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New Orleans Trip Report - April, 2013

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Apr 28th, 2013, 11:41 PM
  #1
KVR
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New Orleans Trip Report - April, 2013

New Orleans, LA – April 20 to 25, 2013

We decided to go back to New Orleans to celebrate my 45th birthday. We had originally been in November, 2004 and haven’t been back since. The first time, we stayed at the Holiday Inn French Quarter on Royal Street, which was a good hotel in a fabulous location. I had every intention of booking that hotel again just because of the location, but when I went to Southwest Airlines Vacations to book, the hotel did not appear as an option. From January, when we started looking until March, when I actually booked, the hotel name had changed to the Wyndham, which I didn’t realize that until later. So, we ended up booking the Bienville House on Decatur, which in hindsight I’m glad we did as the location was just as good and was much nicer than the Holiday Inn. It was also $300 less than the Wyndham.

Bienville House – Is the sister hotel to the Monteleon. I would have loved to have stayed there, but for the price, the Bienville House was just fine. Very cute hotel with lots of charm, history and architecture. I booked the second category room to ensure we got a room with windows. After seeing the hotel, I should have paid the extra and got a room with the balcony overlooking the court yard. We were given room 358, which was street side directly across from the firehouse and right by the elevator. We didn’t have any issues with street or elevator noise during our stay. Actually, we heard more from people talking in the hall as they passed our room, which was occasionally. The room was beautifully decorated with a 4 post king bed, desk, coffee maker and armoire for the TV. A walk-in closet with safe and nice bath/shower combo. It would have been nice if they had put a small frig in the room. We arrived at 2:00pm and we were advised our room wasn’t ready, so we dropped off our luggage and headed out to eat lunch. When we came back around 4:30pm, we checked right in and went up to our room. The offer a Continental breakfast in the morning between 7am and 10am, which consisted of coffee, juice, milk, pastries, sweet breads, cereal, yogurt and solid fruits. It is fine to get you started if you feel you have to have something right there. We only ate there one morning before an early tour. The staff we encountered was very nice and helpful. They always greeted us when we came into the lobby and was nice to take some picture for us. I would not hesitate to book this hotel again.

Felix’s Oyster House – We had intentions of going back to the Acme Oyster House, which we ate at twice our first trip. When we got there at 2:30pm, the line was way down the sidewalk. So, we took the advice of several posters and walked across the street to Felix’s. This recommendation is spot on and no line to get in. The people standing in line at Acme are really missing out here. We had the best meal and also ate here twice. Back in 2004, I don’t believe there was anything like char-grilled oysters. Again, I took several people’s recommendations and tried them. They are beyond awesome. I will have a very hard time ever going back to just raw oysters on the half shell. We also had the fried catfish plate and pecan pie. Their pecan pie was the best we had anywhere. The sauce is just wonderful. With beer, the first trip was $68 + tip. The second trip we had just the char-grilled oysters and a club sandwich with pecan pie and beer. It was $58 + tip.

Bombay Club – We ate there in 2004 and enjoyed it enough to go back. They have a band that starts at 9pm, so we made reservations for 8pm. However, the band started late at 9:30, so in hindsight I should have made the reservations later also. They set us at a table right in front of the band, which was great. I really didn’t want to sit in one of the alcove tables. They have an extensive drink/martini list. We had the jalapeno margarita, cucumber martini and champagne cocktail. For dinner, we had the gumbo, Caesar salad, fried quail and grilled pork chop. Crème Brulee for dessert. The absolute best cream brulee we have ever had. We actually had 2 servings a piece. Better than my favorites in Las Vegas and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The fried quail was awesome. I could almost swear my father was in the kitchen making it, who makes the absolute best ever. It was that good. The pork chop was good, except the sauce they poured on top was questionable and not necessary. We enjoyed our meal and the band. With several drinks, the price was $234 + tip.

La Pavilion Sunday Brunch – We did the Commander’s Palace Sunday Brunch last trip and it was OK. I had planned this trip to go back to CP for their .25 cent martini lunch, so we choose the La Pavilion mainly because they offer unlimited mimosas in the price. That hotel and their dining room are absolutely gorgeous. They had several buffet choices, an omelet/fried egg station, and dessert area. Their carrot cake was so good and we got our monies worth with the mimosas. $45.00 per person + tip.

