New Orleans Girls' Week Trip Report

Mar 23rd, 2019, 09:29 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 28
New Orleans Girls' Week Trip Report

I am feeling compelled to post this trip report because I have benefited so much over the years from the trip reports of others. We were five women, two in their 20's, two in their 40's and me in my 50's, visiting New Orleans for a girls' week. Three of us had been before, although only one had been post-Katrina. We are all lovers of fine food, sightseeing and the macabre, so New Orleans seemed like a good fit – and we weren't wrong.

We stayed in timeshare for the week – a great 2 bedroom apartment on Royal Street, just off of Esplanade, right between Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter. This was a perfect location for us, walking distance to almost everything that we wanted to do. We were warned that the area was seedy and that we would want to take cabs everywhere, but we did not find this to be true. Ok, maybe we did see a sex act being performed on the sidewalk a block from our apartment on our first night…but we just crossed to the other side and continued on our way - quickly! And we stayed in groups and didn't venture out alone. But we felt very comfortable walking around there.

I'll start with a quick run-down of the restaurants that we visited:

Coop's Place – this is a seedy little place on Decatur, but we arrived late on a Friday and this was close to our apartment and serves late night Cajun and Creole food. It had lots of atmosphere and was very busy, so we had to wait for 10-15 minutes to get a table. Three of us had Coop's Taste Plate, a sampler plate that included seafood gumbo, shrimp creole, Cajun fried chicken, red beans and rice with sausage and rabbit and sausage jambalaya. It was a big plate and all good although all the same colour…others had the fried chicken which was pretty good too.

The Court of Two Sisters – we were celebrating a birthday so went here for the jazz brunch and this turned out to be an excellent choice for a celebration. It was pouring rain that morning, so we couldn't sit in the courtyard (although it looked lovely). With reservations, we were seated in the formal dining room on the main floor, rather than in one of the upstairs rooms - which was really advantageous given that the buffet is on the main floor too. The service was excellent and our main server Damon was very good. We ordered mimosas by the bottle, so they bring a bottle of chilled champagne and a carafe of orange juice – much more cost efficient for our group of 5. The food was very good for a buffet – lots of salads and fresh fruit with cheeses and pates, along with a very large hot food section with lots of Cajun and Creole specialties and made to order omelets and eggs benny. We tried to try it all, but failed! At the end of our meal, Damon and the jazz band made a nice fuss over the birthday girl…Very nice.

NOLA Po-Boys – After all the food at brunch, we decided to go casual for dinner. Our tour guide recommended this place and it was exactly what we were looking for. Not licensed, but they cheerfully steer you to the bar across the street where you can buy drinks and bring them back. We shared seafood bisque, fried oysters with fries, fried shrimp po-boys which were spicy and delicious, and the special Who Dat Po-Boy which is fried shrimp smothered in seafood bisque. Sounds awful and messy, but was actually delicious.

SoBou – Sunday was legs 'n eggs brunch at Sobou – delicious brunch with a side of burlesque! This was so much fun and the food was fabulous – we talked about it for days afterwards and even returned for happy hour later in the week and were not disappointed the second time (best pulled pork tacos!). We ordered the Big Hooch which is a giant flask of boozy punch – they will give you a taste before you order to make sure it's to your liking – and it was definitely to our liking. Our server Kandice was awesome. And the food…Between the five of us, we ordered most of the menu and shared. This is a three course, prix fixe brunch and every course was great. We loved the butternut squash soup, the seafood gumbo, the pear and apple salad, and the duck leg croquettes for apps; the vegetable frittata, the bananas foster French toast and the steak and eggs (still dreaming about that one!) for mains; and the café au lait crème brulee and the strawberry shortcake for dessert. The burlesque performer Bella Blue performed throughout the brunch, rotating between the various dining rooms. We saw her perform 4 times while there and really enjoyed it. This was a busy, buzzy place in the best kind of way.

Johnny Sanchez – some of us are Aaron Sanchez fans so we were happy to visit his place in NOLA. We had to wait quite a while for a table, but we were able to order drinks in the bar so that helped pass the time. They had a DJ playing very loud music, but it was fun until the DJ kept letting a drunk patron take over the mic. Super annoying. When we finally got a table, we ordered guacamole to go with the complimentary chips and salsa. What was really fun was they came with Oaxacan chapulines, or dried crickets, for $1 more. We all tried them and they are fine, just adding a little crunch to the guac…Then we all ordered tacos. Sadly, they were out of the oyster tacos, but we ordered all of the others – steak, fish, cauliflower and meatball - and it was all delicious. Expensive for what you get, not sure we would go back, but it was fun.

