NOLA Notes

Have some listing done.  Adding a couple explanations daily 🙂

The Food Awesomeness List

Morning Call Café:  (Rumor has it that the Du Monde behemoth has bought out the City Park contract and will be the new cafe there.  Commentary preserved for memories.) Forget the unholy line at Café Du Monde if you want beignet awesomeness.  Seriously, this place is the best total experience you can have.  Yes, there is the standard order of powdered puffy donut-like bliss.  But they also use that same dough for a tiny pizza that involves crab.  Also on the menu are gumbo (mild & awesome) and jambalaya (passable). It is New Orleans, so you can get a bloody mary, wine, beer, and a few other drinks any time day or night.  Because, of couse, Morning Call never closes, FYI.

Milkshake Daiquiris & Cajun Sampler at Gazebo Café near the French Market:  This café is completely open air, and always has live music.  There are attentive and friendly wait staff, and you can linger without being rushed off.  Their sampler is so good that it is what we usually get – everything is amazing.  They also have fried alligator, but that isn’t on the sampler as far as I can remember.  If, however, you only want the milkshake daiquiri, there is a walk-up bar in the center of the café.  Unless you enjoy being unhappy, you will love one of the flavors – pina colada and orange sherbet are my favorites.

Praline Connection on Frenchman Street:  (CLOSED! Replaced by a vile chicken nugget franchise! For posterity, I keep the memory here.)  You wouldn’t think it, but this demure praline shop on the street corner is an essential stop for at least one meal at the adjoining restaurant.  The wait staff are finely dressed and are easily personal yet very professional.  This is soul food.  Your soul will be happy.  Your wallet will not hurt anywhere near other restaurants.  Their sampler platter can easily feed 3-4 adults and is very reasonably priced under $30.  Yes, get that.  But, if you are a PoBoy type, their PoBoy is unspeakably amazing and will stuff a grown man with an appetite, and for much less than what Gene’s PoBoy now charges for a much lesser offering.

Dat Dog on Frenchman Street: Located on the opposite corner from Praline Connection, this is a nifty eatery with hot dogs made like nowhere else. You can get a duck dog, alligator dog, etc.  Worth a try 🙂

Fresh Oysters & Crawfish at French Market (in-season only): Be the tourist and enjoy the mercantile trap of the French Market.  Really, it is what would be a Flea Market anywhere else.  However, this is New Orleans.  So you can get your drink on with a daiquiri to loosen your spending inhibitions.  It is handy that across from the daiquiri vendors, you will find a fresh oyster & crawfish bar.  Do this, in spite of feeling like $20 is a little much for a half dozen oysters.  The daiquiris should numb the cheapskate impulse.  Do this.

Occasional street vendors: So, there we were aimlessly walking around semi-hunting some food and definitely hunting new things to see off the usual paths.  Stumbled (?) past a dude still assembling his business location:  folding table, crock pots, and the trunk of his car (more or less).  File this under “why not” and purchased.  Really, it was very tasty BBQ chicken so tender it fell off the bone.  Lesson?  Do indeed give the popup entrepreneurs a chance.

Copper Monkey: Decadence.  There is a thing they do that for some reason makes this a mandatory stop.  Monkey Buns are a hella good beignet filled with banana something or other.  Oh, and it is a bar (this is New Orleans) and has top notch food such as jambalaya and gumbo and fried stuff (this is New Orleans, after all).

Two Chicks Café: Unless you are boarding a cruise ship in New Orleans, this is pretty far off the tourist path.  It is literally co-located with the cruise ship pickup location in a mall that is under a parking garage.  Also a mandatory stop, because they serve the best shrimp & grits ever made and an amazing benedict.  Of course, this is morning food so I must point out that their Bloody Marys are also amazing.  I did try the bulgur crepe once, and found it surprisingly good for being gluten-free and made of bulgur.

 

The Things To Do Awesomeness List

October’s annual Macaroni & Cheese Festival (started 2017): There are about 15-20 different varieties of “macaroni and cheese” to be found at this event.  I quotationize “macaroni” since there is no “macaroni” involved in 2017 or 2018.  It is, rather, penne noodles.  Not worth quibbling about, really, as the cheese and toppings quite make up for this gaffe. If you want alcohol, your only choices (to date) are beer and sugary drinks that might contain a smidge of booze.  There is a bandstand and very good performers grace it with diverse acts.  And, of course, the prerequisite sno-cone stand.  Plenty of porta-latrines, which apparently serve well as covert means of consuming THC.  Oh, and everything is paid with tickets, no cash.  This means you must predecide how much you want to spend and then spend it all as the money is gone the instant you get your tickets.  The lines for tickets can be long, so don’t think “oh, I will just get more tickets” unless you have feet that like to stand still.

Here is the only warning:  When considering a macaroni booth for your pleasure, peek ahead at those who just got their helping of awesomeness.  It helps if you listen to what size they ordered.  I learned this the disappointing way.  There I was, standing in a 10 or so deep line for crab infused macaroni and finally reached the front whereupon I was tersely queried “small or large” for a portion.  “5 tickets for small, 7 for large” by way of explanation.  Thinking “oh, $5 ought to be a sufficient size for a helping of this,” I said “small” and whipped out 5 tickets.  These were brisked away into their coffers as I was simultaneously handed my “small” portion while the next person was interrogated.  I cannot claim fraud or false advertising, as it was indeed a “small” portion.  I would be hard pressed to not describe 5 total noodles as “small” in any situation.  That worked out to $1 per noodle.  Requiring the full use of my $5, I shared this with my husband and we literally licked every drop of sauce from the palm sized cup.  I contrast this with another booth where the 5-ticket “small” was a french fry carton the larger than an adult hand.  You have been warned.

