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Trip Report New Orleans trip report

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We decided a week ago that we were going to take a 5 day East Coast trip where it would be warm. Our hearts were set on Key West...we soon discovered that our travel dates were during "Fantasy Fest" and hotel rooms were mostly booked and those remaining were too expensive! A friend suggested New Orleans. We had never been - but being 50, I thought it was someplace for 20-30 age group. I imagined that it was a dangerous, dirty place, filled with homeless folks, prostitutes, drunks and weirdos - BOY WAS I WRONG.

Albeit short, our New Orleans vacation ranks up there as one of our best trips.

We stayed at a B&B called La Belle Esplanade. It was beyond fabulous! I posted a separate trip report with details.

Rather than writing a day by day account of our trip, I thought I would just write about what I liked and didn't like:

FOOD
Santa Fe - 3201 Esplanade Avenue (near our hotel) - fabulous! We sat at the bar, the bartender was very personable - he told us that they rarely get tourists. We just had apps & drinks - Crawfish filled Empanadas, Fried Green Tomatoes with grilled jumbo shrimp & Tuna Tostada (seared yellow fin tuna, served over crispy corn tortilla, lettuce, black beans, guacamole, fresh corn salsa, pico de gallo, sour cream, cilantro and jalapeños). All fabulous! Looked as good as it tasted. The chef came out of the kitchen, talked to us for a bit and offered us a cup full of pulled pork just out of the oven - yum. Ambiance was great. This is where I learned that I could get a "to go" cup for my margarita! I didn't keep the receipt, but here is the link to their website: http://santafenola.com/

Gumbo Shop - 630 Saint Peter St - recommended by a friend - loved this place! We sat in the cute little courtyard, our waiter was fabulous and the food terrific (we only had appetizers here) - Chicken Andouille Gumbo (their specialty and best gumbo we had in NOLA), the Combination Platter (Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya & Red Beans), Crab cakes with some type of cream based "to die for" sauce - also 2 beers & 2 St Peter's Punch - $52.95 before tip. If we stayed longer, I would have gone back a second time.

Galatoire's - 209 Bourbon - supposedly the best of NOLA - we made online reservations in advance. We were early, but seated immediately. The hostess asked if we had a "server preference" - I guess the waiters have been there 30 years or so and many returning guests request the same waiter. We had Charlie - he had been there 27 years, while not overly personable, service was very good. The menu is a la carte - he made suggestions. Food was terrific - hubby had a ribeye with mushroom bordelais and wedge salad, I had a hearts of palm salad, sauteed lemon fish, sauteed spinach and broiled tomatoes. For dessert we had a key lime tart and pecan pie - I got 1 glass of wine, hubby had water. Total before tip was $126.76. Not sure that I would go back - large room, very noisy and bright lightening - not very romantic. While the food and service both get 5 stars, I would give the atmosphere a 2.

Tracey's - in the Garden District, recommended by our cemetery tour guide, online reviews aren't great but we enjoyed our lunch. The bartender and manager were both very personable. They suggested we split the roast beef poboy (their specialty) and cheese fries - they allowed us to substitute sweet potato fries. The poboy was a 9. A bit too much bread but otherwise fabulous. They insisted that we try the cheese fries with gravy - weird to us, but they were right on - if I had to do it again, I would skip the cheese and just dip the fries in the gravy. Hubby ordered a beer and got a free refill because she liked Bostonians. Cool atmosphere - lots to look at here. I guess everyone has to try a poboy - would recommend this one (although we didn't try any others). Cost $22 before tip.

Pat O'Briens - we didn't eat here - just drinks. Yes, it is touristy but go! I loved the piano bar sing along. My husband liked the bar across the way with the big screen TV (Red Sox World Series game #1) . There are outdoor spaces, great on sunny days and warm nights. We met lots of new friends here. No we didn't try the Hurricane - but I bought a cute baseball cap.

Swirl Wine Bar & Market. 3143 Ponce de Leon (corner of Esplanade, near our B&B) - cute place! Server was great. We tried a few different wines, all yummy and got a small plate of cheeses, bread, olives, marinated artichokes, stuffed grape leaves. I heard that they had food samples many Friday evenings - worth checking out if you are in the area.

Court of Two Sisters for brunch - 613 Royal - the WORST eating experience I have had in a VERY long time! First, the hostess told us that we needed to wait for our server before we could go to the buffet. He was no where to be found. We had to ask 2 other servers to find him. Took about 10 minutes. Granted we did go near the end of the buffet, but the food was like a really bad wedding or Las Vegas buffet. Many of the platters were empty, other very picked over and unappetizing. The roast beef was so tough that we couldn't chew it and the bread pudding tasted like it came from a can. I could go on, but you get the point. Hubby got 1 beer, I had water, price before tip $75. Outrageous price! I wouldn't have wanted to pay $9.99 a person for this meal much less $29.99 each!

Nonna Mia Cafe and Pizzeria, 3125 Esplanade Ave. Pizza - on the suggestion of the bartender we got the Prima Pizza - Caramelized onions, goat cheese, roma tomatoes, spinach and artichoke hearts with garlic sauce - I am a pizza aficionado and hard to please, but I like this one. The toppings were fresh, homemade crust and sauce - the crust was crunchy and fluffy - almost like a really good bread stick. We also got salads - Caesar for hubby and just a house salad (with pine nuts) for me - both fresh and very large. The pizza was so good that hubby ordered a slice. The slice wasn't as good - crust flatter and kind of dry - we were there around 3PM so it may have been sitting for awhile. Server was nice, but just okay - she kept disappearing for long periods (like when we needed another drink ir the check) - we were the only ones in the whole place, so maybe she was out back doing side work - my husband got up twice to search for her.

Cafe du Monde - okay but overrated - tasted not much different than the fried dough I got at the Fryeburg Fair a few weeks back. I wouldn't wait in line for an hour! We kind of cheated. We found that the line seemed to be for the outside seating - we went inside and there were several open tables. We sat down, unsure if we were cutting the line and the waiter served us immediately. About $6 for 3 beignets large diet coke and two waters. Other friends who were there at the same time as us tried the same seating strategy and had no problem either.

We were hoping to try the 25-cent martinis and 2-course lunch specials at Commander's Palace which was where our cemetery tour ended - we didn't know that you needed advanced reservations and that even for lunch dress is business casual.

Acme Oyster House was also on our list - never made it - but our "new friends" from Buffalo went for fried oysters and said they were fabulous.

We had also hoped to get to Muffaletta’s at central grocery on Decatur Street but we saved this for Sunday lunch right before we left, and they are closed on Sunday :-(

Off to eat dinner, more later!

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