After many years in the making, Erika and I finally took a trip out to New Orleans together. I had only been out there once, about 10 years ago, right before Hurricane Katrina, and she had never been.
We stayed just a couple blocks from the French Quarter, so our four days were filled with walking, eating and drinking. We’d stroll the streets of the French Quarter, admiring the buildings and hidden courtyards, and stop in the many art galleries and antique shops. Then, we’d sit down to eat some yummy seafood and have a drink, then hit the streets again.
Admittedly, our first day in New Orleans started a bit rough. Or rather, ended a bit rough. After checking in to the hotel, we went to eat at Acme Oyster House, a highly-recommended spot where we got oyster, shrimp and crawfish po boys. And New Orleans’ own Abita beer.
We then started walking around the French Quarter, when Erika mentioned we had to go get hurricanes at Pat O’Briens. From all my traveling experiences, I know that Irish pubs are always the start of a crazy night. We enjoyed our bright fruity hurricanes and continued walking through French Quarter. Then, we learned that the best place to get hurricanes is actually the city’s oldest bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. There, instead of getting huge hurricane glasses, we got our hurricane drinks in a plastic cup. But they were serious. And after a couple of those, and a purple frozen drink labeled Voodoo, we were in trouble! Let’s just say, a certain somebody was asleep in bed by 9:30 pm (and yes, that certain someone was me).
Day two, we grabbed breakfast at a diner near the hotel, which actually ended up being pretty amazing. The Ruby Slipper Cafe was well worth the wait, from the satisfying and much-needed bloody marys to the filling dishes. They also have a great story behind the name, which was inspired by the feeling of homecoming when the owners returned to New Orleans after Katrina.
We then took a bus out to the grounds where the last day of Jazz Fest was taking place. Our timing was not ideal. What we probably should have done was go to Jazz Fest our first day in New Orleans, and go in the evening when the heat wasn’t so brutal. Instead, we arrived to the fair grounds right around noon, where we pretty much melted under the unforgiving sun, especially since the dusty fairgrounds were practically a desert. We caught a few acts, walked around the entire fest and decided to head back to the hotel.
Confession: whenever I stay at a hotel, I get sucked into horrible television on cable, since I don’t have cable at home. This time around, me and Erika got sucked into Love and Hip Hop, for more episodes than I care to admit.
Anyways, after relaxing a bit and getting our fill of trashy TV, we decided to check out Frenchman street. This is a strip a couple blocks long towards the edge of French Quarter, that’s lined with jazz clubs. We ended up catching a set by Eudora Evans and Deep Soul at Balcony Music Club. The woman can sing!
At that point we had every intention of just heading home and calling it a night. But Bourbon Street struck again. That’s the thing about New Orleans and Bourbon Street specifically – it’s always on. Morning, night, weekday or weekend. Sunday Night. We stopped by a bar that had a group doing covers of hip hop songs with a live band, then ended up at a near-empty Latin bar, where I pretty much lost my big toe in a freak salsa dancing incident. We ended up getting some late-night fried chicken from what looked like a 7 Eleven. I was skeptical, but Brother’s Fried Chicken actually ended up being delicious.
Since our last two days were filled with more walking, eating, drinking and shopping, I’ll just list some of my favorite spots below.
- I already mentioned Acme Oyster House, Brother’s Fried Chicken and The Ruby Slipper, which you should definitely check out
- We couldn’t come to New Orleans and not stop at Cafe Du Monde. I’ll tell you one thing – waiting in a long line in the hot noon sun after a long night of drinking, dancing and fried chicken was not our best idea in the world, but the beignets and cafe au lait were worth the wait, and the line did move quickly. One of the reason it moves quickly is because beignets and coffee are literally the only thing on the menu. So it was a nice snack. but an hour later we were sitting at a cafe across the street eating a real meal.
- Our last evening we tried making reservations at a few different places for dinner, but unfortunately it was a Monday night, so a couple places were closed and one had just closed the night before for remodeling. So we eventually found Italian Barrel, which had good reviews and was near Frenchman Street. It was more of an old-school place (we were the youngest ones there) and seemed to have plenty of local regulars, but the food didn’t disappoint. Plus, after three days of fried foods and seafood, we were ready for a change.
- The last morning in New Orleans, as we waited to head to the airport, we grabbed brunch at a small but amazing place called Jimmy J’s. Their brunch was so good. I had Eggs Tuscan Style, which was two poached eggs sitting on creamy polenta with veggie ratatouille. I had never thought to use polenta in a breakfast dish, but ever since this meal, I’ve tried to recreate the concept at home myself.
- Bourbon Street. That is all.
- I do recommend checking out Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, just beware the hurricane drinks there…
To Walk & Sit
- The image above reminds me of Disneyworld for some reason – probably because it’s so perfectly picturesque. But it’s actually Jackson Square, just across the street from Cafe Du Monde. The street is lined with horse carriages, the surrounding sidewalks are filled with local art and musicians, and the square itself is a beautiful park.
- As long as you’re in the area, cross the small hill to see the Mississippi River, just behind Cafe Du Monde. There are benches where you can sit, relax, and watch the large ships and barges go by.
- I have so many photos just from our walking tours of the French Quarter, I’ll have to save those for another post.
- Walking down Decatur Street, I saw the dress above in the window of Toxic Boutique, so I had to stop and get it. (In case you can’t see it too well here, it’s a vintage-style dress with skulls, pistols and roses on it.) This little shop had tons of cute dresses in this style, and there were a lot of other cute shops along Decatur Street.
- I couldn’t be in New Orleans and not stop in a shop like Hex. There, my eyes fell upon a tarot card deck titled, Tarot of the Cat People. The beautifully-designed cards all feature cats in one way or another. The perfect souvenir for me!
- There are a ton of antique shops throughout French Quarter, featuring everything from lighting to furniture to jewelry. Buying an antique statement piece wasn’t quite in the cards for me this time around, but it makes for great window shopping.
- I was really tempted to buy a piece of local art to bring back home, and there is no shortage of art galleries throughout French Quarter. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite find the piece for me, but I’d definitely keep your eyes open for a colorful painting or sculpture.
- Of course, there are several gift shops throughout French Quarter, and I’d say the most popular souvenirs for sale there are Cafe Du Monde beignet mix and coffee, hot sauce, and even alligator meat!