One Grown-Up Night plus many Family Nights in Town
My family and I will be traveling to New Orleans in a couple of weeks. We have babysitting one night and would like to spend an evening listening to music and eating great local food. We live in San Francisco and don't want a "high-end" dining experience that we can find here. We're looking for quintessential New Orleans food, as well as some recommendations for where to hang out afterward. Any suggestions?
And, as long as I'm posting, I'd also love recommendations for places where we can eat with our kids (both six years old). Our children are pretty well-behaved, so nicer restaurants would be fine. But, again, we're looking to dine at restaurants with great local food: anything from a great hole-in-the-wall to a finer dining experience would be greatly appreciated. We'd love to get a spectrum of the New Orleans experience. We've never been there, but will be in town for six days and we're hoping to eat the entire time.
As I have posted several times on this board, if you want the true, authentic French Creole cuisine of New Orleans that dates back 100-150 years, these are the restaurants, also known as the "Old Line" or "Grandes Dames" restaurants of New Orleans: Antoine's, Arnaud's, Brennan's, Galatoire's, and Tujague's. Antoine's, established in 1840, and Galatoire's, established in 1905, are still run by descendants of the founders. Brennan's, established in 1946, though somewhat younger and still run by descendants of the founder, maintains a fairly traditional French Creole menu. Arnaud's and Tujague's, although no longer operated by the founding families, still maintain the original recipes and atmosphere. Call ahead because operating hours at some have not returned to pre-Katrina. There are more casual places to dine and experience the more casual side of authentic Louisiana cuisine. Two that I would recommend are the Gumbo Shop and Deanie's. Keep in mind that the fancier side of Louisiana cuisine that you will find at Antoine's, Galatoire's, etc, is known as French Creole and involves courses with dishes that include sauces and is not that spicy. These dishes evolved from classic French cuisine. The more casual side of Louisiana cooking which is somewhat spicier and includes a lot of one-pot meals such as gumbo, jambalaya, and sauce piquantes, is more commonly known as Cajun. Deanie's and the Gumbo Shop are more Cajun.
Mikey's recommendations are top notch, though I'm not a huge fan of Mother's, but I guess everyone needs to go at least once. Galatoire's is essential New Orleans (though w/ the re-opening of Commander's, that would also be a good option). If you go to one of the old line restaurants like Galatoires, just tell your waiter the types of food you like or want to try and put yourself in his hands... Watch out for too many fried things, though, those oysters en brochette are soooo rich (oysters wrapped in backon and fried).... but DO eat some oysters.. they're great here and a lot cheaper than the ones you get in SF.
Haven't been to Alberta yet. Dick & Jenny's is one of my faves, but I also love Brigtsen's (may be a little to formal for kids, but Jacques-Imo's is a great suggestion for families.. A couple of other suggestions: Palace Cafe is a great Sunday brunch place, NOLA is Emeril's more casual place in the Quarter and I like it a lot, esp. for lunch. Antoine's is the oldest restaurant in America and was the originator of many of the old-line Creole dishes still served in restaurants all around town--including oysters Rockefeller, but I wouldn't go to Galatoire's AND Antoine's--it's an either/or proposition.
More casual places--Coop's (get the jambalaya), Drago's in Metairie has chargrilled oysters that are to die for and everyone else is a pale imitator. I really like the BBQ shrimp po-boy at Liuzza's By The Track (not to be confused w/ Liuzza's), Casamento's on Magazine Street is also great for oysters and soft-shell crab (raw bar and fried).
For your after-dinner night out, I'd head over to the Marigny district and go to Snug Harbor on Frenchmen for some good jazz.. other music venues are on the same street and it's a lot less touristy than going into the FQ. Have fun!
Ooh, now this really is a challenge but it is fun to answer. I was with a friend from here who lives in California and she is lamenting the fact that she cannot buy a single raw shrimp with the head on it in San Diego. Forget lump crabmeat. With that in mind, you definitely want places which serve all our local yummies.
Hands down, your ultimate local experience would be one night or a lunch at Galatoire's. It is dressy so expect that one evening to be your dress up night or day. The locals lunch on Friday or dine very early on Sunday evenings. I adored going there as a child and never tired of it. It is bright, loud, bustling and filled with character. We would dress up and go in our finest with my grandparents and I never forgot it. This is the place to bite the bullet, dress up the kids, and just enjoy the show. Go early on a Sunday and watch the parade of New Orleans socialites table hopping. Ask for Shannon as your server. Order the grande goute' platter, the fish almondine, the oysters brochette, the toasted garlic bread, and the souflee potatoes. This is the real creole place. They also serve wonderful fried chicken.
The other fancy place in town that is my favorite right now is Alberta on magazine St. You will need a cab for this place. It is in uptown New Orleans. The food is just wonderful and the crabmeat and avocado salad is sinfully good.
With the kids, they will love Dick and Jenny's which is very casual and filled with atmosphere. Also, even if a bit touristy, Jacques-imos serves all the local dishes you could ever want and it is always good. Once again, you would need a cab for this one.
Near your hotel is Cochon which is very bustling as well and which serves all local food in a very easy going atmosphere. I went there one night with a bunch of kids and it was perfect. The same owners run Herbsaint which is more swell and elegant. Go to Cochon.
For the absolute in the "real thing", take the family to Feelings in the Marigny. You wil also need a cab but the drive is only 10 minutes or so away from where you are staying. The food is perfectly good but it is the atmosphere that is uniquely New Orleans. Dim lights, tropical courtyard, perfect amount of dilapidation.
Upperline is my other favorite creole restaurant. The owner is a gem and she alone will win you over. I am not sure how kid friendly it is but I imagine they would do fine.
For the kids, you must take them to Cafe du Monde for the beignets and chocolate milk. Also, there is a children's musem near your hotel. For po-boys and for a great, very casual lunch, go to Mother's on Poydras St. This is within walking distance as well.
There are so many others but this should give you something to start with. Best of luck!