Friday, April 25, 2014

Festivus For The Rest Of Us- New Orleans Style

Festival Season is upon us and while we cannot attend New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this time that doesn't mean we can't help those that are making the pilgrimage! For those going to the shows you can get all the info you need on the festival itself at their website:

We love New Orleans- so much so that we've been twice in the past year! I guess you could say it's in my DNA. I was practically conceived here when my parents came down on the overnight train from Memphis on their honeymoon. Anyway, whats not to like? The music, the food, the culture, the people, etc.- everything is great!

This post isn't intended just for those going to Jazz-Fest, but also as a guide based on our experiences for those who want to visit The Crescent City anytime.. In fact, we can't wait to go back! We really enjoy doing research for The Little Diner and going to places with different flavors like NOLA that are completely different than Vail helps us and our business. Plus, it's fun! It doesn't matter when you visit there is always something going on and good times to be had. Ok, maybe not from late July to early September when most of the city shuts down due to the heat, but the rest of the year it's awesome!

First, New Orleans is a pedestrian city like New York. If you're staying in or near the tourist areas (French Quarter, Central Business District/ Downtown, and Marigny/ Frenchman) don't rent a car unless you plan on using it A LOT to go outside the city on day trips or if you're with a group that will fill all the seats so you can share the expense to get around town. Not only are there the usual costs involved with renting a car but every hotel in NOLA will hit you with a fee of at least $15-20 per day to park, but many times you can't even get a spot! This goes for places and restaurants you may want to visit around the city as well.. Parking is VERY limited everywhere (think New York City street parking). If you do want to see the stuff on the outskirts of town or if you want to drive out to the countryside to see the ocean, bayous,  lakes, etc. save it for the end of your trip and just rent one for a couple days before you leave. Cab's are flat rate $33 each way to and from the airport where you'll have an easier time getting a car out there with better prices and options. Rental car agencies in the city are more expensive, harder to deal with, and have limited selection. Plus you can just return your car at the airport when you fly out.

Speaking of taxi's this should be your main mode of transportation around town other than your feet. Prices are fairly cheap, rides are usually short, and if you're sharing with a few friends it gets even more inexpensive. As I stated above the flat rate from the airport to your hotel is $33 each way and taking a cab is the quickest and easiest way to either get into town and get the party started or to get out of "dodge" and onto the speedy road to recovery on the way home! LoL.. There is a Taxi Stand right outside of baggage claim and the line moves fairly quickly. Just tell the officer where in town your hotel is located (The Quarter, CBD, Uptown, Garden District, Marigny, etc.) and they'll tell the cabbie the general area your going. From there all you have to do is inform the cabbie what hotel you're in, but if you're staying at a smaller place you may want to have the address or cross streets "handy".

The best taxi company in the city is Nawlins Cab. They have the newest cabs and the most friendly professional drivers in town- BY FAR.. I highly recommend you download their app onto your phone and be sure to allow the app to use your location settings. From the app you can request a cab and once the taxi has been assigned you can track it coming to you on the map in the application. The cabbie will also have your phone number so they can speak to you directly if there are any issues or to call you outside when he or she arrives. It's a pretty smooth-sweet system, plus they charge the same as everyone else! I guess this is why they're the best and are the "official" cab company of the New Orleans Saints.

The next best would be New Orleans Carriage Cab. They used to have a cool texting system, but have recently gotten their own Taxi App for your phone too. I haven't used it yet, but they are a decent enough company.. Also, their cabs aren't quite as nice as Nawlins', but still good..

White Fleet and Elks Cab are alright too with really nice new cars, but they just have the normal phone numbers- no apps or texting or anything.. They are based in the French Quarter so you see them around a lot. Just ask your front desk person or bellman where the closest taxi stand is located and you can usually hail cab within 5 minutes from your hotel without a call. If your in the middle of The Quarter you can always get a cab quickly at the corner of Toulouse and Dauphine streets as those are the two main thoroughfares into and out of the area (respectively). Getting back is usually harder and requires you to use the app or a to make a phone call. Companies to avoid are United (the biggest and worst one in the city), Alliance, Yellow, and Checker.

