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Food and Jazz for Nawlins newbies

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My girlfriend and I will be in NOLA from Thursday, January 10th - Wednesday, January 16th. We're from Jersey so we can pretty much experience any kind of food save for real Cajun or Creole.

So what we want is New Orleans for awesome renowned restaurants and local divey joints with awesome food. I've seen a few posts here and elsewhere and I've started to put together some of the basic good stuff we'd like to eat at. Plus, we want to take in some jazz. Neither of us are jazz aficionados so we have no clue where to start or what's good. :-D

Here's what I'm looking at in terms of meal since we don't really have a singular set plan for what day to eat. Any input or advice is mucho appreciated.

DINNER
Upperline
Commander's Palace
Jacques-Imo's
Drago's
Cochon

LUNCH
Willie Mae's Scotch House
Domilise's*
Grand Isle (Shrimp or crawfish boil, any input here?)
Liuzza's By the Track (OTB raved about the barbecue shrimp po'boy)*
Parasol's*
Mother's

BREAKFAST/BRUNCH
Morning Call Coffee Stand
Commander's Palace

I did put Commander's Palace up twice - is it better for brunch or dinner?

* = we've been told the po'boys are worth it, my hope is to get the best debris po'boy, the best fried seafood po'boy, and the best overall for any other kind of po'boy.

Everything else is totally open. Feel free to call me out for the shameless tourists we will probably be. :D

EDIT: We plan on going to Laplace to get some Wayne Jacobs andouille, and I'll have a rental car for a bit as well. Are there any destinations worth driving out for? I've heard good things about Lafayette. I'll also have a scooter for a day or two to get around the city and have fun in the process. XD

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  1. I would throw in Johnny's on St. Louis in the French Quarter for poboys. Good and inexpensive. Parkway Bakery is another great poboy spot. Also, I think you probably mean Cafe du Monde instead of Morning Call. Morning Call is good and all, but it's way out in Metairie.

    As for jazz, I would recommend Fritzel's on Bourbon for Dixieland and Snug Harbor on Frenchmen for more contemporary jazz.

    1. "I did put Commander's Palace up twice - is it better for brunch or dinner?"

      Neither. Go there for a very decadent lunch. 25 cent martinis, and the food is much more reasonably priced.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chris Martel

        Definately Commanders for lunch. Cochon (all appetizer). Bozos (best oyster po'boy). Port of Call great burgers..(BTW my neice from LBI loved it). Dinner: Brigtsen's, Dick and Jenny's, Herbsaint, K-Paul's.. Rebirth Brass Band at The Maple Leaf every Tues. Kermit Ruffins at Vaughns Thurs. Snug Harbor for classic jazz. Preservation Hall (New Orleans jazz)

      2. My boyfriend and I are also from NJ and go down to NO at least once a year - we don't like traditional jazz at all but love New Orleans style jazz - the best place to hang out is in the Frenchman St area which is a very bohemian neighborhood with amazing music.

        Clubs to check out would be:
        Spotted Cat
        Apple Barrel
        Blue Nile
        and must go to Café Brasil on a Fri/Sat nite - if you're lucky one of the local big brass bands are playing

        For food - definitely Jacques-Imo's and we absolutely loved Stella! and GW Fins is good too. If you like oysters, stand at the counter at Felix’s and chit chat with the shuckers. We also liked Bennachin Restaurant which is a pretty divey local place with great and inexpensive food – and do the touristy thing and check out Café Du Monde. Unfortunately, most of our favorite places like Olde Nawlins Cookery and Mahleanani are closed.

        1 Reply
        1. re: LenNJ

          Spotted Cat FOR SURE. We were there a couple of weeks ago and saw the Jazz Vipers. Fantastic. Oh, and Brigtsen's, Extremely memorable meal. Get the duck.

        2. Overall a good list, but I'd skip Grand Isle and Mother's. GW Fins is a much better seafood choice, and no need for the touristy Mother's if you've been to the can't miss Domilise's. You might want to consider Irene's for Italian in the French Quarter. I agree totally with the other poster that Stella! is remarkable, but it's not quintessentially New Orleans in tone. If I had only one shot at getting the unique New Orleans vibe in a fine dining venue, without question it would be Friday lunch at Galatoire's. Also, Frenchmen Street is indeed not to be missed. Snug Harbor is a real gem (but DO NOT eat there!) It has a long tradition of the best jazz musicians and the best acoustics in town...well worth the usual $10-$15 cover charge. If you need to eat on Frenchmen, check out the Marigny Brasserie...nice vibe, great food, best wine list in that neighborhood. Have a great trip!

          12 Replies
          1. re: jeffchow

            Roger jeffchow about Frenchmen St. and the Brasserie....

            The Pfister Sisters (a female vocal trio) are local favorites, and those canaries serenade the Sunday brunchers there.

            eNJoy your visit!

            1. re: jeffchow

              Why wouldn't you eat there? Same burgers as Port of Call.

