Food is the heartbeat of New Orleans. The smells down each street are unique glimpses of meals you will only be able to dream about later. The best part is that you don't have to spend a fortune to access the best of the best. Sure there are names of chefs you have heard of like Emeril Lagasse and John Besh, but in New Orleans you want to eat as the locals do. You want to go to those mom and pop restaurants that have been serving up the same dishes for generations. Those are the real rockstars of this town.
Ruth Chris Steakhouse
Once a upon a time, specifically in the year of 1965, Ruth Fertel opened up a restaurant after mortgaging her home in order to do so. The restaurant was called Chris Steak House but after a fire caused her to change locations she decided it was time to add her name right in front.
The only Ruth Chris Steakhouse I have ever been to was in Chicago (http://bit.ly/2sBCxIm). Honestly I had never dreamed is all began in New Orleans. But thanks to a great book given to me by Santa I learned the history behind the woman, family, and steakhouse we can visit in over one hundred cities.
For many years it was the only fine dining restaurant in New Orleans and it had an all female staff. Hurricane Katrina devastated that location but has now returned to it’s hometown located in the Harrah’s Hotel.
The book “The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak” refer to the author Randy Fertel’s parents, Ruth and Rodney. While Ruth worked her business, it was her husband (eventually ex-husband) who ran for mayor with a campaign aimed at bringing gorillas to the local zoo.
This family is fascinating and so is the book.
The Market Cafe
Located near Cafe du Monde in the heart of Jackson Square is The Market Cafe. It is the second oldest building in New Orleans. The building dates back to 1823 but The Market Cafe has only been open since 1982.
This outdoor cafe serves a traditional Cajun/Creole menu with classics like alligator, crawfish, and turtle. I ate a turkey sandwich when I stopped by. It was good but what really drew me in was the live music. There is a five piece band playing non-stop and they were so good I stayed way past meal time and ended up purchasing their CD.
Court of Two Sisters
Speaking of sandwiches, this is the best place in New Orleans to have a Po’ Boy because this is where they were born. I prefer the shrimp but you can get any meat and/or seafood you like on it, depending on how daring you are.
Besides the amazing, original, and high quality of the food, there is the two hundred year old building that houses the restaurant. In the 1700s it was known as “Governors Row” where the wealthiest lived. At one time even future president Zachary Taylor lived on this block.
Here you can get some of the best jambalaya and gumbo around. However when I was here I ordered the grilled chicken that was served with red beans and rice. This is another reason I love it here, everything in this city can be served with cajun red beans in rice. I am told it is so popular Monday nights for families in New Orleans was red beans and rice night. Damn that sounds good.
While my meal seems ordinary compared to my choices it was the best chicken, beans, and rice I have ever had!! It was so good that a year after I discovered this place I walked around the French Quarter until I found it again and it was as delicious as I remembered!
If you aren't sure where you want to go or what you feel like eating, Jackson Brewery is a good place to start. It is located in a building full of shops, bars, restaurants, and entertainment. Once the shops close around 5:30/6 p.m. the brewery opens.
Brennan’s is the one indulgence I always allow myself. It is a more expensive restaurant than I usually attend but it is so worth it. The first dinner I had here was Thanksgiving Day 2008 with my family. I didn't have any turkey but I had the Shrimp Victoria and it was like I died and went to heaven. A return trip to New Orleans brought me back for the same meal once again. Notice a pattern yet?
But here I was most excited for dessert. That is because this restaurant created Bananas Fosters in 1951 and once ordered it is prepared table-side with a fiery touch. I love anything made table-side! This was incredibly delicious. Not too sweet or bananary, if thats a word.
I am sure the menu has changed since I have been here but there is no doubt in my mind that everything served here is worth eating. I will prove it to you the next time I go.
La Bayou Restaurant
La Bayou is a similarly low key restaurant like Remoulade and serves the same kind of food: local cuisine, burgers, salads, just about anything you desire. After another meal that came served with a side of red beans and rice, I was all ready to order my dessert. I had heard the bread pudding and Southern pecan pie were what to have here, so I got one and my mother got the other. Yum!
Ah, the Carousel Bar. This brings us back to my happy place, Hotel Monteleone.
The Carousel Bar will pass you as you enter the hotel. Yes, it will pass you as this is a revolving bar. I suppose this could be dangerous because you do not feel like you are moving and the more you drink the more likely you will forget that you started out at a different point. Since I always stay here I know at least that I am “home”.
As a reference point I have been to another revolving bar, The View in NYC at the top of the Marriott Marquis Hotel located in Times Square. That bar’s rotation was not nearly as slow as the Carousel Bar. In NYC I could barely make it to the bathroom sober let alone once I was drunk.
I am proud to say that I never had such a problem here. No wonder they have been around for over seventy years.
You simply CANNOT visit New Orleans and skip a visit to Pat O’ Brian’s. It would be like walking past Cafe du Monde and not going in. It would be criminal. And you would miss out on SO much fun.
If beignets are the official food of New Orleans than the Hurricane is the official drink. The Hurricane was created at Pat O’ Brian’s in the mid 1940s and contains a mixture of light and dark rum among other ingredients. At that time whiskey, scotch, and bourbon were harder to come by.
Hurricanes are served in a tall, slinky glass with an umbrella, because let’s face it drinks taste better when an umbrella in them. Plus they match the outdoor Caribbean feel.
Pat O’ Brian’s has an unusual set up. There are two entrances, one on St. Peter Street and one on Bourbon Street. Through the main entrance there is a piano in corner and a quieter bar on the first floor that seems more like a typical place for the older men of the neighborhood.
But the outside patio is the place to be. There are heated lamps for colder nights, a fire pit, tables and chairs, and all kinds of bright fluorescent lighting. You will almost forget you are outside especially after a few Hurricanes.
Pat O’ Brian’s is a family business now on its second generation of owners. They have expanded to an online store and two additional locations; one in San Antonio and one in Orlando.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Well, this is an interesting place and how I came upon it was interesting as well. It was back during my first trip to New Orleans during my first night there. My co-workers and I wanted to have a little fun. We signed up for haunted walking tour.
New Orleans has a complex and long history and not all of it was positive. Hotel Monteleone isn't the only spot where activity has been spotted. This tour began at sunset so it is a good thing that this tour also includes stops at numerous bars.
Of all of the places I saw, the haunted Civil War hospital which is now a hotel, was one was of the creepiest. I could so easily imagine staying there and hearing the moans of the soldiers at night.
As bad as that seemed the place we saw last had the worst stories I have ever heard. Seriously. The wealthy family that lived there long ago, lets say weren't the kindest to their servants. What they did to them would make being drawn and quartered sound like fun. I will leave it at that.
Despite its history, the house is gorgeous and has over four floors, a private carriage house, and a yard. It is currently a privately owned home so the only vantage point is from the outside.
Coincidentally this house of horrors was directly across the street from the oldest bar in New Orleans; Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
The Shop was built sometime between 1722 and 1732. It is believed to have been used by the Lafitte brothers, Jean and Pierre, as a place of business where they discussed their pirating and smuggling operations. This is likely where they sought to sell the goods they stole.
But now they are in the business of booze.
The bar is dark inside and smells like a bar. It was a little too dingy for me and after what my friend told me about the urinals in the men's bathroom it is all I seem to remember.
That being said it is still a neat sight to walk past. After all how often are you near one of the oldest buildings in one of the greatest cities in the world?
Do not fear, the next topic we delve into will be a lot less scary.
Oak Alley Plantation Tour is up next!
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