Things to See and Do in New Orleans La

What to see and do in New Orleans, LA. Restaurants and bars.

Since the Saints have won the Super Bowl (Who Dat!) and spring is knocking on our doors, tourism will soon boom in the city. Whether you've already been here and plan on returning, or have yet to visit this wonderful city, here are some places you should go that will give you a "locals" flavor.

Restaurants:

Mother's - I'm sure this is one of the first places you're told to go. Having eaten there myself and heard reviews from other tourists, this place is basically just conveniently located. It's on the corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas (pronounced chop-eh-tool'-as) in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD) and has poboys and hot plates. Most likely you'll have to stand in line out the door and the service is mediocre, at best. The food, in most people's opinion, is not great. However, if you want to go just to say you've been, by all means, go.

Nola Grocery - If you want a really good poboy (which is basically a sandwich on French bread), I highly recommend this hole-in-the-wall place, located on Andrew Higgins, between S. Peters and Tchoupitoulas in the Warehouse District. It's across the street from a place called the Metropolitan (which is a pretty cool night club, by the way). If you blink, you'll miss it. It's a very small convenience store slash restaurant, with an eating area. You can get literally any kind of poboy imaginable. They also serve breakfast in the mornings. Friendly reminder - they don't like to take credit/debit cards unless it's over a certain amount (occasionally they'll accept a local's card, but only if they're frequent customers) so be sure to have cash. There is an ATM machine there, as well. Also, if you're looking for elegance, this place ain't it. But it's got great food.  www.nolagrocery.com

Rock-n-Sake - This is one of my favorite sushi restaurants. Don't go here if you're in a hurry or don't like loud music. It's got a club-type atmosphere, with dim lighting, loud music, and on the weekends, an hour wait. It's not uncommon to see the younger crowd dressed to the nines, standing outside talking and having a cocktail while they wait for a table. Located on Fulton Street, this place is pretty fun for a night out, especially with a group of friends. During the week, the wait is considerably shorter, if there is one at all. www.rocknsake.com  There are so many sushi places around the city, you really have your pick of places. Sushi Brothers is another one of my favorites, located on St. Charles. You can take the street car there. It's a quieter, cheaper joint, and the food is fantastic. www.sushibrothers.net

I don't even think there is a name for the place I like to get pizza...ha ha. It's on Bourbon Street, right across from Razzoo's. The pizza is so great (especially after a few 3-for-1 drinks...). Cash only.

Slice - If you want a place to sit down and eat pizza, then go to Slice, on St. Charles (close to Sushi Brothers). It's a small place with great food. You can get pizza by the slice or an entire pie. They also have appetizers and entrees, and a super-cheap happy hour ($1 bottled domestic, $5 pitchers of Abita from 4-7pm, Monday-Friday). You can build your own slice/pizza from a large selection of toppings. www.slicepizzeria.com

Welty's Deli - Located on Camp Street in the heart of the CBD, this deli is locally owned and operated. It has daily specials (different every day, and not on the regular menu), salads, sandwiches, soups, entrees, excellent desserts, and a good selection of hot/iced teas and drinks. Don't be surprised if you see a line when you walk in the door - it moves quickly. It's only open Monday-Friday, 7am-2pm, and you'll typically find the local business men/women eating here. www.weltysdeli.com

Cafe du Monde - A very popular tourist destination, and rightly so. Even locals go here for the beignets and coffee. If you don't know, beignets are a pastry, between a funnel cake and doughnut. They're served in batches of 3 squares, with tons of powdered sugar on top. Beignets and coffee are the only things served here, and get here early for a table. They're open all day and tables are full most of the time. You'll also get a chance to hear some truly local musicians, as they have been known to stand on that corner and play for tips. And they're usually pretty good... www.cafedumonde.com

Port of Call - I actually have not been to this restaurant because even before I became a vegetarian, I didn't like red meat too much. However, I've even heard my family back in Tennessee say they want to eat here for the burgers. It gets high praise, and being located on the outskirts of the French Quarter (Esplanade St.), it's truly a local joint. www.portofcallneworleans.com

Central Grocery - The birthplace of the muffeletta, it's worth it to go here. It's on Decatur Street in the French Quarter and has been featured on the Travel Channel. A muffeletta is a large deli-meat sandwich (I mean large) with olive salad on it. If you don't like olives, you won't like these.

It's very difficult for me to narrow down places to get crawfish etouffee, or seafood gumbo, or oysters...there are SOOOO many restaurants in and around the city that have these New Orleans staples that you can find excellent choices almost anywhere. The French Quarter is packed with excellent and elegant restaurants, so just start walking till you get hungry.

Bars: 

Like food, this will be difficult to narrow down. Drinking is a big part of the culture here and it's rare that you find a place that doesn't pour a great drink. But I'll try...

Bourbon St. Blues Company - Located on, duh, Bourbon Street, it's a live music venue with an upstairs balcony. They serve those loved/hated 3-for-1 drinks in the big plastic cups (beer AND liquor). My friends and I go here a lot. It's packed during the weekends, as are most places in the Quarter. Don't freak when you order a vodka and redbull and it's $12. You'll get your money's worth - I promise. You won't remember it tomorrow anyway...

Razzoo's - This has always been one of my favorite places to people watch, especially during the late afternoon-early evening. That's the time when it's not ridiculously packed, still daylight, but people are still getting drunk and dancing and just having a blast. It's also on Bourbon Street. I've taken several pictures and cellphone videos here, because it can get that awesome. I've seen everything from old ladies with boobie paintings and dancing to Can't Touch Me to Ivy League lookalikes singing karaoke, poorly. They also do 3-for-1 drinks and serve a pretty good bloody mary.

