Brace yourselves. I’m not posting a recipe. But by the end of this blog I think I will have convinced you to go to New Orleans. I recently turned 30 (shhh…don’t tell Hollywood) and had the pleasure of spending 5 nights in NOLA. I was there for a comedy festival, but if I’m being very honest with myself the main reason I went was for the food. Sure, comedy is how I make my money but food will always be my number one love. (No offence to my lovely husband.)
Let me start by saying that New Orleans is no place to be on a diet. On our last day, while sipping a spice bloody mary and eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs, pecan smoked bacon and creole hash browns, the woman sitting next to me at the bar ordered a salad-NO DRESSING. It was one of the most depressing things I’ve ever witnessed. It was almost offensive. While I did eat at a lot of great places, there is so much more I didn’t get to taste. So many other neighbourhoods I didn’t get to explore. I’ll be back one day to eat the rest. Until then, you’ll just have to make do with what I did eat. Let’s begin!
We flew into NOLA on my birthday and checked in the the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter. I received TONS of recommendations of where to go for a nice birthday dinner but landed on Pêche. It won a James Beard Award for best new restaurant in America so it seemed like a safe bet to me! Also, upon perusing their menu I saw they had a seafood platter. I’m a sucker for a seafood platter because it offers so much variety and VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE. The raw bar came with 6 oysters, 6 gulf shrimp, a smoked tuna dip, a chili lime seafood salad and smoked drum with green beans, potato, farm egg and capers. HOLY SHIT. It was perfect. We had champagne to start then moved over to a light red wine. The platter was more filling that we had anticipated so we only had room for a few more small dishes. We chose the crab and jalapeño capellini and the fried bread with sea salt. Fried bread is basically a savoury donut hole that tastes like it was made by fat little angels. I would go to pêche just for those. We finished off our meal with a salted caramel cake with caramel buttercream. I highly recommend this place. Wonderful service, beautiful, interesting food and a great vibe. Not at all pretentious.
We woke up the next day feeling refreshed and ready to take on NOLA! I had heard great things about Bacchanal in the Bywater area from comedian/foodie/friend/handsome boy, Karl Hess. We decided to walk there because according to the map, it was right along the Mississippi. “What a nice jaunt that will be!” I said, with glee. Well, turns out there’s no real waterfront, and it’s just a train yard. We walked for an hour without seeing another soul. Next time, I’d take a Lyft! FINALLY we arrived at this hidden gem. It’s a small wine shop in the front with a fridge full of cheese and meats. You choose your wine (by the glass or bottle) and then you can choose your treats from the fridge and they arrange them on a charcuterie board for you. Or you can order from their menu which is an array of small plates, meat, seafood and a daily sandwich special. They also have happy hour wines by the glass for five bucks. Wohoo! We did 2 happy hour wines, a grilled andouille sausage sandwich and the patatas bravas with chimmichurri aioili. Once you order, you go outside to their huge secret back patio to sit, eat, drink and watch live music. This place would be magical in the evening. I also think it would be a great place to go with a group of friends. That way you can order a ton of small dishes and try a bit of everything. Just don’t walk there from the French Quarter like we did. You’ll be to tired to function!
After having a wee nap at the hotel, we were ready to eat again. I wanted oysters. It was a toss up between Acme Oyster House and Felix’s. Our uber driver from the airport said “If there’s a line at Acme, go to Felix’s across the street”. There was a line at Acme so we went to Felix’s and I’m glad we did! We sat at the bar and ordered grilled oysters off of the servers recommendation. The gentleman next to us had just finished eating them too and agreed that they were top notch.
We later found out he was a pump salesman for Esso. *Side note-everyone in New Orleans is a drunk business man. Middle aged white people on business getting lit up and the occasional bachelor/rette party. It’s hilarious.* Grilled oysters are topped with parmesan, garlic, herbs, butter and breadcrumbs and are insanely delicious. They came with this big hunk of bread covered in some sort of buttery garlic sauce to sop up all that juicy oyster goodness. Looking to explore a new place, we asked the server where to go next. She recommended Mr. B’s for their famous BBQ shrimp. We obliged.