Ruby Slipper Café – after reading about this place, I was expecting a touristy diner, but, boy, was I wrong! The Marigny outlet is a charming café in an old bank building with high ceilings and lots of light. The service was perfect – just the right amount of sass to make it fun! The mimosas were very large and included pomegranate juice – yum! Four of us ordered the Peacemaker, two selections from about 6 eggs benny variations. The hot-smoked salmon and the corned beef bennies were delish. And the French toast batons were very good too.

Shaya – So it seemed a bit odd to be going to an Israeli restaurant while in NOLA, but we were very glad we did. This is a gem of place, out Magazine Street. Service was great. Cocktails were wonderful, especially those made with their homemade sodas. Food was spectacular. We shared many small plates – the 5 dips (the acorn squash, the smoky baba ganoush and the ikra were standouts for me), the hummous with fried chicken nuggets on top, the roasted cauliflower, the crispy halloumi, the roasted sweet potato and the falafel, all served with the most wonderful fresh pita bread. We had 2 non-lamb lovers amongst us so did not try any of the lamb dishes, but I would love to return in the evening for the lamb shank. We sampled the burnt honey ice cream and it was delicious too, but, sadly, we had no room left for desserts…

MoPho – this Asian fusion place was really great. It's walking distance from City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden so it made for a great lunch stop. We shared the lemongrass chicken wings and some summer rolls to start and they were the best summer rolls I have ever had – tender and flavourful. Then one ordered pho, two ordered the special po-mi sandwich of the day with spicy Korean fried chicken, and two ordered the Indonesian pumpkin curry with vermicelli noodles, springrolls and a fried egg. Dessert was too tempting to pass up – an ice cream sandwich made with ginger cookies and lemongrass ice cream. So good! All of it!

Commander's Palace – we were celebrating another birthday so made lunch reservations here and what a wonderful experience from start to finish. Superb old school service. Delicious and cheap cocktails ($0.75 cheap!). Amazing food. We were seated in a gorgeous second floor dining room with windows on three sides with views of the trees in a courtyard – it felt like we were sitting in a very fancy tree house. It was pouring rain the day that we went so it was a particularly good day to be inside, looking out! One ordered the three-course classic creole luncheon with turtle soup, the quail and the bread pudding soufflé, while the rest had creole gumbo and the unbelievably good foie gras King Cake Beignets, the BBQ shrimp with grits, the tenderloin of veal, the duck cassoulet and the bison tostada. Ridiculously good, all of it. And those Creole Bread Pudding Souffles were to die for…More fuss for the birthday girl. What a great way to celebrate a birthday!

Acme Oyster House – we came here for happy hour based on an online review, waited in line for 10 minutes or so, got a table and then were told that there is no happy hour at Acme. The place was hopping so clearly they don't need anything gimmicky like happy hour to draw the crowds, but we felt a little ripped off right from the get go. But we shook it off and had lots of fun. We ordered raw oysters and char grilled oysters and I have to say I was surprised at how sweet and mild those GINORMOUS local oysters are…they were so good, in fact, that we had to have oyster shooters too.

Atchafalaya – on our last day, we went to Atchafalaya for brunch and OMG it might have been our best meal yet…the space is lovely, the service was wonderful, the mimosas were perfect and the food…ouf. We shared fried green tomatoes, the turtle and alligator gumbo and the seafood hushpuppies to start – all yummy. Then we had duck hash, the shrimp and grits that Anthony Bourdain recommended, eggs Louisianne which is eggs benny on a crab cake with creamed spinach, and fried chicken served on biscuits with creamy sausage gravy. I'm salivating just thinking of it again…pretty sure there was no dessert that day, although my food coma is messing with my memory!

Café Beignet – so we realized on our last day that we still hadn't tried beignets yet (well the foie gras ones at Commander's Palace didn't count, we figured). We briefly considered Café du Monde, but having used the washrooms there earlier in the week, we weren't inclined to return. There's just nothing charming about that place. So we landed at the competition, Café Beignet, at their Bourbon Street outlet. We were able to sit in a charming courtyard and listen to live jazz while eating our beignets…and, yes, they were delicious!

Bacchanal – so our tradition is to try and do something special for our last night dinner and to reflect a bit on the holiday that we've had…and Bacchanal was a perfect place for this! It is a short cab ride away in Bywater and is the cutest little place with a wine shop where you can chat with sommeliers before ordering wine by the bottle and ordering cheese and charcuterie plates to go with. All of this is served in a charming patio with Christmas lights, large heaters and a live Cuban band the night we were there. There was a actually a free German wine tasting going on when we arrived too – how great is that? Then we ordered dinner off the menu and shared many small plates – grilled veggies, smoked catfish dip (amazing!), bacon-wrapped dates, braised pork shoulder, grilled flank iron steak and confit chicken leg.

