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Trip Report New Orleans Weekend

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Not even sure it is worth marking this as a real trip report, but I will anyway. Just got back from a four night stay in New Orleans. A great city and a great long weekend. It was too bad we weren’t there the following weekend for the French Quarter Festival, but I suppose the slightly quieter vibe of a non-festival weekend made exploring a bit easier. There were still a zillion tourists, of course, but we had a great time and enjoyed many fabulous meals.

We stayed in the Central Business District (the CBD) within a block of Canal Street, which made for a very central location for exploring the French Quarter. After dropping our bags we walked through the Quarter a bit and decided to do a small bus tour to get a little oriented – a nice 3 hour tour that included a drive through Musician’s Village, City Park and the Garden District (up St. Charles and back down Magazine Street). Even though I usually hate the idea of bus tours, they are a pretty good way to get a quick orientation to a new city and make it easier to figure out what parts you want to explore more on your own later. A couple of days later we realized that hadn’t really allowed us to explore as much as we wanted, so we hired a local cab driver for a couple of hours one morning to take us through the part of the Ninth where they are building all of the new solar houses (the Brad Pitt project). On our own we took the St. Charles streetcar to revisit all of the beautiful mansions in the Garden District and walked several miles of Magazine Street, shopping our way back from Audubon Park toward the CBD. Day passes for the streetcars and buses are easy and cheap, and a good way to get around. One thing we did not do that everyone said we should was visit the World War II Museum. We thought about it (a lot), but decided that for this trip we would rather spend our time exploring the city itself. We will save the museum for another trip.

Most of our evenings were devoted to exploring the Quarter, taking in 3 or 4 different bands each evening. The best stuff is on Frenchmen Street, of course, but we also found great bands at other little places throughout the Quarter.

Now for food. If you are planning a visit to the city and are really into food, I highly recommend a book called “Eat Dat” by Michael Murphy. Some places we visited because of the book, some we visited on recommendations from locals, and some we stumbled across on our own, but it turned out that all of our favorite experiences were with places that are included in the book (which is arranged both by neighborhood and by “best of” lists for types of cuisine).

The short list of food highlights… (definitely NOT everything we should have done, but everything we could fit into 4 days):

Dinners and dinner-ish:

Bayona (on Dauphine Street) – this was the only place that we booked reservations in advance, because I really really really wanted to go here for dinner. James Beard award-winning chef/owner Susan Spicer does some amazing things with her menu. Can you say duck breast and duck confit tamale with mole sauce? Definitely worth the reservation!

Red Fish Grill (on Bourbon) For really good seafood without walking distance, it was either here or G.W. Fins. Fins usually tops the list of best seafood in the city, but every local we ran into raved about Red Fish, so we decided to try it and to save Fins for next time. Both the red fish with crab and the grilled speckled trout were outstanding. Did not need reservations, only had to wait at the bar for about 10 minutes for a table (you can eat at the bar if you don’t want to wait).

Three Muses – (on Frenchmen Street) appetizers at the bar while listening to a great band – this little bar has a good wine list and a really good chef. How about some seared scallops and stuffed dates while listening to a couple of sets?

Felix’s (on Iberville) – We went here for baked and chargrilled oysters and they were fabulous. It is across the street from the slightly-more-famous Acme’s, with the same (or better) oysters without the line.

Breakfast and Lunch:

Ruby Slipper (on Magazine, in the CBD) – great breakfast. Yes, there is usually a line, but there isn’t that long of a wait and the food is definitely worth it. The eggs cochon is magical and will fill you up to the point that you won’t even think about having lunch until happy hour.

Elizabeth’s (on Gallier in the Bywater) – this is the only place that we had to take a cab to or from, but it was worth it. The breakfast menu is amazing, but we were more in the mood for lunch when we went (we originally tried to get into Willie Mae’s Scotch House but the line was way too long, so we headed for Elizabeth’s instead). Lunch special of the day was red beans and rice with a panned pork cutlet (yum), and the highlight of their normal lunch menu is their special cheeseburger with blue cheese and praline bacon (yeah, you heard me… PRALINE BACON). Out of this world good.

Kingfish (on Chartres) – great lunch – their Cajun cochon pot pie is insane. We would absolutely consider them for dinner as well, but the menu doesn’t change much between lunch and dinner, so lunch worked just fine.

Joey K’s (on Magazine in the Garden District) – Stumbled onto Joey K’s while exploring all of the great shops on Magazine street. Great lunch place with huge portions. The fried oyster po’boy was just okay, but both the fried artichokes and the red beans and rice with ham and Andouille were outstanding.

I can’t even list all of the great bands we listened to in four days. Friday evening alone we listened to at least 6 bands – 2 or 3 on Frenchmen Street, then stopping to listen to 3 others at various places in the Quarter. Saturday (after the big dinner at Bayona) we found a great 1920’s-style jazz band playing at the 21st Amendment bar on Iberville and ended up staying there most of the night. Sunday evening found us starting out at two different bars on Frenchmen listening to two completely different types of bands – starting with a good blues band at one place and then moving over the Three Muses to catch the regular Sunday night set from Raphael and Norbert (Norbert Susemihl) – it felt like we were at a French expat party with all of the regulars there and all of the special guests sitting in. Definitely worth catching if you are looking for something to do early on a Sunday evening.

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