I love an old school steakhouse. Mr. B’s reminded me of a place that Don Draper might go to if he were in NOLA. We sat at the bar (because the bar is the best place to meet people) and ordered 2 local beers and the BBQ shrimp. The old school bartenders (all of them were over 45-real bartenders you can trust!) came around and fastened 2 large bibs to us. BIBS! They warned us that it would be messy and I couldn’t wait to dive in. Gulf shrimp barbecued New Orleans style served in the shell with a peppery butter sauce and french bread for dipping. This was maybe my favourite dish of the whole trip. I couldn’t believe how delicious that sauce was. It had the flavours of a steak au poivre with peppercorn sauce but with the sweetness of tender, juicy, succulent shrimp. My only regret is not asking for more bread to sop up all of the sauce. At the time I was being cautious and didn’t want to overdose on butter. Throw caution to the wind!
We ended up at the 21st Amendment off of the bartenders recommendation for a cocktail and some live music. There was a Jazz quartet playing, reminiscent of a different era. I drank my bourbon cocktail in a coupe glass and absorbed all of the good vibes. You can walk into almost any bar in New Orleans and hear the best music. The talent here is unbelievable. When their set was finished we ambled down Bourbon Street and stumbled into another bar with a live band that was playing covers. There, we drank bourbon and beer and met some funky firefighters and a man from Toronto (I think his name was Henry?) who was on a road trip with his adult son. AWWW!!!
Let’s just say that next day we weren’t feeling so hot. I think all that music gave me a headache. I can’t think of another reason? 😉 Brunch always fixes a hangover. I’m pretty sure Henry had mentioned Ruby Slipper and for some reason I trusted this man with my life. Best damn benedict I’ve ever had. Thank you, Henry! Matt and I shared the cochon benedict (slow roasted pork) and the smoked meat hash benedict. They both came on fresh baked biscuits. Did I mention the house made bloody mary’s? I want to eat this every day. It was perfect. Right before we left there was a man waving at us. Matt and I were hungover and confused and assumed he was waving to someone behind us. When he was gone I realized it was HENRY! and we just stared at him like assholes. Henry, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize you without your toronto bluejays hat.
After brunch we laid by the pool and drank sparkling wine the hotel had sent up for my birthday. What a life! Pool lounging is very trying so we worked up an appetite yet again. Off to Coop’s place, where the locals eat. This place is a dive bar in the French Quarter and it couldn’t be more perfect. The bartenders are surly, the food and drinks are cheap and there are tons of repeat customers. (we know because we ended up going twice and saw the same people from the night before.)
After our show (remember why I was in NOLA?…comedy!) we ended up at some 80’s bar where a drunk old man asked me if I was in my 40’s. I hate this man.
The next morning we went to Le Croissant D’or in the French Quarter for a croissant sandwich. I had read a lot of good things about it in several touristy magazines. We both got a ham and swiss sandwich and it was perfect. The croissant was buttery, flaky and slightly sweet. The pastries looked amazing too but we were already pretty full. After all, it was only breakfast! Then we headed out for an epic walk to Lafayette cemetery. Ya know, the one from Anne Rice novels? It was over an hour walk. Our plan was to stop at a bar a grab a drink at the half way mark, but we got caught up in a residential area with no bars in sight! After about 45 minutes I typed “Bar” into google maps and was directed to…
Hot tin is a rooftop bar in the Ponchartrain Hotel. I am SO lucky we stumbled upon this gem because it had the most beautiful view of all of New Orleans. The bar itself was super cool and we had a juicy and thirst quenching peach lager which was much needed after almost an hour of walking in the hot sun.
Definitely come here for an afternoon beer and then come back for an evening cocktail! I would have loved to have seen this place at night. Sometimes the best places are the ones you stumble upon.
Ok, this blog is getting WAY too long. On our walk back from the cemetery we ended up at the Blind Pelican as per our uber drivers recommendation. Make sure you’re sitting down before I give you this next piece of information. They have happy hour every day. From 4PM-8PM. With the purchase of a drink…OYSTERS ARE THREE DOLLARS A DOZEN. THREEEEE DOLLLAAAAAARS! And you can also get a dozen baked oysters for $10. Naturally, we got an order of each. We had 2 pints each and 24 oysters total and our bill was less than 25 bucks. This place was packed when we arrived at 4PM and full of regulars, so you know it’s the place to be. I wish I was there right now!!!! Later on that night after my show we ate a po’boy and french fries that were dressed like a big mac. I don’t know how we survived the trip. We ended up at a bar on Frenchman street with an amazing live band. People got up and danced and it was a magical time.
