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Dreamer2 Sep 18th, 2003 08:36 AM

Just back from first trip to NOLA
Just returned from 5 days in New Orleans, and am willing to answer any questions for other first-timers, while deferring, of course, to the better judgment of the experts on this site who helped make my trip great. Thought it would be helpful, however, to include a brief review of establishments just visited.

Best Restaurant Experience: Marisol's on Frenchmen St.
Best Jazz Club: Spotted Cat on Frenchmen.
Best Touristy Bit: Carriage tour of French Quarter
Biggest Laugh: Free ferry from end of Canal St out to Algiers (What were we supposed to do out there anyway?!)

We stayed at the Windsor Court for our 20th anniversary. Had read a few mixed reviews, but thought the service and accommodations/facilities were superb. It's nice to stay in a grand old hotel in the city, yet the rooms had lovely modern bathrooms and were well-insulated for hallway and between-room noise. Great location for access to the FQ, but a bit of a walk to Bourbon St. We opted for a city view, but if you want a river view, be sure to go around the 17-18th floors due to the new Harrahs blocking the water. (Although room 1401 was a great corner suite with windows on two sides - we peaked!)

The new Ritz was right at the end of Bourbon St, if you want to base there, and had a gorgous lobby. The Wyndham looked spectacular to me as well, and is above a shopping mall and well located to River Walk, FQ, and Harrahs.

The clubs were all great! Walking down Bourbon St. is like visiting "Pottersville" (It's a Wonderful Life) with the cacophany of various styles of jazz blaring forth beckoning you in! We found a fantastic blues club, and spent most of our time there. Lots of wild sites and fun-loving revelers - although we were gone by midnight - so it must get really crazy as the night wears on. Ellis Marsalis at his Snug Harbor Club was, as expected, fabulous. But could they have splurged a little on the club itself? In general, we found the NOLA clubs very casual and rather uncomfortable and cramped. The Maple Leaf is listed as having entertainment as 10:pm, and we went around 9:30 after dinner next door at Jacques Imo's, but they said the music wouldn't start until 11:pm. My Cinderella complex, as noted above, had me heading home before it began. But my favorite had to be the Spotted Cat, across from Snug Harbor. Try to see the New Orleans Jazz Vipers while there! By the way, live entertainment in the Ritz is currently only Wed-Sat.

Had several incredible meals. Marisol's stands out as my favorite, at the beginning of Frenchmen, and is perfect for a before club dinner. There's even a beautiful outdoor courtyard with romantic little lights strung on the trees. The food was the best we had all week (Dover Sole and Sirloin Steak). The Windsor Court's Grill Room just had a multi-million dollar make-over and we went the second night of their "soft" opening. Lovely atmosphere, but rather flat. Fairly deserted, and just your average "fancy food" at high prices. Their Sunday brunch (jazz & Dom Perignon), however, was very elegant, and quite the place to go to be seen. (Of course, our research failed us, and we were in tourist clothes just off the mule tour!) Tea at the WC was also a lovely event. Lunch at Mother's was right around the corner from the hotel, and we thoroughly enjoyed authentic po' boys and jambalaya. The cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde was perfection, and the beignets were great (fried dough, basically). Cafe Speise had a nice Cajun and Creole menu in the FQ with live jazz, and we had very good food there. However, I don't recommend their barbeque shrimp. Now, I did know they would be fully in their shells, and I did know it's not BBQ per se, but this sauce was loaded with Worcestershire - making it a staining nightmare - and honey - making it a sticky mess. Plus, even with a steak knife I was unable to detach the little monsters from their homes. It was not worth the trouble and I quit after about 3.5 of the little fellows. Jacques Imo's had fun atmosphere and excellent food with lots of local specialties.

So, those are my reviews in a nutshell. We had a wonderful trip, and hit fabulous weather, and hope to return in the future! Thanks again to everyone here who helped me out prior to leaving.

Statia Sep 18th, 2003 08:48 AM

Sounds like you had a great trip, Dreamer! Congrats on your anniversary and thanks for giving some great info about NOLA!

Dreamer2 Sep 18th, 2003 09:07 AM

Sorry for the typos and spelling errors. I did go back to "edit," but obviously my changes didn't "stick!"

arjay Sep 18th, 2003 08:33 PM

Good info - thanks!!

We were at Windsor Court (restaurant) almost 12 years ago...down there with friends. And we'd decided to just alternate nites picking up the tab. Unfortunately, our friends picked WC...and it was our nite to p/u the tab. What a rip! Ever since, as I've seen this hotel and restaurant come up as a Favorite in various polls...I've done a little dis-believing headshake.

gplimpton Sep 18th, 2003 10:09 PM

As a general rule really outstanding hotels don't often have restaurants which match the high standard of the hotel. There are a number of exceptions I can think of in places like Hawaii, NYC, Chicago (especially Four Seasons and RC's) but if you look at a list of best restaurants in most major cities, the top ones are usually independent.

I don't think I've ever seen the Windsor Court's restaurant in a top 10 list of best eateries in NO.

The quality of the restaurant has nothing to do with the quality of the hotel. I don't think it's reasonable to conclude that a poor restaurant experience indicates that the hotel is lacking.

Dreamer2 Sep 19th, 2003 06:11 AM

Actually, though, the Grill Room (at WC) is often written up in the culinary mags as tops for American cuisine. So it was a bit disappointing. But never mind, the whole of it was great. The hotel is just lovely, and we had plenty of other terrific meals.
Statia, Congrats to you too! I had seen in the Summer Vacation thread you have recently celebrated Ten! On which island do you live?

Statia Sep 19th, 2003 06:27 AM

Dreamer, we live in the Dutch West Indies on a tiny island appropriately called "Statia." Thanks again for your report.

arriba Sep 19th, 2003 04:12 PM

Dreamer, it is good that you appreciate grand old hotels, but the Windsor is not--it was built 18 years ago. The Grill room was actually better several years ago and competed with Commander's for high rating slots, but the high quality did not continue after several chef changes. You won't find a plethora of locals there.

Dreamer2 Sep 21st, 2003 02:18 PM

Oh my gosh! I had no idea... From the decor and architecture, I thought it had been there a while. Obviously did not do the research on this trip myself - it was a surprise! Thanks for the info.

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