If you're staying in or near the French Quarter, Marigny, or CBD (Central Business District) you really won't need to take that many cabs. Almost everything is within a short (or reasonably short) walk as these are the areas with most of the restaurants and attractions. Also, don't forget the street cars! They can get you to most major areas in the city, but can get fairly crowded due to their inexpensive and nostalgic nature and they have limited hours as well..

I won't get into places to stay as it is all subjective and you can use a multitude of resources to find a good hotel i.e. Tripadvisor, Fodors, Yelp, Travel Channel etc.. Although, you will want to focus your attention on places located in the French Quarter, CBD/ Downtown, and Marigny/ Frenchman. I will give you two good ones just in case you haven't made your decision.. 

Olivier House- This is where we usually stay. It has one of the best locations and some of the most reasonable rates in The Quarter. The rooms are very quaint and since this was a mansion at one time every room is different. Think old world charm and decor with a little kitsch thrown in for good measure.. Beware- the rooms on the street side are very noisy at all hours of the day & night since Toulouse Street is the main artery into the French Quarter. Try to request one of the rooms in the back. Our favorite is the Garden Suite.

On this visit we stayed in the Honeymoon Suite. It has a cool balcony overlooking the street and it's a huge corner unit with a living room and bedroom, but it was extremely loud with all the street noise. Also, the bathroom only had a Jacuzzi tub- no shower.


Living Room


Visit before last we stayed in The Garden Suite which is secluded and quiet in the back of the hotel. The room will actually sleep four since it has a pull out sofa downstairs next to the wet bar and there are two full bathrooms!

International House- New, clean, and modern- this hotel is my choice when I want to get away from the madness on Bourbon Street or to have more up to date conveniences and luxuries that the Olivier does not offer.. It is a block to the west of Canal St. on Camp (Chartres) Street, but is still centrally located enough to get around to everything easily. Just like the Olivier the rates are reasonable, especially if you book far in advance.

Anyway, you wanted mostly suggestions on food right? Be sure to check the festival listings (whether it's Jazz-Fest, the Louisiana Seafood Festival, or any other event) to see if any of my recommendations have a booth there as they are always worth checking out!

Breakfast/ Brunch:

Beniets- A New Orleans tradition! You can get them all over, but my favorite is still Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. CDM is the original and open 24/7- so it's awesome anytime! A great option for a fast & cheap breakfast. Don't forget to have their famous Cafe au Lait with your pastries.. Another option is Morning Call in City Park. Go early to enjoy all the park as to offer including the art museum as well as the Beniets!  or

Stanley- Located just off Jackson Square this place serves the best breakfast in NOLA. Sit at the marble counter and enjoy their awesome chicory coffee while you down my favorite- "Eggs Stella" (Soft Shell Crab Benedict) when in season.. Their gumbo is awesome too! You'll want to come here more than once!

Breaux Bridge Benedict's (w/ Boudin), a side of Creole Breakfast Potatoes, and Chicory Coffee

Camellia Grill- The original location in the Carollton neighborhood is open 24/7 and is legendary if nothing more for the "show" the staff puts on. Their French Quarter location doesn't disappoint either, but has more limited hours. The food is solid anytime at either location and is just good diner food with a southern flare. People have compared our place to theirs so we always have to go.. The waitstaff is awesome! True creole "characters". No website listed, but you can look up the Carrollton one [here] and the French Quarter restaurant [here].

eat- In the French Quarter also- on the corner of Dauphine & Dumaine, this place just does brunch on the weekend, has a less complicated "early" menu on weekdays, and is our #2 choice for breakfast in the city. I LOVE their Chicken Fried Chicken aka the Big Breakfast and the Eggs de Provence. My wife can't get enough of their Sweet Potato Pancakes.. Get the Fried Green Tomatoes, Crawfish Boulettes, or Fried Chicken Livers to start!

Sweet Potato Pancakes, Onion Rings & Fried Chicken Livers, Crawfish Boulettes, & Chicory Coffee 

Eggs Dauphine (w/ a Fried Green Tomato in place of the English Muffin), Anson Mills Grits, The Big Breakfast (w/ Chicken Fried Chicken, Eggs, and a side of Biscuit, Gravy, & homemade jam)

Elizabeths- In the Bywater neighborhood this place is worth the trip if nothing else for the Praline Bacon! Get two orders and don't share..

