When the drinks are well poured and
food is so good, you don’t care that it’s full of tourists.
We’re called The Big Easy for the “gentle pace of life and somewhat lax morals,” which The Times-Picayune used to describe my hometown in 1887. Sometimes we’re called The City That Care Forgot, which doesn’t sound appealing, but it’s referenced in a positive light. Geography plays a role in our nickname with The Crescent City, because the Mississippi River hugs our city in a crescent shape. Whichever nickname you give it, it’s been a beacon for tourists for a dozen decades. But for me, I call it home.
Having grown up here, you can’t cross Canal Street without passing by a few amateur photographers, being drawn effortlessly toward the shining light of Bourbon Street as if being called to their Mothership. Aside from the glamour of Mardi Gras and the excitement of our New Orleans Saints (we were robbed), New Orleans is known for two things: Food & Drinks (and sometimes known as draaaaaanks).
When people come to visit our little foodie Mecca (as all people should do once in their lives), they go to certain places everyone tells them they have to go. Here are some of my favorite options where I personally believe the food and drinks are excellent, but you’re going to run into a bunch of tourists to get there.
Café du Monde
When a place opens during the middle of the Civil War in 1862, you know it’s a gotta be fine establishment. The key to their longevity is rich Café au lait, hot beignets, and a simple menu.
Here’s pretty much the only French I know: Café au lait means coffee with milk. Beignets are essentially a French kind of donut.
Check out the original on Decatur Street. They’re open 24 hours a day and only close on Christmas Day, but remember to bring your cash as no cards are taken at this location.
Like many locals, I always thought this was a tourist trap, until I went, and I was greatly mistaken. This is actually damn fine gumbo.
I know some people don’t exactly know what gumbo is, so here’s a picture. You really don’t know all you’re going to get until you dig it. Ooo I found crawfish. Ooo I found sausage. Oooo … okra.
My preference at the Gumbo Shop is the Seafood Gumbo, but the Chicken Andouille Gumbo is also excellent. In a city where your grandma’s gumbo was always the best, the Gumbo Shop fills the void quite nicely.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
More than likely built as a house which began construction in 1722, Lafitte’s is one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans and supposedly the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. It’s also one of the best places to go for the famous (infamous?) Hurricane.
No, not the swirling mass in the Gulf of Mexico, the fruity beverage made with rum … and some more rum … and a little more rum.
Everyone should have at least one in their lives. Go for the Hurricane and stay for the piano player surrounded by the dozens of votive candles that illuminate the cozy bar. If you’ve heard of a place in New Orleans that has hurricanes and doesn’t go by the name “Lafitte’s” then don’t get it. You’re going to get a quality Hurricane at Lafitte’s, and if you’re lucky, you might be swirling around afterward. It’s my favorite spot on Bourbon Street. Just keep walking … you’ll get there eventually.
The Ruby Slipper
It almost pains me to call this a tourist trap, but for two locations, this new brunch eatery is definitely the place for tourists to go for a well needed morning Mimosa or Bloody Mary after that Hurricane you had the night before. This brunch spot opened its doors in 2008 as the city of New Orleans continued to rebuild after the seriously infamous hurricane called Katrina. The name was chosen to go along with the famous Dorothy line “there’s no place like home.” But really, there’s no place like The Ruby Slipper.
There’s no longer just one location in the New Orleans area, but there are two within walking distance of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. They’re only open until 2:00pm or 3:00pm, but this place is what brunch dreams are made of.
The Sazerac Bar
If any city can mix a drink, New Orleans can. It’s because we started the trend. Legend has it, this bar tucked inside The Roosevelt Hotel is the birthplace of the mixed drink. And that first mixed drink was called the Sazarac.
It’s not like a Hurricane when you only taste fruit and the rum hits you later. This mixed drink hits you immediately being a concoction of absinthe, rye whiskey, and bitters. Personally, I’ve drank half of one to say I’ve had it. I went for the history and stayed for the Veuve. And The Roosevelt Hotel can’t be beat during the holiday season.
As a local, I do frequent these establishments and saddle up next to someone from another city. And when they mention their friends said to go to Pat O’Brien’s for a hurricane, I can wince and tell them where to really go for the drink. Go to Pat O’s for the dueling pianos.
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