Pat O'Brien's - Always the tourist destination, it's great for running into locals, too. Tourists usually go in the main entrance and sit in the outdoor dining area. A word of caution, though - the drinks are not as good in this area as they are in other areas of the place. This is, however, the only area to eat. Go straight through this area to the left, leaving the courtyard, and enter the dimly lit bar on the right (with the projector screen). If there is an older white-haired man behind the bar, you're in luck. He makes the best Bloody Mary's I've ever had. Get the double for $10 - it's worth it. There is also a piano bar, and the Hurricane is the most famous drink they serve - but like I said, go to that back bar.

Lucy's - I've been a regular since I moved here and was on a first name basis with the bartenders until my schedule was rearranged and new people came in. Officially titled Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar, it's on the corner of Girod and Tchoupitoulas. They have decently priced drinks and will custom make them if asked. I've never had a problem getting an extra shot in a drink (or a free shot if they're feeling generous). They serve food here and have a seating area on the other side of the bar. The weekend nights are packed with the younger crowds and they take away the tables and chairs in the bar area. And when I say packed, I mean spilling out into the street packed. Since drinking on the streets is legal here, it's never an issue to stand outside with your booze. It's a very popular place with the locals, and within walking distance to the French Quarter. Oh, and it's a non-smoking bar. They will ask you to leave if caught smoking.

Vick's - Diagonally across the street from Lucy's is Vick's, an "Australian" dive. It was featured on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. They have only a few tables and do serve food. It's open well after Lucy's closes, so you can often catch the Lucy's staff and patrons here after-hours. It can get pretty smoky, but the drinks are good.

Sugar Shack - Located in the French Quarter on Iberville St., this place has cheap drinks, a food menu, and mini bowling. Yes, MINI BOWLING! They have two very short bowling lanes with mini bowling balls (sort of like skee balls). It's pretty awesome. Just go.

Daiquiris - I'm giving this its own category because there isn't just one place to go for these. There are literally hundreds of daiquiri shops in and around the city and most of them serve the same types. Occasionally some shops will have different flavors than others, and sometimes they'll be the same flavors, but with different names. They're all the same level of good, and range from the super sweet to just sweet with high alcoholic content. You can mix the flavors and even get gallon jugs of the stuff. Great during the summer.

Events:

Wednesdays at the Square - I'm listing this first because it's coming up in a few weeks. Beginning March 24, there is a free 12-week outdoor music concert series in Lafayette Square. It goes from 5-7:30pm and has food and drink vendors. Abita will be the cheapest beer there, because it's locally brewed, but they also have other beers and liquors. You need to purchase food and/or drink tickets first, then get in line for the food/drink. You can purchase these tickets online beforehand, as well. You can even bring your pets (there are poopie bags and disposal locations) and lawn chairs. Local artists perform here and are really good to hear. You'll need to stand up close though, because I think the trees can muffle the sound, as well as all the people around you. They ask that you not bring outside food or drink in order to keep the events free. www.wednesdayatthesquare.com

French Quarter Festival - April 9-11, 2010; TONS AND TONS of local musicians, food and drink vendors. Free admission. It's held around Jackson Square (where St. Louis Cathedral is), Bourbon and Royal Streets. They ask that you not bring outside food and drink (coolers) into the major festival areas in order to keep the event free. www.fqfi.org/frenchquarterfest

Jazz Fest - April 23-May 2, 2010; Pearl Jam, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Lionel Richie, Anita Baker, The Neville Brothers, Allman Brothers Band, My Morning Jacket, Darius Rucker, and Widespread Panic are among the hundreds of acts scheduled to perform. Ticket prices range from $45-65 and you can get VIP perks if you want to pony up the dough. VERY popular event. www.nojazzfest.com

Essence Fest - July 2-4, 2010; Alicia Keys is slated to perform this year. It's held at the Superdome and is a pretty cool event to go to.

White Linen Night - Held the first Saturday night in August, this event carries on the tradition of wearing white linen clothing to keep cool during the summer. Held in the Warehouse/Arts District, there are gallery tours, live music performances, and of course, drinks.

Check out www.nola.com/festivals to see a complete list of festivals occurring throughout the year (there are hundreds).

Also, check out our National World War II Museum. They're undergoing a big expansion and some of it has already been completed. It's a really neat place to go and have different exhibits throughout the year.

Something really cool that I've always wanted to do is the Haunted Cemetery and New Orleans tours. They take place right after dusk and are fairly priced. www.hauntedhistorytours.com

Shopping - Since my office is downtown on Magazine Street two blocks from Canal Street, I've had several tourists ask me where all the shops are. They're waaaayyy down Magazine in the area of town known as Uptown. It's a few miles away from downtown, and will require a cab ride or you could ride the street car and walk the two blocks from St. Charles to Magazine. Oh, and while you're down there, stop by the Bulldog - they have tons of draft beer and really good bar food. See, you just can't get away from the food and drinks around here! There are plenty of boutiques in the area, and there are also lots on St. Charles, as well.

If you're in the area, let me know! I'll do my best to try to get you to where you want to go. Laissez les bons temps rouler! [Let the good times roll!]

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Gregory Tarleton-Markov
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Posted on Feb 26, 2010