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Jan 2, 2008 08:21 PM

1st timer lookin' for local fare..

My fiance and I are heading to New Orleans sometime mid-March for 7-8 days. We'll be staying at the Ritz, and may or may not rent a car depending on what the locals rec.). I know we will be dining at Stella!, Brigtsen's, Arnaud's, Delachaise, & August.
I was wondering about Tujagues, I have read about on a few other New Orleans boards but nothing about it here.. I'm guessing there is a reason for that.

While we are foodies and enjoy fine dining at it's best we are also "city kids" who love local dive bars (... I mean where the locals actually hang out) and as my Southern grandmother would say good ol' down home cookin'. So any tips to point us in that direction it would be killer.

Finally, I would like everyone's opinion on the best of the following:
Shrimp & grits
Red beans & Rice

Is Fried Okra a New Orleans thing? I haven't had any great fried Okra since my grandad passed away, but he was a Virginian.

Okay I think that should be enough for now, in case you haven't noticed I am more that a bit excited about our little adventure... although I've never been I know I am going to fall in love with NO.

OH! One last question does anyone know where Tennessee Williams wateringhole might be and if it would still be in operation? As an actress I must pay homage.

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  1. You're off to a good start with your list. The dive bar that you'll want to check out is Coop's, on the opposite end of the Quarter (in more ways than one!) from the Ritz Carlton. They have great food, too.

    As for a car, although I almost always rent one when I'm in town, I generally do not recommend it to others less familiar with the city. Getting around by cab will be easier.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Blumie

      Nah, the dive bars you want to check out are the Saturn Bar and Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge. Two very, very only-in-New-Orleans spots.

      Caveat: Both are in neighborhoods where you might not feel safe after dark, especially not knowing the area. I've never had a problem with either, and I've been to both a ton, but others may disagree.

      1. re: Burgoober

        The Saturn Bar is a great venue, but they don't serve food, do they?

        You probably don't want to walk around there at night, but it's the kinda place where you can park right out front, or on the neutral ground across the street. It's not the kinda place where I'd expect to be able to hail a cab, though. (On my last visit to the Hi-Ho Lounge, I ended up walking back to the Ritz when I wasn't able to get a cab. I wouldn't want to have to do that from the Saturn.)

        1. re: Burgoober

          What's the Saturn like these days? I know that O'Neil's family took over the bar after he died, and tidied it up a bit, but I haven't been back since Katrina. It used to be one of my favorite dives in the universe.

          1. re: SBrooksB

            The good news is that if it's been "tidied up a bit," you'd never notice!

            1. re: Blumie

              I was worried about that, you know? You've lifted a huge weight off my mind!

          2. re: Burgoober

            what area is the saturn bar in that it is not so safe?

            Do you guys think it's ok to walk from the fairgrounds back to the french qtr at night?

            1. re: kevin

              Dude, it's not safe to walk anywhere at night.

                1. re: kevin

                  the saturn bar is in the bywater. It isn't very safe to even walk from your car to the bar, although I do it. It is a nice little joint and worth it. The Hi Ho lounge is just a block down from it as well and a nice place. Last time I was at the Saturn bar they had a taco truck outside for those that want food.

                  1. re: malenky

                    i thought the bywater is in a decent neighborhood?

                    is it bywater close to the fairgrounds or close to say the area were the crescent city steakhouse on broad st is at?


                    1. re: kevin

                      the bywater is in back of the marigny. the saturn bar is on St. Claude. It borders the 9th ward as well. there are decent areas of the bywater but most are not so decent.

                      1. re: kevin

                        Yeah I would say that generally, the Bywater is not a safe neighborhood. Not especially close to the Fairgrounds or Broad St.

              1. Shrimp & grits is a carolina lowcountry thing, not a south LA thing, though you will find it on the menu at a few restos 'round here. Tujague's has a cool, old-fashioned bar, worth a visit. You can dine at the bar, too. T's is an old-fashioned place; nothing cutting edge or modern, but solid, decent, basic food.

                Add Cafe Reconcile to your list; it's downhome cooking for a good cause (lunch only) will 'splain it all. Eat fried catfish with homemade tartar sauce, or shrimp&whitebeans, or smothered okra & shrimp....

                10 Replies
                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  Shrimp and Grits may be lowcountry, but they often have them at Elizabeths in the Bywater. And they are pretty great. As is weekend breakfast/brunch generally. You should definitely check it out if you are looking for local spots.

                  On the Fried Okra, you could try Praline Connection. I dont actually think much of the cooking there generally, but they do have heaping servings of Fried Okra.

                  Red Beans and Rice - Check out Mandinas, Two Sisters, Dunbar's - all serving pretty good versions. If I remember correctly, JacquesImos does as well, though Im not positive on that. For all that, I gotta say that Im pretty happy with the red beans and rice from Popeye's. Which reminds me, Fiorellas has pretty good red beans and rice as well, along with some smoking fried chicken.

                  Dive Bars - I would skip Coop's - good food, and a good destination if you are looking for food and bar in the same place, but pretty touristy at this point. Not a place where Id go just to have a drink. There are a ton of dive bars in the Quarter. Which ones? The ones that look like your momma wouldnt want you to go in.

                  If you are looking for bars with food that are local, check out Parkway Tavern (and sit in the bar), Liuzzas by the Track, Elizabeths upstairs, Cooter Browns, even Domilises. All of these places have bars as part of the general feel of the place, even though none of them is really a bar first and foremost (except maybe for Cooter Browns).

                  For straight local dive bars, I would also recommend Snake and Jake's, Circle Bar, Ernie K Doe's, Vaughan's (Thursday night - maybe Kermit will hook you up with the red beans and rice you are looking for), Mid City Rock n Bowl, R Bar (bit on the yuppie side, but a lot of fauborg marigny neighborhood there, particularly earlier in the evening on weekdays) and Les Bon Temps Roulez. These arent all dives, per se, but they are all pretty great bars where locals go.

