Monday, March 18, 2013

La Vie New Orleans, Part 1

I love New Orleans.


I LOVE New Orleans.

I need to go every year. When I’m not in New Orleans, I’m trying to finagle my way there. You know, concocting some story about “story research.” Last summer I took my mom who’s wanted to go forever. I had a great time showing her the city. And I can’t wait to show all my writer friends this city I love so much.

Mind you, I don’t live in New Orleans, or even Louisiana. I live in California, but my heart and soul reside in NOLA. Several years ago I did get to live for a month in the French Quarter, 50 feet from Bourbon Street in a charming, third floor vacation rental in an old mansion. Fully furnished, brick walls, hardwood floors, overlooking a courtyard overgrown with tropical plants. The laundry room was located on the roof in a shack-like structure. I’d wait until dusk to wash clothes so that I could also watch the bats take to the night in a black cloud. Yes, it was magical.

I went to do “research.” I know I keep putting research in quotes, but I really have done a lot of research on all my visits to New Orleans. I've a novel in progress set in New Orleans and France, an opus spanning several centuries and generations. And yes, I finagled a research trip to France. My husband is not fooled. He both supports and humors my writing life. I am very lucky.

Having talked with a lot of you who are going to the Bram Stokers Awards/WHC this summer, I’ve learned that it’ll be your first time to this legendary city. And you’re excited. I feel a personal responsibility that you have a memorable experience, one beyond Bourbon Street. I love it. I want you to love it as well.

Here you’ll find a list of some of my favorite things to do in New Orleans. As I said, I’m not a native. Their insight into their city will be completely different than mine. My advice will fall along the line of touristy things with a few twists that will make your visit everything you want it to be.

Some advice
  •  Don’t bring new shoes. You will walk. A LOT. This is not hyperbole. You will destroy your feet with uncomfortable shoes. In addition, the sidewalks are uneven and there’s even cobblestone.
  •  June is hot and humid. Pack accordingly. Hot and humid. Dripping. Like two showers a day hot and humid. I'd put a picture here of what I looked like one mid-afternoon but it's too horrible to show.
  •  With that in mind, some of the nice restaurants require men to wear a jacket, slacks, and dress shoes. Women must dress appropriately as well. However, this means that if you’ve had your heart set on a white linen summer suit with a pink shirt go buy it. I once went to dinner at Galatoire’s and almost every man there dressed like this. It was like a John Grisham novel.
To purchase a Jazzy Pass, the closest Ticket Vending Machine to the Monteleone Hotel is at Canal and N. Peters:
  •   Stay within the boundaries of the French Quarter: Canal, the River, Esplanade, and do not cross over Rampart, especially after dark. Armstrong Park is now open. I’ve never been. Go with friends. On the other side of Esplanade is the Marigny. The real music scene is there, but travel with friends. With that said, the month I was on my own in the French Quarter I never had a single problem. I walked around freely and safely at night, but I did it smartly. Be smart. Be careful with how much you drink. Don’t abandon inebriated friends. (Okay, I've been to Armstrong Park now. You have to go see Congo Park. All of this is free and beautiful and a nice way to start your morning.)


Alas, there are so many great places to eat and limited room in your stomach. Consider sharing meals with friends. Sit in the bar. I love the bar area of restaurants. You can get away with sharing food and just hanging out when in the bar section. This way you can try as many restaurants as your schedule can fit. My recommendations are just that. This time around I might try new places, which I’ll add to future itineraries. I’ve already got some in mind.

Service, let me give you some advice. Ever been to France? Ever had to deal with a French waiter? The experience can be curt and gruff. Get over it. The city is a blend of the South and France. You, as the tourist, be nice, polite, and patient. Be obsequious if you have to. You’ll have a better experience if you keep this in mind.Treat your waitress like she's your grandmother. Call her Ma'am. Don't be picky or demanding.