Luckily for us, Gumbo Fest was going on in Louis Armstrong Park! How perfect is that? Obviously we attended and tried 2 different types of gumbo and a mac n’ cheese with shrimp. All while washing it down with those peach lagers I was telling you about!
After a brief wardrobe change at the hotel we bravely ventured out into the streets to get seek out more alcohol. It is our duty! My manager suggested the carousel bar at the Monteleone Hotel. (The fancy hotel from Girl’s Trip!) It’s exactly what it sounds like. A slow rotating bar that looks like a carousel. You wouldn’t think that this would be very exciting for grown adults BUT IT’S THE BEST. We got there and of course, every seat was taken. After lurking like vultures some seats became free and we ordered the signature cocktail, the vieux carre. Apparently it was created by Walter Bergeron in 1938, specifically for the famous carousel bar!
We were feeling peckish after our wild ride at the Carousel Bar and sauntered a few blocks over to Napoleon House. I wish we had discovered this place earlier. It’s a beautiful, old, unassuming building that’s not pretentious and it’s so full of whimsy. Fun fact, Nicholas Girod, The Mayor of New Orleans from 1812-1815 was the buildings first occupant and offered his home to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile. Hence the name. There’s a darkish bar/dining area when you walk in and it opens up to a magical courtyard patio. The prices here are very good. According to the reviews they make an excellent Pimm’s Cup, so I indulged. I feel like I’ve been saying “I indulged” a lot…because I did…
I could drink a Pimm’s cup every damn day! It’s a fruity, herby, citrusy delight, but not icky sweet. If you know anything about NOLA, you know they’re famous for their muffaletta sandwiches. Italian charcuterie and creole olive salad on Sicilian sesame bread. Apparently it originated at Central Grocery in New Orleans (which I’ll get to in just a minute) and is traditionally served cold. They had a warm one at Napoleon house that we shared. (Half is plenty for 2! But I could also totally eat half on my own.) I was not prepared for how amazing this would be. Layers of various salted cured meats, and cheese and pickled things on the most glorious dense yet light warm bread/bun thing I’ve ever had. It’s briny, salty, crunchy, melty, meaty and wonderful. If I could come to this place every afternoon for a pimm’s cup and a muffaletta I’d be be a plump, happy clam.
The next day and final day before we had to catch our flight home, we headed to the famed Central Grocery. Full sandwiches are $20, cut into 4 pieces. We bought it and took it to the airport with us and ate her majesty while waiting for our flight. Again, it’s truly a masterpiece. I’m sure there are quite a few differences that a muffaletta connoisseur could detect, but to me it just tasted like a cold version of the one from Napoleon House. Still effing incredible. The cold one travels well because it gives the sandwich ingredients time to soak into the bread and let’s all the flavours become one. Our intent was to save the other halves for the next day but we ate it immediately once we got back to LA.
Ok this blog is truly out of control but here are a few more things you should try when you’re there! We had beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Amazing deep fried donut like things doused in powdered sugar. Also make sure to try the chicory coffee! They serve it at most coffee shops. Kicks your average cup of joe up a notch.
Bourbon Street is fun and touristy but Frenchmen street is where it’s at for a less crazy vibe and super great music.
Ooo, and go to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop! Apparently it’s the oldest bar in New Orleans and its-get this-HAUNTED!!!! It’s touristy and the bartender took my order like she wished me dead, but it’s worth checking out. I witnessed a drifter hit on 3 middle aged women and by the end of it I was ready to give him my number. He had game!
I think that’s it? If you’re thinking about planning a trip to New Orleans, don’t hesitate! It has an energy like no other place I’ve ever been. I didn’t get to see and experience everything NOLA has to offer and I definitely want to go back. What other place in the world can you go to where you can see 8 mini parades in the span of 3 hours? I never had a bachelorette party so maybe I’ll do it here retro-actively 😉 (I hope my friends are reading this…)
Ok, I must go FOR REAL but before I sign off, here is a picture of me as a crab/lobster. Enjoy!