20 Big Easy Entertainments | Restaurants
the Locals Eat at
Secrets | Hot
Avoid at All Costs | New
Review a Restaurant, Tell Us
Your Story, Ask for Advice
Louisiana Hot Links
Orleans may not be in Mexico, but it's certainly
a third- world country--a law unto itself, a place with drive-in
daiquiri stands and a curious custom of disrobing for cheap
plastic beads. (Though this is the custom, I hasten to add,
not of the natives, but of visitors, who appear to take leave
of their senses once they arrive--present company excepted,
may not lose your shirt (literally), but you will be
here, and you'll want to know what the locals think is worth
doing. Or you may have been here, and you'll want to tell your
story--if this is the case, please
share it with us.
what to do?
Twenty Big Easy Entertainments
Hate to be obvious, but if you don't do another thing, take
a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter. This
is the single most rewarding thing you can do in the city.
Special point of interest: Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop at
Bourbon and St. Philip. It's one of the oldest buildings in
the city and has sentimental meaning for me--my fictional detective Skip
Langdon lives in this block of St. Philip. Amazing looking
place. Beverages served.
Let's get coffee and beignets out of the way. Go to Cafe
du Monde (Decatur and St. Ann) and get your second wind.
Afterward, get someone to point you to the old French Market and
prowl what's now a flea market. Good fun, and sometimes draws
interesting craftsmen and jewelers.
Ride the St. Charles streetcar clear to the end and
back. There's no cheaper, better, more convenient way to see
what gracious Southern living looks like these days; Tulane's
on the tour too. And if you're a "Real World" fan,
catch a glimpse of the Belfort Mansion between Third and Fourth
Streets (618 St. Charles).
Peruse the local papers for house or garden tours in the French
Quarter or Garden District--a fantastic way to see
what's behind the gorgeous facades. I live here and
I do this. Problem is, there are only five or six a year--but
you might get lucky. If you do, drop everything else and do
Swamp tour (but only if it's warm--in winter, the gators hibernate.)
Have a Pimm's Cup at the Napoleon House (Chartres and
St. Louis). A great relaxer at the end of the day.
If the weather's good, hit at least one restaurant with a fabulous
courtyard--the Napoleon house is ideal for this. Also Bayona and Marisol.
Go see a plantation--either by car, or tour. Oak Alley's
popular--this is where INTERVIEW
WITH A VAMPIRE was filmed.
Get a reading in Jackson Square or at the Voodoo
Museum. This small museum is a favorite of mine--if traveling
with teen-agers, it's a must. For some reason, they love it.
One block away, in the 600 block of Dumaine Street, is another
mini-museum, Madame John's Legacy, which has an interesting
collection of outsider art, but, more important, it's a fine
restoration of a very old building. Great prices at the antique
store next door-- Framboyan, whose affable owner, Kip
Michael, used to be my next door neighbor. Tell him Julie sent
Depending on your proclivities, take a cemetery or literary-interest
walking tour. Rob Florence's Historic New Orleans Walking Tours
977-2120, is best for exploring the cemeteries. For literary
points of interest, Kenneth Holditch, a retired professor and
brilliant raconteur single- handedly runs Heritage Tours, 949-9805.
Extremely personal service--I'm always seeing Kenneth out with
just one or two people. By appointment.
Go shopping on Magazine Street.
Spend time at the river. You could take a muffaletta from the Central
Grocery at 935 Decatur and have a picnic on a park bench.
(Make that half a muffaletta--don't attempt a whole one.)
Take the ferry (on foot, by all means, though you can take
your car) to Algiers Point. This is free and the journey
itself takes only six minutes. In Algiers, you can get off
and walk around, go to Mardi Gras World (where the floats
are made), or eat at a local joint--or you can just take the
next ferry back. The point is to experience the river, which
is one of the best things about New Orleans. If you do opt
to stretch your legs, you'll see something very different from
the French Quarter--a quiet, old-fashioned village that could
be a million miles out in the country. (This is the home of
Talba's boy friend in LOUISIANA HOTSHOT,
and quite worth seeing.)
Just to say you've done it, walk through the casino. It's big,
it's noisy, it's obnoxious, but I guess it has to be seen.
Getting this thing built took years. During that process I
wrote HOUSE OF BLUES,
which predicted that it would do a lot better than it's actually
doing. It actually lost money for awhile.
Catch some music. For traditional jazz, Fritzel's on
Bourbon Street is good; Donna's, 800 N. Rampart, and
the Funky Butt, 714 N. Rampart, are fabulous but the
neighborhood's dicey (safe by taxi, though). Preservation
Hall, 726 St. Peter, is a treasure, but crowded.
Check out a late night scene. If over 35, try the Bombay
Club, 830 Conti. Under 35, go to Cafe Brasil, 2100 Chartres
St; in fact go there in any case. Also for any age--see if
there's a late show at Le Chat Noir, 715 St. Charles Ave.,
the current hot spot for cabaret.
Stroll through Pirate's Alley and stop at Faulkner house Books.
Not only a wonderful collection of Southern literature and
a one-time residence of the great man himself, but also the
home of the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society. Next door, there's
a lovely cafe where you can sit outside and admire St. Anthony's
Garden, Faulkner's view when he lived here.
A choice here:
A. Either go back to the Garden District and walk around, noting
the former Anne Rice house at 1239 First St. (Ms. Rice now lives
in La Jolla) and trying to figure out which stately manse belongs
to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, or take a guided tour of
B. If art lovers are in the group: Take a taxi to City
see the New Orleans Museum of Art, and walk around its new sculpture
garden. (Though maybe not in the dead of July or August--instead
chose the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., which is
in the Arts District, home to many galleries you may wish to
C. Visit the Mardi Gras Museum at the Cabildo on Jackson Square.
A whole museum devoted to Mardi Gras, kids love this one too.
D. If history buffs are on the trip, the D-Day Museum, 945 Magazine
St., is a must.
Special interest: If you're a poet and here on a Thursday night,
go to the poetry slam at the Dragon's Den, upstairs
from Siam Restaurant on Esplanade. Or any of the new
readings springing up around town. The one at Sweet Lorraine's
includes jazz. Click here
HERE FOR MORE LA. HOT STUFF- RESTAURANTS OFF
THE BEATEN TRACK