the blackened drum and Nate had a veal dish. For dessert we split the bread pudding. We loved it all, even the bread basket. The piece of blackened drum was enormous, but it was so absurdly delicious, I ate it all. Highly recommended.The Pirate Bar: This funky little bar is right behind the cathedral in the photo above. In any other city, it would be packed 24/7, but in New Orleans, where lots of the tourists just want to drink for cheap and they don’t care where, the Pirate Bar almost always has sitting room. You can sit at the bar and sip your drink, or you can take it to-go since New Orleans has lenient open container laws. Basically, if it’s not glass, you can drink it on the street. In fact, one bartender (at Coop’s) told us we would be okay if we took our bottles on the street since we looked like “sensible” people, whatever that means. Sure enough, the cops didn’t stop us!
Loa: This bar is located in the International House Hotel, which was a few blocks from where we stayed. It’s one of those funky cozy places with interesting cocktails that’s perfect for a night-cap. You can order a drink off the ever-changing menu or just sit at the bar, tell the bartender what you like and let him work his magic. Added bonus: it’s usually nearly empty! We loved Loa.
And now for some attractions:
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum: For an infectious disease nut like myself, this was a must-see. Admission is $5 for adults, and you can spend a couple hours wandering through the various rooms reading about health care and pharmacies from the 1800’s onwards. There are some truly gruesome medical tools, in addition to interesting information about the city’s outbreaks of yellow fever and other diseases.
Fan Boat Swamp Tour: I don’t remember what tour company we used, and as soon as I figure it out I’ll add in the hyper-link. So many tourists go to New Orleans and just stay in the French Quarter, but there is a lot more to it than that. The tour company picked us up at our hotel and took us out to the middle of nowhere, where we got on a fan boat with three other people, plus the boat driver. We saw alligators and birds, and learned a lot about the marsh/swamp ecosystem which provides a livelihood for lots of people in Louisiana. It was really interesting and a great way to spend our first morning in New Orleans. Because the boat is powered by a (noisy) fan rather than an engine, the boat is able to maneuver in areas where a normal boat wouldn’t be able to. We went through mud and general swampyness to go deep into the marsh, which was really cool. The photos above and below were taken from the fan boat.
That’s all! Hopefully this will be helpful if you’re ever headed to New Orleans. Also, with the exception of the beignet photo, all the pictures were taken using film on my Nikon F3. After shooting with a digital SLR for so long, it took a while to get used to a film SLR. Mostly I just kept crossing my fingers and hoping the photos would turn out. I was pleasantly surprised, and I’d forgotten how fun it is to get film developed!