Napoléon House – We stopped in for a quick lunch before our Restaurant Tour. We had a sandwich and Caesar salad, which were good. However, the French bread on the sandwich was a little too hard and crusty for me. There is a beautiful courtyard for dining in the back. Price was $37 + tip

Margaritaville – Went for dinner just because I had to have the obligatory photos. We have been to every Margaretville in all the destinations that we’ve been to where there was one. We had the jerk chicken, which was OK. The jerk chicken at the one in the Montego Bay airport was awesome and so far cannot be beat. We also had the key lime pie, which cannot compete with what we have gotten in Key West. I was disappointed that by the time we were through with dinner, their shop was closed. The Story Bar was smaller than the photos on-line and completely full. Price was $60 + tip.

Pier 424 Seafood Market - Located on Bourbon Street. We had dinner of fried mushrooms, char-grilled oysters, shrimp skewers and pecan pie with 3 beers and 1 martini. It was all good especially the oysters. Their balcony dining area was hosting a private party, so we couldn’t go up there. Price was $85 + tip.

Oceania – Popped in due to the band playing. Had a couple of beers and crème brulee, which was a huge serving and pretty good, and listened to the band. Price was $35 + tip.

Commander’s Palace – I chose their .25 cent martini lunch for my birthday. When I made the reservation on-line I noted it was my birthday and for seating in the Garden room. What I meant was the Garden/Patio area, so I was surprised when we headed upstairs. My mistake. The table was decorated with 3 balloons and they gave me a paper chef’s hat that said “Celebrate”. We ordered their 3 course pre-fix menu of gumbo, grilled stuffed quail and chocolate soufflé. I substituted the soufflé for pecan pie. $32.00 per person. Total cost was $72 + tip. The .25 cent martinis included the Commander Palace, Melon, Cosmo and Original. DH got 4 and I got 3. I could have sworn the quail had the breast portion removed and replaced with the stuffing. I just couldn’t find it, only the legs and stuffing. The sauce on top of the quail was not great and not necessary. We had better pecan pie elsewhere. The service is impeccable though. How could it not when we had 3 waiters and a manger hovering over us. They were very nice in taking several photos for us. However, I have to say CP is really over rated and over recommended. I really liked the food better when the CP was in Las Vegas. Too bad they closed that restaurant. It will not be on our return list in the future. Antoine’s offers at pre-fix .25 cent martini lunch, which is less expensive and easier to get to. We will try that next trip.

Arnaud’s Bistro – Had dinner after our bar hopping tour, which was still the day of my birthday. We were able to get right in. We were wearing shorts and tennie shoes, so I was hesitant that we were dressed appropriately, but in the Bistro section it was OK, just not the main dining room. Their food was really good and I’m sorry, but it put CP’s food to shame. We had the gumbo, shrimp bisque, almond crusted white fish, crème brulee and pecan pie. The pecan pie wasn’t as good as others, but everything else was excellent. As part of the restaurant tour we did, we got to see all the dining rooms. Arnaud’s has the most beautiful dining rooms I have ever seen. Just gorgeous. I was quite taken in by all the wonderful architecture. Price was $100 + tip.

The Crazy Lobster – Located on the Riverfront. We ran in to get out of the rain one afternoon and decided to eat lunch. We both had the New Orleans special, which consisted of gumbo, Jambalaya and red beans with rice. The red beans and rice were good, but the others were just OK. Way too much rice from me on one plate. I decided I do not like jambalaya. Tasted like Spanish rice with bits of sausage in it. I have never liked Spanish rice to begin with. We were able to wait out the rain and be on our way. Price was $45 + tip.

