Or, as I refer to our trip, ‘Denise and Corrine’s Oyster Eating Extravaganza’ since my mom and I had oysters in one form or another just about every single day.
She and I traditionally take a couple weekends out of the year for some much needed girl time. Last fall, we drove up to Traverse City for a weekend of shopping and dining. This summer, we decided to extend our girl’s weekend into an entire week. The next step was picking a destination. Although my first idea was vetoed (driving across the country staying only at haunted bed and breakfasts), we settled on spending a week in New Orleans.
Even though we weren’t driving across the country and our hotel was no bed and breakfast, rumor has it the building we were staying was haunted. And being that the original structure was constructed in the 1700’s and functioned as a Civil War hospital, we had high hopes of seeing a ghost. But no such luck. Someone (or something) pulled the fire alarm in the middle of our first night, but no real supernatural happenings that we can account for.
Ghost or no ghost, our hotel was pretty stunning.
So why New Orleans? If my mom and I have anything in common, it’s a love of good food. We’ve always connected over meals. With a city that is steeped in so much culinary and cultural history, it seemed like the perfect destination.
In a town saturated with creole and cajun cuisine, restaurants have to be top notch in order to compete with each other. There is just no bad food here. I wanted to try it all, but even an entire week isn’t enough time to sample everything the city has to offer. I’ve included just a small fraction of what we tried and where you should definitely check out if you plan a stay there.
Decatur Street runs right up against the Mississippi and where you’ll find some of the city’s biggest landmarks like Jackson Square and the French Market.
Probably our favorite spot to grab a quick bite to eat. You’ll find an array of vendors selling everything from alligator sausage on a stick, homemade pralines, and oysters on the half shell.
This was the first destination my mom and I worked our way to once we checked into our hotel. We split crawfish tamales from N’awlins that were served hot with a savory red sauce. Our first taste of New Orleans did not disappoint.
Heralded by Bon Appétit as the tour trap that’s worth it, Café Du Monde is a must for anyone who appreciates good coffee and donuts. And not just any kind of donut, a Beignet. A fluffy, chewy fried hunk of dough that’s served piping hot and covered in a mound of powdered sugar. This, with a cup of their famous chicory spiked brew, is pure delight. We had the pleasure of following up our tamales with a plate of beignets seated in their outdoor dining area while a brass band played a cover of ‘Blueberry Hill.‘ My favorite part may have been the floors of the cafe that were dusted with a light coating of powdered sugar.
Further down from the market and cafe is a small bar that boasts craft beers and the best bourbon pecan pie I’ve ever tasted. And, yes, those two things absolutely go together. We stopped at Evangeline one night on a quest for dessert and split a huge slab of pie packed with pecans, drizzled with caramel, and topped with ice cream. The staff was friendly, the beer was cold, and the pie was incredibly amazing.
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time on Bourbon Street but it’s worth a walk through if you’re visiting. Many bars don’t have a cover charge so you can pop into one, grab a brew, and enjoy some incredible live music.
We stopped here for Oysters after listening to a Blues band at a bar just down the street. The casual dining atmosphere offered a nice break from the packed bars. We sample the raw and fried oysters and were delighted with the service and our meal.
If you choose to indulge in one fine dining experience in New Orleans, make it Arnaud’s. We had the pleasure of dining here for brunch on Sunday and it was certainly the most memorable meal. Should you go for brunch, you will be seated in a brightly lit, beautiful art deco-style dining room while a live Dixieland Jazz band entertains diners table-side. Arnaud’s serves brunch over four courses including a starter, salad, main dish, and dessert. My mom and I shared everything we ordered including oysters, shrimp in their famous remoulade, soft shell crab over a veal stock butter sauce, and the best bread pudding I’ve ever tasted.
Be sure to imbibe on a French 75 while you’re enjoying your meal. Arnaud’s signature drink contains lemon juice, gin, and champagne and it goes perfectly with your brunch.