Café du Monde
This is the food of the gods. Beignets are a food group unto themselves, and the first place you go once you get to New Orleans. Seriously. I think there’s a law that says that you have to go to Café du Monde at least twice a day, and since they’re open 24 hours, not a problem. Do NOT wear black. The beignets are dusted with a ridiculous amount of powdered sugar. You don’t get a lot of choices.  If you want coffee with cream, you order it as café au lait.You sit down, pick what you want off the menu, tell the waiter. They get it for you. You pay the waiter. No send backs. No extra cream. That’s it. Remember what I said about how things are done here. Cash only. Tip-that's how the waiters get paid. $

Breakfast is my favorite meal to go out for.  Here are some suggestions:

Old Coffee Pot
My favorite! Go with a friend. One of you order the Eggs Jonathan and the other order the Callas Cakes—a traditional dish that must be experienced before it becomes lost to time. Then share. $-$$

Café Fleur-de-lis
If you’re looking for really cheap, fast, and good New Orleans food, come here. Especially for breakfast. It’s crowded. You order at a counter, so the place has a fast food vibe. You can try to get a table or take your food to go. $

Croissant D’Or
I’ve been to Paris. A couple of nights there we forewent dinner and just had pastries. And at one patisserie we were told we couldn’t add anymore pastries to our order—gluttonous Americans. We couldn’t help it: France will spoil you for food. This place reminds me of Paris. It’s on the other side of the Quarter. This place is a bakery that serves things like quiche for breakfast. Buy a box of pastries and take them back to your hotel room. $
Daisy Dukes
Now, I’ve never been for breakfast (now I have), but my mom and I ate gumbo there at 1:00 in the morning. The food was great. Therefore, breakfast should be a safe bet. It looks like a dive but it’s nice inside. If you're hungry at 2AM, go here. $

Lunch or Dinner

On my second Pimm's Cup

Napoleon House
They have funky hours, so check first. With that said, I LOVE this place. It's my most favorite place. It’s got a great history, and you’ll see it often in movies. I go here for two things: the muffuletta and a Pimm’s Cup (or 2 or 3)—by far the best summer drink. $ or $$

Legendary. There are a handful of expensive, legendary restaurants to choose from either in the French Quarter or the Garden District. We chose Galatoire’s. Sit downstairs in the original part. Go back to the Advice section and reread what I said about Galatoire’s and how to dress and what the place is like.  $$$

We sat in the bar, because I love its ambiance. My husband had the best pork chops in the world, and I’m a fan of their bread pudding. Again, this is one of those “nice” places. They’re also famous for their ghosts. $$$

Acme Oyster House
A tradition. Casual. If you want seafood, this is the place to go. Have the chargrilled oysters. Yeah, the lines are long. Wait. $-$$

Pierre Maspero’s
Had a great seafood omelet here once. I fantasize about the seafood omelet a lot. Make sure they put the sauce on it. And their grits are amazing!! I think I’ll have dinner here this summer. Great ambiance. $-$$


This is where cocktails were born. Go! Cocktails will be ruined for you after having them in New Orleans. 

 Here's a little story for you: My husband and I went to the Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel (must go, to see the bar and the hotel). We sat down at a table. The waiter came over with an attitude (typical, get used to it). He was kind of curt and dismissive. I ordered a Sazerac and Greg had the Vieux Carre. The waiter's attitude did a complete 180. Suddenly we were just "tourists" who wanted a hurricane or a daiquiri. We were connoisseurs. The Sazerac and the Vieux Carre are old school, traditional drinks.

Roosevelt Hotel
Go to their Sazerac Bar. Sit at the bar. Talk to the bartenders. They will make you the most amazing cocktails and tell you some great stories. I still dream about the night we had cocktails there.



My mom and I had dinner on a gallery overlooking Bourbon Street. Don't remember which restaurant but I tricked my mom into eating alligator, which she liked.
French Market is open once again and better than ever. They now have small eateries where you can get quick, inexpensive, and great New Orleans food.

So I’m looking at a Google map of French Quarter restaurants and my list above looks inadequate. But as I said, too many good places to eat, too little room in my tummy.

Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section about your favorite places to eat.

Part 2 will soon follow:  Sightseeing.


  1. Oh my God, I'm starving right now and you are NOT helping! I set a great scene in FINAL IMPACT at the Café du Monde. I can't wait to get back there and STUFF myself with beignets. Lots and LOTS of beignets!