Mr. B’s Bistro – Had dinner of salad, soup 1-1-1, which consisted of Gumbo Ya-Ya, Seafood Gumbo and pepper soup. The Gumbo Ya-Ya was the best gumbo of all the places we’ve been to. We also had the bacon wrapped shrimp with grits and the bar-b-cue shrimp. The waiter asked me if I knew what I was getting into with the barbecue shrimp, which comes with a mandatory bib. It’s a bowl of whole shrimp with the head, tail, shell and antenna’s still attached in the yummiest broth I have ever tasted. I have a thing about food being intact like that and it was very, very, very messy, but the broth made it worth it. Chocolate cupcake with raspberry sauce for dessert. I could have lived without the raspberry sauce. DH didn’t care for the grits. With 2 beers price was $120 + tip.

The Carousel Bar at the Monteleon – We tried to go on Saturday night, but they were having an after party after a wedding reception and we couldn’t even get in the door. We returned later in the week on a Wednesday night at around 7pm and it was still pretty crowded, but we did get a table for two. We had a round of drinks and about 15 minutes later 2 spots at the rotating bar opened up so we grabbed them and had 2 more drinks a piece. 3 beers and 3 crown and cokes were $45 + tip. There is a band playing in the back. We had been here before on our first trip and it was not this crowded. That was also before the remodel. I liked the old bar better. It was more quiet and intimate. Now it‘s a tourist attraction. It’s too crowded and people are talking over each other and over the music. Drink prices are a little stiff. Again, another place that is over rated and over recommended. It won’t make our return list.

Entertainment:

We went to the Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium. We had been to the Aquarium before and really enjoyed it, but both exhibits are very nice. There were tons of people including screaming, unruly kids at both places. We hurriedly went through both and left.

The Riverwalk Mall – We went the afternoon we got caught in the rain. Nice way to get out of the rain and wait it out. There are 3 floors and many of the stores are gone. They are revamping it to become an outlet mall, which should be fully operational late fall according to the bill boards.

French Quarter Culinary History and Tasting Tour – There was just us and another couple on this tour. We went to Antoine’s for seafood gumbo, Arnaud’s for shrimp Armaud's, Tujague’s for beef brisket with creole sauce, Desire Oyster bar for turtle soup, Creole Delicacies for red beans and rice, La Davina Café Gelateria for muffuletta and gelato and Leah’s Pralines for pralines. This was a very good and educational tour. We enjoyed all the tastings we had as well as the history of the places and New Orleans. It’s a good tour to do early in your vacation so you can go back and try some of the restaurants on the list and get a good idea of the area.

Crescent City Walking Bar Tour – I decided to do this on my birthday. It was just us and a man with his son. We’ve been on many tours like this in other destinations and really like them when there are several people. It’s just more fun with more people. We met in front of Arnaud's restaurant and walked over to their Remoulade Restaurant. The first drink was included in the tour, but at all the other stops, we had to pay for drinks if we wanted one. DH got a fruity drink with blue Curacao in it and I got a beer. The next stop was Antoine’s and we both got a side car, which was like a sweet martini. It was very good. We were given a tour of all the dining rooms, which we had already seen on the restaurant tour that we took the day before. Next we went to the Court of Two Sisters. I had the Pimm’s Cup, which was very good and DH had something that tasted like Sangria. It was OK. Their court yard is quite large and very pretty. We shied away from eating there due to questionable reviews and comments, but I would definitely try their jazz brunch our next trip and make the determination for myself. Next we went to the Pirate’s Ally Café and Absinthe bar. We have never tried Absinthe before and found we do not like it. It tastes like black licorice, so if you don’t like black licorice, you won’t like Absinthe. I had another Pimm’s Cup, but the one at the Court of Two Sisters was much better. Our last stop was the bar at the International House hotel. DH had the Sazerac, which was very, very strong. I had the chartreuse door, which is made with several spices. It was excellent. Loved it. One of the best mixed drinks I have ever had. This tour was $29 per person plus drinks. Drinks averaged about $10 per person with tip, so it cost us another $100.

City Tour – We did a 3 hour bus city tour. We should have done this on our first trip so we could have really gotten a good feel for the entire area. We went through the French Quarter, St. Roche area, District 9, the Garden District, the Warehouse District and the New Orleans City Park. All beautiful areas with lovely homes and architecture.