October’s annual Krew of Armenius Cocktoberfest (started 1967): Bears and Friends in ridiculous drag, costumes, and various German getups.  Sausage eating contest.  Chickenshit bingo.  Raffle.  Silent auction of donated randomness.  Beer drinking contest.  Potluck dining.  For $40 each we got the “VIP” ticket which includes a bottomless actual-glass commemorative mug to keep.  This is Ye Olde Time Gay Chic, back when the gays had little to share and shared it all, and is a fundraiser for their Spring Ball or something.

City Park: Legend says this park’s size is second only to Griffith in LA.  There is literally everything for spending a relaxing day:  Art Museum, Playscapes, Amusement Park for small and large children, Paddle Boats and other watercraft, Sculpture Garden, Running Paths, and Morning Call Cafe which literally never closes.  Sadly, rumor has it that Morning Call will become a yet-another Cafe Du Monde.  We shall see if this is uninteresting or an atrocity in the rising tide of McNOLA.  Anyway, it is easy to get there from downtown as the trolly drops you off right at the entrance.  Bear in mind that the trolly doesn’t run 24 hours even though the park does.

Segway Tour of the French Quarter & surrounding:  Just for fun, and because it is pretty cool to ride one of these contraptions – even if it is over potholes and shitty NOLA street surfaces.

Bus Tour of the city: The main benefit of this is to see the town in the comfort of air conditioning.  The guides are hit or miss on how interesting/entertaining the ride will be, but will definitely orient you to the cultural & geographical landscape enough to make sense for a few hours.

Drag shows & easy community at Golden Lantern:  Ye Olde Time Gay Scene.  Reasonably priced drinks, absolutely relaxed atmosphere, and everyone is friendly without being pushy.  This is where true locals actually hang out as opposed to the sleazy and/or glitzy other gay bars.

Live music and open air art markets in Frenchman Street area:  This is the opposite of Bourbon Street in every conceivable way.  Relaxed, live music everywhere, possibility of awesome food (see above: Dat Dog), and a noticeable lack of vomit and frat boys.

Steamboats:  There are two in operation (Natchez, Queensomething).  Do enjoy the ride, buy some drinks if you prefer your view a bit hazy.  Do NOT buy the dinner packages, unless your preferred cuisine is akin to Golden Corral.  It just ain’t worth it, when for less cost you have downright awesome choices for truly local specialties.

Aquarium:  Pretty amazing, and the price reflects this.  If you are a normal person, this is good for a one-time thing.  If you are some sort of zoo junkie, you will love it enough to return often.  I’m not that sort.

Street music & performers at Jackson Square, Artillery Park, & everywhere:  Pay them.  This is how they earn a living, and is the largest reason NOLA has the cultural draw that brought you there.  PAY THEM.  Buy their CDs.  PAY for the culture you love enough to visit.  Most are really good, and some are mesmerizing.  Like the trio featuring a middle aged (60?) woman that played jazz clarinet better than anyone I’ve ever heard in person (I played this dreadful instrument very well in my youth).  Like the young (20?) lady playing the electric violin every night on a particular corner.  Etc.  PAY THEM for giving you the atmosphere that attracted you to NOLA in the first place.  Unless you are just a spoiled frat boy coming to sexually harass women on Bourbon.

World War II Museum:  Sounds boring, I admit.  Do it.  This is something that will hold your interest all day.  I recommend taking a break after every major exhibit just to give your brain a break.  It is an immersive sort of experience for all aspects of the war.  Two days can easily disappear enjoying this place.  There is a cafe and gift shop, of course.  You get a wrist band, which gets you reentry if you choose to pop out for somewhere else to eat or drink.  Yes, there is a gift shop with the usual unreasonably expensive “collectibles” that you simply must-have.

Parades, parades, and more parades:  Does this need any comment?  No.  Check online for the next parade.  The ones I enjoy the most are the Krew d’Boo (Halloween) and the LGBT Pride.  I should mention that apparently NOLA also has been known to host the Naked Bicycle Race.  We saw it in June of 2018.  Also, you never know when there will be a wedding parade or 2nd Line parade for no apparent reason.

Just walking and immersing:  People actually live in NOLA, and have for a few hundred years.  The culture is extremely diverse yet compatible and deeply rooted.  The city has its issues like any other large city.  You will see homeless folks in tents under overpasses, sleeping on a sidewalk, begging for $help, and even come across the occasional asshole.  It is life, lived in your face.  Enjoy it all for what it is, and what it does not pretend to be.

 

The Accommodations List

The Roosevelt Hotel:

Catahoula Hotel:

Old Town Inn:

Hilton:

Air B&B’s:

 

The Utilitarian List

Where to buy the crap you forgot, lost, need, etc. and not pay tourist prices

 

The UN-Awesomeness List

Gene’s Poboys:

Bourbon Street:

Pizza on Bourbon Street:

Magazine Street Shopping:

 

 

 

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