Brian’s cousin got married in Gulfport, MS a few weekends ago. The closest major airport is Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans so dear hubs and I decided to make a long weekend out of it.
This was my fifth time to NOLA and Brian’s second but we’d never gone together. We’ve both done a little of the requisite partying on Bourbon Street, but this time we wanted to try a more grown up kind of New Orleans visit. Truthfully, it wasn’t a conscious effort, we’re just getting old. (Which is great, I’d rather grow old than the alternative…)
For this reason, we steered clear of the French Quarter where most of the nightlife is and instead opted for an adorable Airbnb home near the Garden District and all of its stately antebellum mansions. Our place was definitely not a mansion, just the second story of a quaint duplex, but it was well-appointed and clean.
^^This was our Airbnb
^^ These are some of the Garden District homes. It was hard to capture the majesty of the old mansions. They’re definitely better in person.
We spent a fair amount of time on the day we arrived just wandering the streets of the Garden District. A trolley car runs right down the middle of St. Charles Avenue which makes for an especially quaint backdrop as well as a convenient way to get to the French Quarter. $1.50 will take you there or the conductor will sell you an all day pass for $3.
Q: So what does one who is over 30 actually do in New Orleans?
A: Lots of eating, lots of drinking.
We found District Donuts on Magazine street and enjoyed huge made-from-scratch gourmet donuts. They also have a selection of beers, bar food, homemade biscuits, and on Saturday mornings – a very long line.
Later that night we ventured back to the Garden District to have dinner at Commander’s Palace, the most famous, and arguably the best, restaurant in New Orleans. Both Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme have worked here, and currently the chef is a fellow named Tory McPhail who may not be as famous, but still cooks just as well. 😀
We made reservations 5 weeks in advance and still just eeked out a table for two at 8:45pm on a Thursday evening. Unless you’re booking months ahead, forget about getting in for brunch, where they serve 25 cent martinis.
Our very kind Airbnb host let us in on a secret: Commander’s Palace reserves a certain number of tables for locals during their brunch seating so if you can make your reservation from a phone number with a New Orleans area code, your odds of getting on the list improve!
If you want to plan something really special, you can book (many, many months in advance) the chef’s table, which seats six and only six and is a prix-fixe menu that is around $150 per person and does not include the wine pairings. And you
have get to sit in the kitchen.
Do: pay attention to dress code. Men will not get in without either a collared shirt or a jacket. Jeans are frowned upon, wear at your own risk. You will be turned away if you aren’t in proper attire.
Don’t: skip dessert. The strawberry shortcake was overflowing with ripe red fruit and homemade whipped cream. Or if you like bananas foster, request for them to make it table-side. You won’t be disappointed.
We found delicious cocktails at an unassuming dive bar on the edge of the French Quarter. It’s not exactly service with a smile but cocktails feel more authentic when served with a bit of attitude anyway.
We had lunch at Deanie’s, just behind the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Canal Street. The main dishes are nothing to write home about (unless you want to tell your loved ones about the incredibly expensive meal you just had). The boiled new potatoes served hot with butter right when you sit down, are the real reason to eat here. And if you’re still hungry, round out the tuber feast with a bloody mary which is a meal unto itself.
CAFE DU MONDE
No trip to New Orleans is complete without having a few beignets from Cafe du Monde. These puffy fried doughnuts are smothered in powdered sugar and perfect for scarfing with a cup of hot coffee, no matter what time of day it is. Don’t breathe in when you take a bite.
Know Before You Go:
- You can walk right in and sit down at an empty table. Only suckers wait in line! (Or tourists, or you know, polite people.) But really – nobody frowns at you if you do this.
- Bring cash. Servers get in a cafeteria line to fill your order, pay for it at the cashier, then get cash reimbursement from you when they deliver the goods.
If you are tired of southern food or seafood, which is all very plentiful in New Orleans, don’t hesitate to take a break and go out for some pizza. John Besh has a restaurant called Pizza Domenica which we found totally by accident.
The pies are thin crust, Neapolitan style, and very tasty. But the star of the show is the garlic knots with aged provolone fonduta. Mostly the fonduta. For those of you who don’t know (aka everyone?) fonduta is a cheese sauce, sort of like fondue. What makes the fonduta at Pizza Domenica such a delight is that they chill the sauce and run it through an air compressor so what you get is a giant bowl of whipped cream that tastes like cheesy nirvana. We ate here twice in a four day trip if that tells you anything about how delicious this whipped crack was.
New Orleans is old, steeped in history and tradition. The city is celebrating it’s 300th anniversary this year! And while life in the Big Easy hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, she still manages a pretty stellar one every now and again. 🙂