Walking through Lafayette Cemetery
Oysters at Peche
Sazeracs at Tujague’s
Live music at Preservation Hall
Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
The Piano Bar at Lafitte’s
Ramos Gin Fizzes at the Sazerac Bar
The best bartender at The French 75 Bar
Oyster Po’boys at Parkway
Frozen Irish Coffee at Erin Rose
Late Night Martinis at Clancy’s
Wine and jazz at Bacchanal
Brunch at Compère Lapin
Crab beignets at La Petit Grocery
Everything at Saba
Fried bologna sandwich at Turkey & the Wolf
Sno-balls at Hansen’s
And, that was just the last trip…
New Orleans is truly, truly like no other place. Like Baltimore, there’s a grit to it. It’s approachable. The people are so friendly. The drinks are strong. The culture is in everything. The weather is balmy. The gardens are lush. The history is fascinating. The food. Ah, the food.
My first time visiting New Orleans was 2002. I was there for a conference for work and I had not really gotten into cooking and dining out much at that point. But I asked a few friends who’d travelled there often and they set my colleagues and me up with some solid suggestions. I mean, everyone has favorites in certain classic NOLA categories like beignets for example and for me, sitting in Cafe du Monde just makes me really happy. I have to go there every time. But there are definitely plenty of places for beignets, po’boys, gumbo, boudin, Sazeracs, etc, and you can certainly find your own favorites.
On that first visit, I remember like yesterday ditching a disappointing conference talk to hit Mr. B’s for a solo lunch. I remember it so vividly because it was one of my first times going to (what felt like at the time) a fancy restaurant, by myself. Then, wandering down a very dark street with my colleagues to get the best burger of my life at Port of Call. We sat at the bar waiting for our table…they forgot us and apologized with a round of Neptune’s Monsoons — their version of the Hurricane — and we got pretty drunk. We had turtle soup at Nola, gumbo at The Gumbo Shop and shared a ginormous muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery. That muffuletta was the best thing I ate that trip for sure.
In “the before times”, I would often go to multiple places in one night. Like a dish and a drink at two or three places. That way, you get to try lots of different things, see some favorite places and people and really make it a night. On my last trip to New Orleans I did a lot of that. I stayed uptown with my friend Susan and I loved walking to a lot of her favorite neighborhood places with her. When you’re with a local, you get to know places that no one tells you about on the internet. One of my favorite experiences was sitting at a little tiny bar in the back of Clancy’s and having a perfect martini. I really want to go back there for dinner next time. And we had lunch at Turkey & the Wolf and split their much-loved fried bologna sandwich and much loved it. I also had always wanted to go to Commander’s Palace, so bless her, Susan obliged me with a cocktail before I headed to the airport to leave town. So lovely. I met my friend Mark for a drink at the French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s and we also stopped in at Sylvain for a bite and then the last drink of the night was a frozen Irish Coffee at the greatest dive bar ever, Erin Rose. That night, we also tried unsuccessfully to grab a seat at the rotating Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone. Susan and I also had drinks one night on the patio at Cane & Table with her youngest son, Duncan, who I used to babysit and now he is grown up person who is also a chef! All three of her boys who I babysat back in the day are now living in New Orleans (it pulls you in and if you can hack the summer, you just stay.) Susan spends part of the year there. I am so very lucky to have such a good friend in one of my most favorite cities. New Orleans is one of the few places I can actually see myself living other than Baltimore . . . but not in the summer. Nope.
I have a long list of places I’d like to go next time I’m in New Orleans. And, there are many, many places I’ve been that I am not mentioning here. It would a TLDR (too long, didn’t read) situation if I wrote about every amazing place in this amazing city. But here are a few photos that I love because they bring back memories.
Out back at Bacchanal
The famous Ramos Gin Fizz
Fried bologna sandwich at Turkey & the Wolf
La Petite Grocery – my favorite restaurant
I really loved Parkway’s po’boy
Could spend hours in Lafayette Cemetery
Go to New Orleans. No rules, eat everything. Walk down Bourbon with a slushy drink. Do the touristy things. Relax. They call it The Big Easy for a reason.