Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
By Abigail Gullo
“Baby please don’t go. Baby please don’t go. Baby please don’t go down to New Orleans, you know I love you so baby please don’t go.” – Big Joe Williams….and Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison and AC/DC and Aerosmith…..
I know you all long for New Orleans as you plan your annual summer trip down here and well after you leave. This city has a magical pull that brought many into its orbit. And you truly miss that good feeling when you are gone. But, this isn’t all I’m talking about; I am talking about missing New Orleans, the real New Orleans. While you are here you don’t want to miss the real New Orleans and the things that make it great.
I fell in love with this city during Tales of the Cocktails. Every year I came earlier and stayed longer. My boss and mentor, St John Frizell at Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Brooklyn went to college here and lived here until 1999. He said that New Orleans had a special magic and a real appreciation for hospitality and service. St John encouraged me when he said he saw that special light in me too and knew I would do well here. When an opportunity came up to work with the Brennan family, who has been running the best restaurants in New Orleans for over 100 years, I thought the signs were all pointing me leaving New York for New Orleans.
So finally last year I just could not live without New Orleans any longer and I left the Big Apple for the Big Easy. There is lesson number one. There are many things not easy about living here. There is heat, hurricanes, violence, crumbling infrastructure and judging from the caterpillar sting I have on my leg, everything down here is trying to kill you. And yet, I have never felt more at home or comfortable in my life. I have a 7 minute bicycle commute to work. I wear fresh flowers in my hair everyday and there is a pool in my backyard. I am in love with my new city and love exploring ever inch of it. So here are some things I have learned in the past year.
If you stay on or about Bourbon Street, it’s like you never left Times Square, you never got off the Trolley, you only went to Graumans Chinese theatre. Here are some tips for not missing the real New Orleans while you are here for Tales.
Get out of the Quarter. Take a cab, take a trolly, rent a bike, but get out of the Quarter. It is easy to get a cab back home, and where ever you are going they can help you. But keep this number in your phone just in case: United Cab 504-522-9771 & 504-524-9606. There have been a slew of restaurant and bar openings in the last year, and few of them are in the Quarter. Starting just on the other side of Canal, check out Lucky Rooster at 518 Baronne (www.luckyroosternola.com). This restaurant was open less than a week before the Eater Nola readers named it one of the best banh mi in the city. New Orleans has one of the highest populations of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam and their cuisine is much beloved by locals here in New Orleans.
Keep heading uptown to Lee Circle and visit Kimberly Patton-Bragg and Steve Yamada at Tivoli and Lee (www.tivoliandlee.com), right next to Bellocq in the Hotel Modern (www.thehotelmodern/bellocq). This ode to local southern cuisine has an amazing whiskey selection and a great Bloody Mary bar on the weekends.
Speaking of brunch, if you have the wardrobe options, you should get dressed to the nines and go to Commander’s Palace while in New Orleans. Chef Tory McPhail just won the James Beard award for Best Chef South and you can taste it in this classic New Orleans setting in the heart of the Garden District (www.commanderspalace.com). No shorts, no t-shirts, no flip flops…this is a place to bust out the lady gloves and seersucker. Brunch has a roving Jazz band. Tell them Abigail sent you and ask them to play Ain’t She Sweet for me.
Keep heading uptown on Magazine and across from the classic Le Petit Grocery you have Chef Dominique Marquet’s glossy new restaurant, Dominique’s on Magazine. Cool and inviting, this space has a spectacular back patio with walls and towers of fresh hydroponic herbs. Here, bartender Ian Julian incorporates these fresh ingredients and makes some killer cocktails. www.dominiquesonmag.com
Ok, you are finally uptown, and so you are probably gonna go to Cure (www.curenola.com). Well make a day of it because Freret Street sure has changed. Wayfare (www.wayfarenola.com) has amazing sandwiches, Dat Dog has those delicious tubesteaks (www.datdognola.com), Company Burger is Anthony Bourdain’s favorite (www.thecompanyburger.com) and Midway pizza does deep dish right (www.midwaypizzanola.com). And the Publiq House is a new music venue with the Brass-a-olics playing every Thursday Night (www.publiqhouse.com).
Now let’s head back down river. That’s right, there is no north, south, east or west here where the Mississippi River bends. There is only upriver, down river, lakeside and riverside. Down river, by the water, there is a neighborhood called the Bywater. Many of you have discovered the joys that is Bacchanal, a wine shop that opens in the back to dining al fresco and live jazz music. Bacchanal recently opened up an indoor space with some great cocktails. My favorite is the Holy Cross, a mixture of Suze, Rye, Thyme and Averna. There is nothing in that I don’t love. (www.bacchanalwine.com)
Also new to the Bywater in the last year is Booty’s Street Food (www.bootysnola.com). Stumbling in here you can see why Bywater is the h
ipster neighborhood of New Orleans. They have twee unicorn skeletons on the wall, Stumptown coffee and street food from all over the world. The cocktails are pure New Orleans, though…imaginative, fresh local and really really good. Be sure to grab a bite at Maurepas Foods (www.maurepasfood.com). Their menu thanks local farmers by name and the delicious cocktail list has some of the best names. The Mofo Cosmo is a shot of Old Grand Dad so you bartenders will feel right at home.
PJ’s and The Saturn Bar are great places to listen to local music and DJ’s and Kajuns is open 24 hours and have Karaoke every night (www.kajunpub.com). They also have a chef doing a pop up with tasty sausages til 4am every night. Kajuns is called Borracho and it is drawing the attention of David Chang and Tom Collicho!
If you have some time to spend in the sunshine, The Country Club is great (www.thecountryclubneworleans.com). This restaurant in front, clothing optional pool and bar in back, is a landmark in the Bywater where all different New Orleans types come together to be, well, naked. And its happy hour if it rains! Great place to wait out those summer showers!
Ok, I’ll admit it. I work in the French Quarter and I live right outside, so I do have a great deal of love for Quarter Rat spots too. Buffa’s on Esplanade is also open 24 hours and I think their burger is better than Port of Call’s down the street (www.buffasbar.com). Cosimo’s is a great local bar with cold beers and a Tuesday night Crawfish boil when they are in season. (www.facebook.com/cosimosbar) St Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks and it is also the location of a great bar that serve divine food til 4am. They have real fruit juice and good booze in their daiquiri machines as well (www.saintlawrencenola.com)!
The Chart Room is our clubhouse and the new Back Space bar down the street serves food til 8am! And my favorite dive bar is Boondock Saint (www.facebook.com/TheBoondockSaintBar). Irish cop bar? Yes please. After 20 years in NYC, this place felt like home the moment I walked in. Powers and a McSorley’s dark. That is my drink and the awesome bartenders know it. They play the film Boondock Saint, so on the odd occasion I do not meet someone new/crazy/hot/interesting, there is always Darryl from Walking Dead to ogle. The Jukebox is great, I always find a cute boy to dance with me when Wagon Wheel by the Old Crow Medicine show comes on. And that song is played every time I am there.
My favorite thing ever? The horses of the mounted NOPD unit know they get fed cherries here by the beautiful bartendress Miss Jenny Kay, so they actually step up into the bar when they pass by. It is New Orleans magic at its finest.
So I’ll see you there? Play Wagon Wheel for me, will ya?