Brennan's- This French Quarter institution is closed (for now) as a result of a family dispute over the business, but if they were open this is the place to "go big" at breakfast time. The birthplace of Bananas Foster AND they do it table-side..  Call ahead or check the website to see if they've opened back up!

Dorignac's Food Center- Sure it's a grocery store way out in the suburbs of Metarie, but they have the BEST doughnuts in the city! In fact, probably the second best apple fritter I've ever eaten behind The Mt. Bakery back home in Washington.. Their fresh baked bread, pie, pastries, & desserts are fantastic too! Also one of the only places you can buy six packs of Barq's Root Beer "Longnecks" (Mmmm my favorite).

One of the best bakeries I've ever been to and it's right in the front of the store.

Apple Fritter

Stocked up for the week!


Willie Mae's Scotch House- Voted the best fried chicken in America by several institutions and winner of a James Beard "Americas Classic" Award this Treme neighborhood restaurant is a must do while in NOLA. If you get there early (around 11am) there may not be a huge wait, but even if there is a line it's worth it! Everyone goes there for the legendary fried chicken, but the butter beans are just as good as my Grandma's! No website listed, but you can find it [here]. Closed on Sunday's.

Parkway Bakery & Tavern- Best Po-Boy's in New Orleans! If nothing else because of the variety of the menu.. On (and only on) Tuesdays they have the fried oyster's, but if you stumble in on other days it's no big deal because the surf & turf (fried shrimp & beef) with gravy or hot sausage are where it's at! Be sure to get it "dressed" (mayo, lettuce, & tomato) and chase it down with a Barq's Longneck. The gravy fries are awesome too! Closed on Wednesdays. Near City Park in the Esplanade Ridge Neighborhood.

Shrimp & Oyster Po-Boy w/ Bacon

Gravy Fries and a Barq's "Tall Boy"

Dookie Chase's Restaurant- Want real "down home" southern cooking? This place right around the corner from Wille Mae's in Treme is where you'll find everything my grandma makes- and then some.. It's mostly a lunch buffet open Tuesday through Friday and the menu changes daily. They have special plated dinners on Friday evenings so be sure to take a cab to and from here as this neighborhood can get a little dangerous after dark, but is well worth the risk!

R & O's- It's a little out of the way in Metarie (Bucktown), but is worth the trip! If nothing else than for the Roast Beef Debris Po-Boy and a giant stuffed artichoke. I think the Debris Po-Boy is better here than the Ferdie at Mother's in the CBD because they dip the roll in the gravy before toasting it. But, if you can't make it all the way over to this side of town then Mother's Restaurant is a good alternative I guess.. As always, get it "dressed". No website listed, but you can find R & O's [here]- and don't pay attention to the "hater's".

Domelise's Po-Boy & Bar- Famous for their fried shrimp & oyster po-boy's (which are awesome), but my favorite is the hot sausage with chili. Also, be sure to get it "dressed". I do not recommend the roast beef- Located in the Uptown neighborhood. Closed Thursdays & Sundays.. No website listed, but you can find it [here].

Nor-Joe Import Company- Off the beaten path in Metarie this unassuming italian market is home of the best HOT Muffaletta (for two) in New Orleans.  It's Well worth the drive out to the suburbs.. Closed on Sunday. If you need alternatives that are closer to home you can always go to the Napolean House in the French Quarter or Cochon Butcher in the Arts District. Butcher is the better of the two, but if you want to chase it down with one of their famous Pimms Cups head to Napolean House.. Don't even go to Central Grocery- it's a total tourist trap. If you want a cold one "for the road" head to Rouses Market in the French Quarter and get one out of the deli cooler.


Napolean House-

Cochon Butcher-

Rouses Market- or get directions to the French Quarter location [here].

Brother's Food Mart- This convenience store/ mini mart chain is famous for their fried chicken and is good, fast, & inexpensive. There is one on the corner of Carondelet (Bourbon) Street & Common Street in the CBD, but they are all over town. Don't forget the boiled peanuts! Open 24/7!