              1. re: uptownlibrarian

                Uptown, I say this as a huge Snug fan. I've been going there since the '80's (how time flies!) Port of Call and Snug used to have common ownership, but they separated many years ago. Again, the jazz at Snug is absolutely can't miss, but the food is indifferent, to put it mildly. On the same street, you have very nice upscale at the Brasserie, cozy inexpensive Italian at Adolfo's, the nice courtyard for Mexican at Tomatillo's, Wasabi for Sushi, and Soul Food at Praline Connection, not to mention the GREAT Thai at Sukhothai (hope I spelled that right!) around the corner. Snug is in my opinion the very best jazz club in the city, but it wouldn't make my list of the top 100 restaurants...too many other great venues, especially for a visitor, to spend a precious dining experience there. Maybe go to the Brasserie, sit at the bar for predrinks, walk across the street and upstairs to Adolfo's for dinner, down and across again to Snug for a show. Anyway, beauty, gastronomic and otherwise, is of course in the eye of the beholder, but that's my two pennies!

                1. re: jeffchow

                  There certainly are better restaurants in the surrounding three blocks, that's for sure. The burgers are however shockingly similar to Port of Call because the recipe/serving style has been the same forever, and I think they're good. I just wondered if there was another reason to warn people away in all caps, like you found out it was really ground cat or something.

                  1. re: jeffchow

                    I grew up in Jersey where you can get great Italian food and pizza all over. You won't find the quality Italian that you're used to and you will be sorely disappointed with Adolfos .. probably most Italian places in NOLA ( with the exception of Cafe Giovanni and possibly Irene's). They are unlike Jersey Italian (but in a NOLA kind of good way). You just gotta "eat it where it lives"and you'll have some great meals.

                    1. re: JazzyB

                      JazzyB

                      Where in Jersey? I grew up Clifton/Passaic so that in the words of of some forgotten poster makes me on of those "east Coast pizza snobs."

                      I have not been since the storm (and posters on this, and other boards mentioned that the old quality is not there), but Venezia was palatable, and the comfortable atmosphere always reminded me of Mario's on Van Houten Ave. in Clifton,

                      Cheers!

                      1. re: JerseyNOLA

                        JerseyNOLA: Husband was born in Passaic. Both of us grew up in Matawan then moved to the shore (Bradley Beach). Still have family in Matawan , Lanoka Harbor, Point Pleasant and Neptune. We are also east coast pizza snobs. Every time we visit, pizza is a must (with one to bring back to NOLA along with Taylor ham and Sabretts). We also stop at a Jewish deli. ( I am also a deli, rye bread, bagel, and hard roll snob). Anyway, back to NOLA, Vincent's on St. Charles is much better than Venezia (although I don't think they have pizza). After trying numerous pies, we prefer Sugar Park Tavern's in Bywater. ( sort of a NOLA take on the Jersey pie...don't like the cornmeal on the crust, but otherwise very good.).

                        1. re: JazzyB

                          Also a Northeast pizza snob. Try Mo's in Westwego. Better than most, but still not what we are used to.

                          1. re: Tonto

                            Hey Guys.....

                            Yes, definitely have to import Taylor Ham, kaiser rolls with poppy seeds to eat it on.....

                            I prefer my pizza "straight" - to much junk on top makes the crust soggy.

                            But the boss needs toppings - and Sugar Park is in the neighborhood and they cheerfully deliver - I usually opt for the shrimp and andouille.

                            I tried Mos, OK, but no cigar - Tower of Pizza on Lovely Veterans comes close, and I was impressed with Brooklyn pizza, but was distracted by the streak sandwich.

                            For ambiance, and excellent food, along with a decent (albeit crust a little thick) there is Nino's on Carrolton - Nino is a great guy, and his trail from Sicily to New Orleans was making Pizza in Brookytn, West Orange and Philly.

                            Have you checked out the Star Ledger Munchmobile site on NJ.com???? (They have a forum, but usually discuss hot dogs and pizza with an occasional diversion into Taylor ham)

                            Cheers Guys....

                2. re: jeffchow

                  Stella is in my opinion the best restaurant top-to-bottom in the FQ. I think Galatoire's tends to be a bit daunting to the uninitiated. You have to "get" Galatoire's, and it's difficult to fully appreciate on your first trip unless you are accompanied by some locals who put you at ease. That said, you'll be alright if you have a couple of cocktails.

                  Stella I think is a better bet for unaccompanied tourists. BUT it's by no means a step down from Galatoire's. The food is exquisite and the ambience is very charming. I would also recommend you check out Bayona, though I can't vouch for it post-K.

                  As for sloppy po-boys, for my money you can't beat Parkway Bakery and Tavern on Hagan (not too far from FQ.) The roast beef poboys are magical and there is plenty of seating.

                  I endorse Cochon as a choice. It's a very unique concept--rustic cajun elevated to fine dining. I think they pull it off very well. It's only a couple of years old, so the decor is very fresh.

                  As for jazz, I think you can't go wrong with Snug Harbor.