Summary – We had a great trip and will be back eventually. We found that most everything seemed exactly the same as it was when we were there in 2004. However, it was a lot more crowded this trip than when we went in a November. We usually do all inclusive vacations, so we had sticker shock regarding all the food and drink prices. The drinks were about $3 to $4 more and the food was about double what we pay at home in our local bars/restaurants. However, the food was so good and nothing like anything we can get at home. We brought $2,000 spending money for food, drinks and some light souvenir shopping and came home with $5.00. All tours were booked on-line with a credit card before arriving.

I have pictures of our trip including everything we ate/drank at:

http://kvrlvnphotogallery.shutterfly.com/pictures/7495

Click “all” to just scroll down through all of them. If you do the slideshow or click on each photo it will provide a title for each picture.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 07:21 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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what a generous trip report and fantastic pictures. thank you for sharing! brought me back! I hope the outlet mall thing works out as that is a pretty good space that was failing last time there.

oh and that shimmering white shell with the crochet/lacy coverlet looked fabulous on you!!!
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Apr 29th, 2013, 07:28 AM
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Thanks for the report and the pictures. The Bienville House often catches my eye as a good place to stay.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 08:31 AM
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cd
 
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Thanks for the report and pictures. We will be back in N.O. in NOvember and I will try the char grilled oysters! Sounds wonderful and I have never heard of them.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 08:41 AM
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Wow, your pictures took me back. I opened the link and your room at the Bienville House looks exactly like my parent's room at whatever inn it was we stayed at in 1963. I wonder if it was there back then!

Great trip report - we love New Orleans and can't wait to go back.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 08:42 AM
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FWIW, I just googled the history of the hotel, and it wasn't a hotel in 1963
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Apr 29th, 2013, 12:44 PM
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KVR, you must have just missed the big surprise at the Carousel Bar at the Monteleon last Wed. Night, April 25 !!! What time did you leave there?

I was in town for Jazz Fest and stopped at the Carousel bar around 10 p.m. Smokin' Time Jazz was playing and guess who got up and joined them on stage????

BILLY JOEL. He apparently was in town early for his set at jazz fest (he was the headliner on Sat.).

He was at the piano and played a few songs, including Stormy Monday.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 02:15 PM
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KVR
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We went Wed. night, but that was April 24th, not the 25th. Tuesday the 23rd was my birthday. We flew out on Thurs. April 25th. We left the Carousel Bar around 8pm I guess, and went across the street to Mr. B's Bistro for dinner. That sux if we missed that! I love Billy Joel.

Thanks everyone for the comments. Especially, Lookin_Glass about my outfit.

We didn't get to several of the things we wanted. There are just way too many establishments for one trip. I was disappointed we didn't make it down to Frenchman Street. That is a absolute must for next trip.
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Apr 29th, 2013, 09:06 PM
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Oops I had the dates wrong, it definitely was Wed. night when we saw and heard Billy J. at Carousel bar around 10 p.m.

On Thurs. night we walked from the quarter to Frenchman St., settled in at Cafe Negril where there was no cover and the drinks were $6 and strong, and the band was rockin' R&B and very very good.

then Fri. At Jazz fest, and Sat. Night at Tipitina's to see The Honeydrops and Dr. John.

Great long weekend, excellent music, lots of oysters and crab at Deanies, Bourbon House, and the best oysters at Grand Isle. Next time check out the WWII museum, we went on Sat. and it is phenomenal.
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Apr 30th, 2013, 06:43 AM
  #10
KVR
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Yes, we missed a lot of things we wanted to see and do. Just not enough time. The WWII museum is on our list for next trip also.