Sno-Balls- These New Orleans-style snow cone stands are found all over town and usually one or two are set up at big events. I can't think of a better way to beat the heat on a hot day! Hansen's Sno-Bilz (Uptown) and Williams Plum Street Snowballs (Riverbend) are the most popular and are a must-do when in NOLA. Satsuma and Cream of Coffee at Hansen's are best there as well as Frozen Mint and Ice Cream flavors at Plum Street. and Plum Street [here]


Cochon- Upscale down home cooking with an emphasis on BBQ.. Intrigued yet? This place is AWESOME! My favorite is the Cochon Platter with a side of ribs with the Fried Aligator to start and my wife likes the Fried Oyster BLT, but everything on the menu is great! Leave room for the Peanut Butter Pie at dessert time and be sure to try their moonshine cocktails or a Sazerac. Reservations Required- especially during "Festival Season" (April 7th-May 4th). Be sure to call ahead early.. Located in the Warehouse/ Arts District.

Commanders Palace- This Garden District institution has won more awards than any other in the city. High end southern comfort food at it's finest! Everything on the menu is great and I highly recommend the chefs tasting menu with wine pairings. It'll be tough because it's so awesome, but do try not to fill up on the bread! Impeccable service with reservations & proper dress required.

Peche- Best seafood in town! Try the Tuna Collar and the Peanut Butter Pie.. Everything off their flaming charcoal grill is to Do die for! Reservations recommended. In the CBD/ Downtown.

Boucherie- Located in the Uptown/ Carollton neighborhood this place has an outstanding menu. The only drawback is that it is in a small house and it can get a little noisy so if you can get a table on the front porch you'll be treated to some of the best duck confit you'll ever eat. They're also known for their barbecue (an homage to their food truck days) and Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. Reservations Required.

NOLA- Emeril's French Quarter restaurant is great! Probably the best pork chop I've ever had in a restaurant. Miss Hay's Chicken Wings are so amazing I almost had to get two orders last time! Try to get a seat at the bar in front of the kitchen to watch the action. Reservations Recommended.

Jaques Imo's- Their eclectic menu offers interesting creole spin's on traditional classics and southern specialties. Don't miss the alligator cheesecake! First come first served in the Carrollton Neighborhood. Come as you are.

Pascal's Manale- The birthplace of New Orleans style BBQ Shrimp and an institution for nearly 100 years. In the Uptown neighborhood, reservations recommended.

Drago's- Home of the Char Grilled Oyster this place is great! If nothing else just go for a snack or appetizers. Their original location is in Metartie, but they now have a place in the Hilton down by the convention center in the CBD. Walk-in's welcome!

Acme Oyster House- The best raw oysters in NOLA! Their Char Grilled Oyster's are almost as good as Drago's and the soft shell crab is great. First Come First Served in the French Quarter.

K-Paul's- Paul Prudhommes place is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago when he popularized blackened redfish. In the French Quarter. Reservations Recommended.

Herbsaint- France and Italy with a southern twist. In the CBD. Reservations Required..

Mr. B's- The local's favorite gumbo. In the French Quarter. Walk-in's welcome.

Stella!- Go for the Chef's 7 Course Tasting Menu. In the French Quarter. Reservations Required.

Antoine's- The oldest continuously operating restaurant in the United States and the place that invented Oysters Rockefellar. In the French Quarter. Reservations and Proper Dress Recommended.

Adolfo's- Southern Italian food in a compact space. Another one recommended by all my friends in New Orleans! Get the Shrimp & Crawfish pasta w/ Alfredo. In Frenchman above the Apple Barrel. First Come- First Served & Cash Only. No website, but you can find it [here].

Late Night Eats:

Yo Mama's- The best burgers in New Orleans! Great drinks and a very impressive selection of Tequila. Kitchen open till 2am in the French Quarter. The website is down, but you can find it [here].

Port of Call- Great burgers here too and home of the strongest drinks in NOLA. Serving food till Midnight in Marigny.

Camillia Grill (Uptown)- *See French Quarter listing above* Open 24/7 in Carrollton. No website listed, but you can find the Carrollton location listed [here].

