Recently I spent some time in the wonderful city of New Orleans. I can’t remember how many times I have stayed there nor just how young I was on my first visit. I can tell you there are few places in this world with the combination of great food and great music.
New Orleans music is food for the soul. Strolling through the French Quarter or visiting Jackson Square gives one plenty of opportunity to listen to music without spending a dime. I am including snippets of music from this visit along with pictures. Just click on the highlighted jazz references below to access the video. The newest twist to the street music is the use of five gallon plastic buckets as drums. The mostly young drummers still managed to rake in some money with their upbeat music.
In addition to music on the street is music in the bars. Quite a few of the Bourbon Street locations sport bands which during the week don’t necessarily have a cover charge. If the madness of this famous street is too much, I suggest a slight jaunt down to Frenchman Street. The bars are low-key and the music is great.
Two other venues are also good places for music. The first is a bit touristy. The Natchez, a riverboat with docks near Jackson Square offers jazz cruises up to three times a day. One can opt out of buying the meal for a considerable savings.
My second recommendation is a favorite with the locals. Rock-N-Bowl is a fun combination of bowling alley, bar and stage for bands. I love going there but if you want to bowl you may need to reserve a lane the day before. This nightspot is away from the French Quarter but worth the drive.
Food and NOLA are synonymous in my mind. I cannot picture one without the other. Fish, crawdads, steaks, beignets, alligator, poor boys, pizza, and gumbo are just a few of the goodies. This past visit included shrimp and grits, alligator, lamb, crab cakes and steak. The only thing I did not eat was sweets.
There are so many great restaurants it is hard to go wrong. Top spots this last visit were Red Fish Grill and Bourbon House both on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and Jacques-Imos over on Oak Street. The drive to Jacques-Imos is worth it. Reservations are recommended for the first two. Jacques-Imos only takes reservations for parties of five or more.
At the Red Fish Grill, I loved the shrimp and grits and the scattering of popcorn as a garnish added some crunch. Both my dinner partners ordered the entire fish entrée. I just try not to look at the eyes. This was a repeat visit to the restaurant and every bit as enjoyable as the first time.
Bourbon House was packed so we elected to eat at the bar. The service was outstanding. Oysters were the appetizers followed by good size salads. We split the Petit Filets and I’m not sure when I have had a better flavored steak. I give high marks to Bourbon House and I didn’t even try the fine selection of bourbon.
Jacques-Imos was fun. We waited almost an hour but I was in great company and the time passed quickly. We walked through the kitchen to reach our table and I couldn’t take my eyes off the cheesecake; Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake. The dish was out of this world.
My favorite daytime activity is strolling down Royal Street. If I lived within driving distance, I am sure my pocket-book would be a bit lighter. The antique stores on this street are only surpassed by the art galleries. I love looking in all the shops on this wonderful street just a block away from the debauchery of Bourbon. Service in the various shops meets the typical New Orleans standard; superb. Some of the shops you might want to pop into include Royal Antiques, Sutton Galleries and Jack Sutton.
Other neat shops and restaurants are sprinkled throughout the quarter. One favorite spot of my travelling partner was the Cigar Factory. The location on Decatur Street gives one a chance to watch skilled employees as they roll cigars. For those who don’t smoke, the ventilation is good if you just want to look in and watch the work.
A caveat or two for the mature traveler. The drum beats resonating from the five gallon pails along Bourbon Street lasted long after my bedtime. I suggest travelling with earplugs or choosing a hotel a few blocks away. Secondly, don’t cram too much into your schedule. Take your time and visit with the locals. Long-time residents of New Orleans have much to share.
National World War II Museum
While I was unable to make a repeat visit to the National World War II Museum this visit, I did want to include a brief mention. Since I was raised by a military historian and an art fanatic, I have visited a good number of museums in this country and a few overseas. I rank the World War II museum in New Orleans in the top five. The museum is easily accessible from the French Quarter via a short trolley car trip. If you only plan to visit New Orleans once in your life put this museum at the top of the must see list.