A Trip to New Orleans – Part 4

Of course, there are other reasons to visit New Orleans than museums and Halloween. Food, drink, and music, for example.

I didn’t visit any jazz clubs. In a way, it’s not really necessary. At least in the French Quarter, street musicians are allowed to play without licenses/permits as long as they don’t interfere with traffic – either vehicular or pedestrian. And more than a few of the bars and restaurants there have live music anyway.

The city is the headquarters for Cajun cuisine. You can’t avoid it – and why would you even try? Even a little place that looks like a cheap dive from the outside can do a great job. I get the sense that the style tends towards the spicy side to help you forget that you’re eating things like catfish and alligator.

If you go a bit more “upscale”, you’re going to run across the Brennan name. Seems the family owns or operates something like half the restaurants in the city. Dickie Brennan’s, Mr. B’s Bistro, Brennan’s…. and those are just the one’s that use the name…

For real “jacket and tie” dining, I heartily recommend Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. It’s supposed to be in a beautiful building in a lovely neighborhood. I went there at night, so… Anyway, save room for dessert. I don’t think it’s possible to create a better cheesecake than they do. Even the portion is the perfect size.

Beignets do for New Orleans what bagels do for New York City. You have them with coffee in the morning or whenever, and no other place in the world does them as good. Cafe du Monde near Jackson Square is the place everyone goes to for their beignets. I didn’t want to wait in line for what seemed like it could take an hour, so I got my taste at another place near the French Market. For the life of me I could not tell you the name. Nice little patio-type place. Three beignets and a coffee cost $6, but they were made fresh and still warm.

LIke a lot of cities, New Orleans is developing a nice selection of brew pubs. I went to the Crescent City Brewhouse.  The fish tacos weren’t much to speak of (Having already had alligator, turtle, quail, and rabbit, I needed to have catfish before I left), but they went well with the suggested “Red Stallion” beer.

New Orleans claims to be the place of origin for a couple of cocktails, and who am I to argue? Have a Pimm’s Cup in the afternoon (and eat the cucumber garnish so you can pretend it’s healthy) and a Sazerac in the evening. There’s also the Hurricane, but I don’t care for drinks that come from a machine and are served in ‘souvenir’ plastic glasses with extra-long straws. While it wasn’t invented in New Orleans, if you see that the bar has a glass urn of about a gallon capacity with two brass spigots at the bottom, ask the bartender for a glass of absinthe….

Speaking of drinking, Bourbon Street…. Bet you were wondering when I’d get to it. Practically every other place on it is a bar of some sort. As I understand it, the locals have mixed feelings about it. Sure, it brings in the tourists, but those tourists tend to be twentysomethings who are there only to get as drunk as possible while they stumble from one bar to the next (souvenir cups in hand – open container drinking is allowed there, provided the open containers are plastic)… And what none of the tourist guides will tell you is that Bourbon Street is where all the strip clubs are.

Oh, and by the way, if someone on a balcony decides to toss you some beads for any reason, you’re supposed to catch them. I saw too many guys waving up at young women, and then get smacked in the chest with beads because they had no idea what to actually do in such a situation. Amateurs…

If you find yourself with time to kill, there’s a nice riverfront park. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed with the Mississippi River – I thought it would be wider and busier. I guess the river is too twisty in the area, so a lot of shipping traffic probably heads out to sea via the straighter (and shorter) Atchafalaya River.

I had four days in the Big Easy. Not enough time to even begin to fully explore the place. Maybe next time I’ll hit up a jazz club or three, visit some of the other museums like the Audubon Aquarium, check out the action at Harrah’s Casino…

And maybe it won’t rain on Saturday night…

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