                  1. re: Matty Gras

                    Agree with you that Stella! is fabulous, one of the three or four best in the city, just not in my opinion particularly evocative of New Orleans specifically. Depends on what you're looking for...

                  2. re: jeffchow

                    Mother's is AWFUL.

                  3. try to see Kermit Ruffins at Vaughn's on Thursday... i would take a taxi instead of your rental though

                    1. First, I would skip Mother's and personally, Jaque-Imo's, though most people will think I'm crazy and it would be a perfect ride up St. Charles from the Quarter on a scooter to uptown where Jaque's is. You've also got to take a nice afternoon scoot down Magazine St. where there are ALOT of bars and restaurants to choose from. Another great place Uptown is Mat and Naddie's, a "can't miss" in my opinion - it's on Leake Ave. (runs along the river). The charbroiled oysters are to die for.

                      Snug Harbor for jazz and dinner one night is a must. I think it would be best if you made a reservation.

                      And you must get a cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde in Jackson Square. Thats in the quarter, and a very tourist-ridden par of it, but awesome place nonetheless.

                      You are going to have an awesome time, I'm jealous!

                      1. There is no better place to be a shameless tourist than N.O.!

                        I am with some of the others on Parkway Bakery, if you have a rental car, it is definitely worth the small drive. Also, I am envious that you are planning to go to Cochon, I would definitely give them two thumbs up. Nice unique menu, and they have excellent service. The mirliton salad and boucherie plate are not to be missed. Ask for the head cheese. All of them go nicely with an Abita.

                        Perhaps you can make it to Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone for a Pimm's Cup and Napoleon House for a Sazerac. More plugs from a shameless tourist.

                        If you need a night in your hotel room, like I did, go by or get Verdi Mart to deliver a Muffaletta, or their french fry po' boy. Yum!

                        Commander's seems to be hit or miss, but if you hit, it's good.

                        1. Can't believe no one's mentioned Casamento's for the incredible fried oyster loaf on pan bread (and some of the best raw oysters in the city). You'll be there at the perfect time of year, as Casamento's closes for the summer. (Uptown, at the corner of Magazine and Napoleon - casamentosrestaurant.com).

                          I second the vote for Napoleon House for a Pimm's Cup or a Sazerac. It's a beautiful, crumbling antidote to the neon brashness of Bourbon Street. To avoid crowds, go NH mid-to-late afternoon or after dinner. (French Quarter, at the corner of Chartres and St. Louis - napoleonhouse.com)

                          It's the rare tourist that makes a pilgrimage to Rock 'n' Bowl, but an evening at the Bowl is a quintessentially New Orleans experience. Located in a dilapidated shopping center 15-20 minutes away from the French Quarter, Rock 'n' Bowl is a gritty, funky 1960s bowling alley with an area roped off for a band. Some people just go to dance and listen to music (great musicians play there). Others go for the full-on RnB experience, which entails drinking, bowling, and listening to music simultaneously (recommended!). In any other destination city, Rock 'n' Bowl would be a "wink-wink-aren't-we-ironic" kinda place. In New Orleans, it's 100% authentic. Check the online calendar to see who's playing while you're in town (rockandbowl.com/CalandarPAGE/calendar2.html). And here are a few traveler reviews: (http://murl.se/29122) .

                          TAKE A TAXI. (Add this to your cell phone: United Cab - 522-9771 or 524-8380).

                          Have a great time!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: SBrooksB

                            Thank you so much for the Rock 'n' Bowl rec! I am definitely going there when I am in town.

                            1. re: christina_hunnicutt

                              You're welcome! Hope you enjoy it!

                          2. If you want an absolutely delicious roast beef po'boy, you have to go to Parkway. It's not far from the FQ. If you go there, get the sweet potato fries!

                            I also have to second Verti Marte. When I was there a few weeks ago, it was packed. The French Fry po'boy is like nothing I've had and strangely wonderful.

                            The Carousel Bar was awesome-a bit disorienting at first but a great experience.

                            Finally, Cochon was one of the best (if not the best) meal I had during my recent trip to New Orleans. The service was nearly flawless as was the food.

                            1. Try Donnas for some brass bands/jazz, and decent ribs and burgers!

                              1. Two favorite shameless tourist suggestions: Central City Grocery for a muffaletta (take it to sit by the river with a bottle of wine - and plenty of napkins for the sandwich!) and Fiorella's for fried chicken.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: glorypea

                                  I'd second/third Casamento's--excellent oysters, and it's a unique place. Go early, or be prepared to wait a while.
                                  For breakfast, there's also the Camellia Grill. Most amazing, fluffiest omelets ever, and the guys who work the counter are a trip.
                                  Mandina's, on Canal, is a tasty neighborhood place with their own versions of local cuisine. Very tasty oyster po boys.
                                  And, not entirely New Orleans but delicious nonetheless, La Davini's Gelato on Magazine (not close enough to Casamento's to walk unless you have plenty of time to spare, though). Heavenly homemade gelato with an emphasis on local and natural ingredients, changes every few days, and can be served in a croissant--utter decadence.