Clover Grill- Great burgers & chicken fried steak. 24/7 in the French Quarter.

Daisy Dukes- The food here is just OK compared to others, but it is the home of bottomless Bloody Mary's! 24/7 in the French Quarter.

Krystal- Southern fast food chain that is similar to White Castle. 10am-11pm in the French Quarter. or you can find the French Quarter location by clicking [here].


Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop- The oldest bar in NOLA and a must do when in the city for the first (or second) time.. In the French Quarter.

Snake & Jake's- THE legendary dive bar.. Open 7pm-7am in Carollton/ Uptown.

The Sazerac Bar- High end bar with an old school feel. Named after the worlds first mixed drink and the house/ city specialty.. Inside the Roosevelt Hotel in the CBD.

Jackson Brewery Bistro Bar- Great beverages and views from the terraces that overlook jackson square and the riverfront. Inside JAX Brewery in the French Quarter.

French 75 at Arnauds- High end signature drinks inside Arnauds Restaurant in the French Quarter. Proper Dress Recommended.

Royal Street Inn & Bar- This dive bar has stained windows and warped wooden floors, but the drinks are strong and smoking is allowed inside! Located in Marigny.

The Kingpin- Great service industry crowd and a good vibe. Sometimes they have live music, but it is mostly just a hangout with a shuffleboard. Located Uptown.

Nightlife/ Live Music:

Check for the entertainment calendar, but there is usually SOMETHING going on down in Frenchman Street (near the southeast side of the French Quarter towards Marigny) nearly every night of the week.. Otherwise I know that Treme Brass Band has a standing Thursday night gig at DBA in Frenchman and the Hot 8 Brass Band almost always have a Sunday night show at the Howlin Wolf (Den) in the Warehouse/ Arts District.  Tipitina's, Les Bon Temps Roule, and Maple Leaf Bar are located Uptown- Soul Rebels plays the Bon Temps on Thursday's too which is a must see if they are in town. If I had to choose between Treme Brass ban and the Soul Rebels Brass Band that night I would choose Soul Rebels in a heartbeat, but Treme is a close second and definitely worth seeing too. In the French Quarter there is basically only one music venue that is worth anything- One Eyed Jacks, but they cater to more of the alternative rock and indie songwriter crowd. Lastly, keep an eye out in the French Quarter in the afternoons and evenings- you may see some Social Aid & Pleasure Club's doing Second Line Marches up and down the streets. Also, you might see some Mardi Gras Indians doing their "thing" as well.. Both are truly something to behold!

Acts you will want to see around town if they are playing:

Kermit Ruffins
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews & Orleans Avenue
Rebirth Brass Band
Dr. John
The Soul Rebels Brass Band
Hot 8 Brass Band
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Nicholas Payton
Brass Monkey Brass Band
The Meters
New Birth Brass Band
Robert Walter's 20th Congress
Maniacal 4
The Bo-Keys
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
New Orleans Nightcrawlers
James Andrews
The Wild Magnolias
Olympia Brass Band
Walter "Wolfman" Washington & The Roadmasters
Tab Benoit
Jon Batiste and Stay Human
Dr. Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band
Yes Ma'am
*Anyone in the Marsalis Family
*Anyone in the Neville Family 

Treme Brass Band @ DBA

Hot 8 Brass Band @ Howlin Wolf (Den)

Yes Ma'am on Royal Street

Again, check the events calendar on to see places and times on where some of these acts are playing. Some performers like "Yes Ma'am" play on Royal Street or Jackson Square during the day and are really cool to check out. Also, from Wednesday through Sunday the street performers and street art people really come out "in force". Be sure not to miss the b-boy crew that break dances at the corner of Bourbon Street & Toulouse Street just after sundown until 9 or 10:00pm.

B-Boy Crew on Bourbon Street

Attractions/ Activities:

Just walking around the French Quarter you'll see and experience many things- the street performers, musicians, homeless people, drunks, etc., but there is so much more to this area than just Bourbon Street. 

There are a few attractions in this neighborhood- Preservation Hall, Royal Street, Jackson Square, the French Market, and the Moon Walk (riverfront) are all worth spending time exploring! 