And here are some reflections on a few of things that we did:

The French Quarter – so I'll start here as we spent much of our week traipsing through the Quarter. Chartres Street, good; Royal Street, good; Bourbon Street, bad. We actually did have fun on Bourbon Street – in particular, we spent an amazing couple of hours at the Swamp, doing test tube shooters while some of us rode the mechanical bull. Super hilarious. Just watching the guy who controls the bull was great fun. And we saw a few good live bands here. But all in all, it was just nasty and we tended to do all of our walking just one block away on Royal Street. Amazing what difference a block makes in atmosphere!

Frenchmen Street – we loved hanging out here. The Art Market is well worth going to as it's filled with local artists doing great things, the bands are great and we even saw a drag show at one place that was super fun!

The Garden District – unfortunately it was cold and wet the week that we were there so my plans of long leisurely walks in the Garden District just didn't pan out. But it is home to some of my favourite restaurants in NOLA (see above).

Preservation Hall – this was on my must-do list and it was wonderful! Only bad thing is the shows are quite short (although maybe for the best as there are no washrooms on the premises). Great music, great atmosphere.

Bloody Mary's Victorian Séance – So they run these séances out of Bloody Mary's Haunted Museum on N. Rampart Street on Sunday evenings. We were lucky because although they are technically public (I think they take up to 13 per session), we were the only ones at our séance. Mary works with another medium and we enjoyed this very much. Interesting shop, interesting museum, and some very interesting stories.

Bottom of the Cup – we did tea leaf readings here and, while they were a little uneven, overall this was a good experience.

French Quarter Phantom Tremé Walking Tour – we knew that we wanted to get out of the French Quarter and see more of New Orleans so this seemed tour perfect for us. The meet up was on N. Rampart Street, walking distance for us from Marigny. Our guide was Malika and she was a wonderful wealth of knowledge about the area. We participated in a voodoo blessing in Congo Square at Armstrong Park, heard all about the history of the area, stopped at Le Petit Jazz Museum for a fascinating overview of the history of jazz music in America, and ended with a great tour of the Backstreet Cultural Museum (the walking tour ended here and the guide encouraged us to go in, but it was not included with the walking tour - well worth the stop though) where we heard about Mardi Gras Indian history, second lines, etc.

Haunted History Tours 5-in-1 Ghost and Mystery Tour – it seemed to be the thing to do, to take a walking tour in the French Qaurter that focused on ghosts, vampires, witchcraft, voodoo and other unexplained phenomena…and our guide Trent didn't let us down. Despite it being the coldest, windiest night, Trent made it interesting and kept our attention throughout. Although our group was pretty big, Trent kept us all together and projected very well.

Two Chicks Walking Tours Dead Sexy tour - we loved our tour of the beautiful and decayed St Louis Cemetery 1 and Storyville, the historic red light district. Our guide Val was the perfect mix of knowledgeable and funny, and was able to pass on all of the information in an easy going and accessible manner. I'd highly recommend this tour.

Rock 'n Bowl – this is great – bowling, enjoying a beverage, all while watching a great live zydeco band and the dancers. Super fun!

City Park – this is a lovely park, great place for a stroll (to work off all of the food we'd been enjoying!)

New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden – we really enjoyed our afternoon here. The sculpture garden is free and quite extensive. The museum itself is quite compact and do-able in an afternoon. Loved contemporary section, especially the golden log cabin!

The Presbytere – we spent a rainy morning here, touring the two exhibits. The Hurricane Katrina exhibit was very interesting and needless to say, very moving. Hard to believe that happened, but we spoke to many of our uber drivers about their experiences at that time and were shocked by their stories. The Mardi Gras exhibit was a little lighter, but also very interesting. The costumes are beautifully displayed and we liked how they also displayed information about Mardi Gras celebrations in the more rural areas of Louisiana.

Vampire Speakeasy, above Fritzel's – so we were sent to this "secret" bar by the sales clerk at Boutique Du Vampyre (which was a cool little place by the way). It sounds like great fun, but it was actually not. The décor is good – it's like a parlour, but with brooms "flying" overhead, accessed by back stairs, but there was a $10 cover charge to get in, the cocktails were meh, and there was nothing going on in the way of entertainment despite the promise of magic, etc. Ah well, live and learn.

Museum of Death – yes, there is such a thing…and, of course, it is in NOLA. And, yes, it is as weird as it sounds. It was an interesting place with some very compelling exhibits (and some very gory exhibits that are best to be avoided, especially the movie that is showing on a loop in the back). I couldn't help but think about the strange people that must be drawn to this kind of thing…while giving my fellow visitors a sideways glance…

Sorry for the long trip report. We didn't see everything that we had hoped to in our week (too cold for anything to do with water, no plantation tour, no bayou visit, not much Garden District time, no Mardi Gras World), but I think that we gave it a good shake and we now just have a reason to come back!
lizcdn2 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 11:23 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 1,919
Great report! You all sound like my kind of girls with all the great food! Thank you!
willowjane is offline  

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