If Bourbon Street isn’t your thing but you’d still like to go out and enjoy live music then you cannot miss Frenchman Street. It’s a two-block stretch that boasts a high concentration of the area’s most talented musicians. You’ll hear everything from Jazz, Blues, and Reggae in the small, packed bars. If there’s no seating room, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy music on the streets performed by big brass bands. We made it here a couple evenings and it quickly became our favorite hangout spot. Just be sure to bring some cash to tip the bands. They will pass their jar around after each set and depending on the venue this may be the only way they get paid for the evening. Many bars don’t charge cover so it’s well worth it to toss the band a little something extra.
A cozy tapas bar where we enjoyed fish tacos and a brew while a Jazz Trio played on the small stage.
We were lucky to get here early one night and get seated to enjoy a Jazz band while sipping rosé. The music was incredible and it was easy to see why there was a line of people waiting to get in when we left. We split dessert here, something called a ‘Burnt Our Elvis’ that was some kind of banana cream peanut butter pie. Delicious.
Thursday through Sunday in the evenings the Frenchman Street market opens up. Vendors selling crafts, t-shirts, art, and jewelry set up shop under string lights while the sound of street performers echoe in the background. The atmosphere is quirky and the merchants are friendly. We purchased matching zipper bracelets to commemorate our evening.
Kind of like fine dining meats street food, Killer Poboys is a little off the beaten path on Dauphine street and offers a modern approach to the classic sandwich. We sampled the seared gulf shrimp poboy. Flavorful, fresh shrimp, pickled vegetables, and a savory sriracha aioli on a vietnamese-style white bun.
Get here early if you can, because after about 1 a line starts to run out the door with people waiting to try their famous charbroiled oysters. They were phenomenal and enjoyed alongside a blackened alligator tail poboy.
Take the trolley on Canal street all the way through the garden district. Resist the urge to stop at many of the fine eateries along the way until you make it all the way to the end. Hop off and head over to Cooter Brown’s for their amazing oyster bar. If you don’t do oysters, they also offer sandwiches and other fare. We split a muffuletta that was out of this world delicious.
Tips for Visiting the French Quarter
- Bring lots of one dollar bills. During your stay, you will have the pleasure of being constantly flooded by incredible music from gifted street performers and professional musicians playing in restaurants. Although you don’t have to tip every performer you come across, a good rule of thumb is if you stop to dance, take a picture, or they make you smile then drop a couple bucks in their guitar case. Bands in restaurants will often walk around with their tip jar at the end of each set, so be prepared to drop them a couple bucks as well.
- Ladies, leave the high heels at home. Oh, how I wish I’d known how uneven the sidewalks in the French Quarter were before I packed my favorite wedges. I wore them once and spent the night terrified of having one drink too many that it might impair my ability to watch my step.
- If you get a hotel with a pool, bring fun pool floaties. Just do it, trust me.
More New Orleans Fun
The biggest downside to our stay was not having a coffee maker in the room of our hotel. I have inherited my need for the strong brew in the morning from my mom so when the sun shone through our window early in the morning we would start the day by arguing about who would hike down the stairs, through the courtyard, and into the lobby to bring coffee back to the room. Normally at this point I do not care how it tastes, I just need to get the coffee into my bloodstream as fast as possible. But the coffee at our hotel was distinctly different. No bitterness and just a hint of chicory made it the best hotel coffee I’ve ever tasted. In fact, all the coffee we tried was pretty incredible. We found out many restaurants and cafés use chicory in their brew, a tradition that dates back to the civil war in New Orleans when coffee was scarce and chicory was used to add body and flavor.
Another fun adventure we went on was an open air boat tour through the Cypress Swamp. Do you watch Swamp People? No? Me neither. But my mom loves the show and was absolutely tickled to find out our swamp tour guide had been on an episode the show. According to Gary, our guide, the show is nothing like the reality of being of an alligator trapper, but my mom was still thrilled. Alligators would slither out from the banks of the swamp to feast on the marshmallows we threw at them and I had no idea I had so much in common with alligators. At one point Gary reached in the murky swamp and pulled out a baby alligator, much to the delight of everyone on board.
Our time in New Orleans was absolutely amazing. Everywhere we went we were surrounded by great music and friendly people. Go. Do it. Get a Hurricane, dance on bourbon street, and try every kind of poboy you can. If you check out any of the places listed here, give me a shout! Have suggestions? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out next time because I already can’t wait to go back.