It's been almost seven years since I've been to New Orleans. My last trip to the city was also the same time the Hokies were there in January 2005 when they faced Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Leading up to that trip, I'd been to New Orleans every year since Tech's appearance in the national championship game be it for football, baseball, basketball or just to bask in its glory.
Since my last visit, the city was of course ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. I'm interested to see what's change since then, I'm interested to see what hasn't and most of all I'm ready to take in (read: imbibe) everything the city has to offer.
I'm not from Louisiana and obviously it's been a long time since my last visit. If you're looking for information on stuff off the beaten path, by all means ask a local. But if you want a list of places I've been and loved, you've come to the right place.
Bourbon Street is where the party is and its three food groups are Hurricanes, Hand Grenades and Huge Ass Beers.
Hurricanes: The place most people are going to get a hurricane is Pat O'Brien's, located on St. Peter between Bourbon and Royal. A hurricane is equal parts rum and red fruity hurricane mix. Even if you don't get one from Pat O's, make sure your hurricane is either a dark blood red, approaching brown or very light pink. If it's bright red, you're getting hosed on rum.
Hand Grenades: The Tropical Isle at the corner of Bourbon and Orleans is where you can get the most powerful drink on Bourbon Street, the hand grenade. Its recipe is a secret, but to me it tastes like everything under the sun mixed with a dash of Hi-C Ecto Cooler.
Huge Ass Beers: The Steak Pit on Bourbon and Toulouse has Huge Ass Beers. You really don't need any further explanation.
Most people go to New Orleans for the party. I go for the food. I'm not much on crawfish or oysters. If you are, New Orleans is paradise. Even if you're not, this is still the best place in the world to eat. I have never been to a city with as many amazing restaurants as New Orleans and with such variety. For a fat kid like me, there's nothing better.
My favorite place to eat in New Orleans is a place called Court of Two Sisters on Royal between Toulouse and St. Peter. Its jazz brunch can instantly cure a hangover and the atmosphere can't be beaten.
Some places have become popular tourist destinations and with good reason, because they have amazing food. If you want to be a New Orleans tourist the right way, hit up Mother's (Poydras and Tchoupitoulas) for lunch and get a po boy, eat dinner at Brennan's (Royal and Conti) and finish it off with Banana's Foster and get late-night beignets at Cafe Du Monde (Decatur between St. Peter and Madison).
Other quality spots: Galatoire's (Bourbon and Iberville), Palace Cafe (Chartres and Canal) and Mr. B's (Royal and Iberville) if you're willing to pay good money for good food (the latter two are also Brennan establishments). Napoleon House (Chartres and St. Louis) and Felix's (Iberville between Royal and Bourbon) if you're on a budget.
I received the following recommendations from The Twitter: Red Fish Grille (Bourbon and Canal), Port of Call (Esplande between Bourbon and Dauphine) and Chartres House Cafe (which looks really good and is at Chartres and Toulouse) in The Quarter and Praline Connection (Frenchman between Chartres and Decatur) and Jacques-Imo's (which I'm going to try and hit up and is on Oak between Cambronne and Dante) outside of The Quarter. As for bars, BCO suggests Laffite's (Bourbon and St. Phillip) with a very important caveat.
The only places I can really vouch for are Preservation Hall for great music, the Harrah's casino and the aquarium. The aquarium has penguins and a white alligator, which is good enough for me.
As for the casino, I have no delusions of grandeur when I go in there. I suck at card games and have just as good a chance of making money off slots as I do cards, so I just find a couple of video slots with cool enough bonus games to keep me interested. If you're going to lose money, you might as well have fun doing it.
Those on The Twitter suggests strolling down Frenchmen Street, just outside of The Quarter, to find more good music.
The shoes you're going to wear on Bourbon Street? You're never going to want to wear those again.
If I homeless guy says he can guess where you got your shoes, he's right.
Want to know where the ball is in the ball-and-three-cups game on Canal Street? It's in his hand. You lose, John.
(I'll add to this list as I think of more)
There are too many good songs from the area or about the area to include all of them, but here are few you should add to your iPod for the trip down. This doesn't even include classic songs like Iko Iko, Louisiana 1927, New Orleans by Gary US Bonds or anything by New Orleans legends Dr. John or Professor Longhair.
There are plenty of good songs about New Orleans and that area of Louisiana one of the best is Walking to New Orleans by Fats Domino. We'll get to Fats in a minute, but here's Neil Young covering it because, I mean, Neil Young.
I'm sure you've heard Jambalaya done by either Hank Williams or John Fogerty. Well, here it is in Creole.
That zydeco version of the song leads us into our first New Orleans-based musician. The king of the zydeco, the late, great Clifton Chenier. Other than jazz, zydeco is probably the style of music most often associated with New Orleans and Chenier was the best at it.
One of my favorite NOLA-based musicians comes from about as far away from the French Quarter as you can get. Anders Osborne is originally from Sweden, but certainly doesn't sound like it. If you're down in New Orleans on New Year's Eve, Anders is playing at Tipitina's in Uptown that night with a bunch of others. If I get in town that early, I may try to hit that up, but the $71 ticket may be out of my price range considering how much this trip is already going to cost me.
Glen Campbell scored a big hit with Southern Nights. Well, it was written by a New Orleans pianist named Allen Toussaint. No word if he's related to Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, but here's Allen playing Southern Nights the way it was meant to be played.
Finally, no selection of New Orleans music would be anywhere close to complete without Fats Domino.
These are just a few selections. Find your own to set your mood for the trip to the French Quarter.