I am glad we left before jazz fest. Been reading reports and viewing pics. Way too crowded for our taste.
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Apr 30th, 2013, 07:40 AM
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Excellent report, I'm not going until August but I am ready to go right now...!
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Apr 30th, 2013, 09:45 AM
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Loved your report and your photos!! Isn't New Orleans just he best place ever for eats and drinks? I'm ready to go again!
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May 1st, 2013, 11:22 AM
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It felt crowded for us over the 5 days we were there surrounding the first jazz fest weekend, last weekend. We got into all the restaurants we wanted to go to without a wait, had no trouble getting around by foot, streetcar, and cab, went on a city tour that included Katrina areas, went to Tipitinas to see Dr. John Sat. night (awesome show), went to WWII museum, toured the Herman Grima house, took a class at the New Orleans Scool of Cooking (Really great), and spent a lot of time in the quarter also. On Frenchman St. Fri. night we were able to get seats at the bar at Cafe Negril. Stayed in the quarter at Four Points for 2 nights and then moved to Hampton Inn Convention Center, both very nice hotels. Convention Center hotel was very convenient for the WWII museum and my friend who left from the bus station, and it was a short streetcar ride from the quarter.

Second weekend of Jazz Fest is typically more crowded though.
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May 1st, 2013, 11:24 AM
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Oops, that first line should read that "It never felt crowded...."
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May 1st, 2013, 11:56 AM
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For those who like them, the oysters on the half shell were awesome on this trip. Big and meaty ones for $1 apiece at Bourbon House (across the st. from Felix) from 4 to 6 p.m daily, and even better tasting ones, also very big, at Grand Isle ($14 a dozen, their regulat price) Baked oysters with Romano cheese, white wine, and herb crust at Deanies were incredible. I agree, KVR, we had never had baked oysters like this either (aside from Rockefeller) and they were really good.

I admit it, I ate a total of 54 oysters in 4 days, and 2 lbs of boiled crawfish.
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May 1st, 2013, 06:41 PM
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KVR
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I do not like crawfish. Never have. We did pop into Bourbon House and they had a variety of oysters on the menu, but not any of the char-grilled oysters. We left and didn't eat there. I never cared for oysters Rockefeller either.

The attractions and streets were very crowded. There are just so many restaurants it's was pretty easy to not have to wait. I liked it better when we went in a November and nothing was going on in the city. I don't think I would return in an April.
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May 2nd, 2013, 05:45 AM
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Thanks for the great report.

We were in New Orleans for Quarter Fest, earlier in April. Our first trip in several years.

We thought the crowds were awful. Sadly, it will probably be our last trip to Quarter Fest. It's just gotten too busy for our taste.

We will return to New Orleans though, sooner, rather than later.

My husband 'discovered' char-grilled oysters this trip as well. He and his brother also made two trips to Felix's for them. He still preferred Acme for raw ones though.....
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May 2nd, 2013, 11:13 AM
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I tried to just post the link for this, but I'm not hitting some button correctly today. I have made these by this recipe and they were wonderful. I also noticed on Drago's website that you can order the kit to make them at home! YUM!

Hope you charbroiled oyster lovers enjoy this! KVR, I have really enjoyed reading your report, looking at your photos, and reading the responses here.


Drago’s Charbroiled Oysters

Don't attempt this without freshly-shucked oysters and an outdoor grill.

This is the perfect dish for those who want to enjoy oysters in their unadorned form, but can't or won't eat raw. Once you start eating these, you won't be able to stop. .
•2 lb. butter, softened
•1/2 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
•1 Tbs. black pepper
•1 tsp. dried oregano
•6 dozen oysters on the half shell
•1 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, mixed
•3 Tbs. chopped parsley

1. Mix butter with the garlic, pepper, and oregano.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill and put oysters on the half shell right over the hottest part. Spoon the seasoned butter over the oysters enough so that some of it will overflow into the fire and flame up a bit.

3. The oysters are ready when they puff up and get curly on the sides. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan and Romano and the parsley on top. Serve on the shells immediately with hot French bread.

Serves eight to twelve normal people, or two serious oyster fanatics
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May 2nd, 2013, 06:02 PM
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KVR
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iceeu2, great recipe. However, I won't be able to find any freshly-shucked oysters in West Texas. Now, if I lived in South Texas that might be different. I think Felix's also had a very light topping of bread crumbs.

I did find the recipe for the bar-b-cued shrimp on Mr. B'S Bistro website.
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May 2nd, 2013, 07:04 PM
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Hi Kelly! Looks like you had a great and yummy trip!
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