There are many tours worth taking at all times of the day or night. You could take a walking tour or carriage ride during the day for some history or you could even do a ghost tour in the evening- whatever strikes your fancy! They are all very interesting. I love just sitting on a park bench on the levee in front of Jackson Square (the Moon Walk) and watching the big ships get pushed around the "crescent" by the current of the river. Grab a six pack of Dixie and sit a spell..

A couple trips ago we took a ride on the Steamboat Natchez- the last authentic steam powered paddlewheeler on the Mississippi River. It was pretty informative and everything, but the best part was just relaxing on the boat and enjoying the scenery- especially the skyline. It's a two hour "jazz cruise" where they have food and music in the dining room, but we just hung out up on deck. The new orleans skyline from the river was really cool! At 11am & 2pm a musician plays the Steam Calliope (pipe organ) on the top of the Natchez and you can hear it all through the French Quarter.

This past trip we made it to the National WW2 Museum. It's pretty sweet if you're into that sort of thing. If you want to do it just splurge and get the whole package with all of the "experiences" included and take the whole day to go. The "4D" exhibit/ show was pretty awesome and the whole place is very informative and enlightening about the war here and abroad as well as the more human aspects and mindset of "The Greatest Generation". I think the coolest part of the museum and the way it's set up are all the personal stories of the veterans and their families that permeate all the exhibits here. It's no wonder why this place is voted the number one attraction in the city. Also a plus- it's located just a couple blocks north of Cochon Butcher so you can swing over there and get lunch during your day at the museum!

Another popular place people like to visit while in NOLA are the cemeteries. You can do a self guided by yourself or take a tour with a guide service- there are several, but Save Our Cemeteries is the best and it's a non-profit that works to preserve these historic places. Tours are an hour and only $20!  They call them "Cities of the Dead" because of all the above ground crypts & mausoleums and are very interesting- especially the architecture. Not only that, but they even have "streets" so you can navigate because the cemeteries are so big. Many famous people are interred there and it's worth checking out!

As I said above in the breakfast section it might be a good idea to beat the crowds and take a trip out to City Park for a walk around the "Central Park of New Orleans" and some beniets at Morning Call. Another one worth visiting though is Audobon Park in the Uptown/ Carollton neighborhood across from Tulane & Loyola Universities. The grounds were designed by renowned architect John Charles Olmstead. Both parks are reachable via NOLA's historic streetcar's and are a great diversion from the more touristy areas of the city.

Have you ever been to Mardis Gras? Have you been, but didn't really know what was going on and why? Well then, Mardis Gras World is your place! A museum dedicated to the biggest party in America! Best of all they have a free shuttle that picks up from different parts of the city throughout the day. Call or log-on for more information.

If you'd like to get out of the city and past the suburbs you could always do the Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour witch will take you out of town and across the Lake Pontchartrain bridge on a 3 hour tour to see the bayous and wildlife (gators y'all!). Plus, they'll pick you up right at your hotel and you can bring beer with you!


Even though Katrina flushed out many of the unsavory characters in this town it is still a fairly big city and should be treated with respect no matter how lax the laws may seem. Never travel alone, pay attention, and move though "quiet" areas quickly- especially after dark. You'll be pretty safe in the The Quarter at any time, but if you're leaving the area to go downtown or to Frenchman you may want to consider taking a taxi or at the minimum a pedicab (bicycle taxi) even though it seems close. You probably won't have any problems in the Garden District to Uptown/ Carollton either so don't worry about walking to and from the streetcar line if that is how you want to travel to dinner and/ or a show in that direction. If you're in the CBD/ Downtown or the Arts/ Warehouse District you'll be ok if your outside the restaurant/ club, but I wouldn't recommend trying to hoof it back to Bourbon Street or your hotel even if it seems close- just get a cab. Stay out of Treme, Mid-City, and Lower 9th Ward after dark as these are the most dangerous areas in town.. Be smart and you'll be ok!

I love this city and have been here a lot, I can't wait until my next visit! Until then these are my best suggestions for a great trip to this magical place! Enjoy!