                  I dont know anywhere with beignets other than Cafe Du Monde. And contrary to what seems to be universal opinion, I wouldnt recommend going there to anyone. The last few years it always seems filthy, the coffee is less than mediocre and its often crowded. The service is at best indifferent (which is fair enough at a coffee place, but not if the coffee is crap as well). This place might have stood out before the advent of the coffee bar, but I dont see the point any more. Id skip the beignet and have an extra piece of fried chicken :)

                  1. re: TJ47

                    Oh, man, the cafe au lait at CDM absolutely nothing to do with "coffee bar" coffee. It predates the modern American coffee bar by a hundred years, and it serves a perfectly fine example of chicory cafe au lait. If you don't like chicory cafe au lait, that's fine, but it doesn't mean that CDM is crap (I'm ignoring all other perversions of coffee recently added to their menu). As for chicory cafe au lait, I'd give the slightest edge to Morning Call, but Casamento's (of all places) serves Union chicory cafe au lait, so it's possibly the best cup in town. But that might be the proximity to raw oysters & seafood fried in lard coloring my perceptions just a little....

                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      You hit the nail on the head...and you are right, Morning Call has the edge(even though it left the Quarter---I can't get over that). But CDM coffee is not a patch on hwat it was years is too thin nowawdays. Union is the best coffee and chicory by far in my opinion. Truth to tell, though, I stick to French Market Pure...I love that stuff.

                      Is Yogi still around? I have not seen it in years....

                    2. re: TJ47

                      The service at CdM has always been "indifferent," since back into the late '50s. However, the coffee and the beignets were alwasy great. Sorry to hear about the coffee. It was never all that clean. Even after the customary wipe of a damp cloth, by the waiter, your arms still stuck to the table. However, give me a foggy night at CdM, and I'm transported back decades, to when you could still smell the brewing, going on at the Jax Brewery, and my wife getting off work at 11:30PM, and we'd park right in front and have an order of beignets and coffee - this was long before they offered decaf. Heck, I still recall when they, and the Morning Call, had curb service, when you parked at either location.

                      Sorry to hear that they have gone down. It's been two visits, since we got back to CdM, but I'll have to check it out, next time - even if just for old memories.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Interesting, the Jax Brewery is still there, the building I mean, is it a part of the city's historic preservation or a monument of sorts? also, what's in the building now? it's not a shopping mall, is it?

                        Yes, there's nothing quite like the confectioner's sugar showering all over you as you bite into a beignet and wash it down with a hot cup of cafe au lait, and waiters off to the side chain-smoking cigarettes, and you just barely feeling the breeze from the Mississippi River, true bliss, and a true piece of nostalgia.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Of course Jax Brewery is a shopping mall! This is the USA, where anyone deprived of shopping for longer than ten seconds falls over and starts hemorrhaging! ;-) My great aunt had a corner apartment in the St. Peter Pontalba buildings, and I vividly remember the "hoppy" smell of the Jax brewery. About Tujaques -- no, Violetlee, it's not worth going for the food. But Tujaque's is an old, old bar, and the last time I stopped in, the bartender on duty made me a superb Sazerac. (NOTE: Unless you like very sweet drinks, always ask the bartender to cut back on the sugar in a Sazerac. Bars are over-sweetening Sazeracs as a concession to the Hurricane, Hand Grenade, and Jello shot crowd.)

                          1. re: SBrooksB

                            Tujague's is ABSOLUTELY worth the food. It might not be "worth it" to eat in the restaurant, but there is nothing better than getting chicken bonne femme in the bar. Violetlee, chicken bonne femme is chicken breasts, legs, wings and thighs roasted with garlic and parsley and served over potatoes. Tujague's serves it, and you can order it from the bartender and enjoy it with your Sazerac at one of the three tables in the bar.

                            Speaking of, where else serves good bonne femme?

                            1. re: uptownlibrarian

                              isn't a similar though far superior dish served up at Mosca's just an hour or so away.???

                              1. re: kevin

                                Apples and organges. Chicken bonne femme isn't the same thing as Mosca's chicken grande. Both are good, but not the same. Chicken grande is very, very garlicky, with a deep, almost mahogany color. Chicken bonne femme is not as deeply browned, less garlicky, and brighter in flavor thanks to the parsley, plus those potatoes are an integral part of the whole: they absorb the chicken drippings in a wonderful way.

                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  you said the majgic words very garlicky and mahogany, i'm so there.

                  2. As a lover of authentic Cajun cooking, I wouldn't pass up fresh Louisiana crawfish for much else. March is a great time to have them: boiled, etouffee, bisque, etc. I also love beignets, morning, noon and night. But even though red beans and rice is a New Orleans staple, it wouldn't be tops on my list; it's just too ordinary.

                    1. Shrimp & Grits is not a NO thing. Grits and Grillades..that's a different story.
                      Crawfish...good time of year to get boiled, as they are in season. You could also try a fried crawfish po-boy from Mothers ( YUM! Boiled is my personal fav.
                      Try Central Grocery in the FQ for a muffaletta.
                      Red Beans and Rice is purely personal. Everyone makes it different. It is traditionally served on if your here on a Monday look for it on all the specials boards.
                      Beignets...Cafe Du Monde without a doubt. Make sure your Fiance is wearing a dark color and pretend to sneeze and blow the powdered sugar all over her. Its a local joke. :)


                      6 Replies
                      1. re: RedBeans04

                        Anyplace in town do a softshell crawfish po'boy? It's been sold at the JazzFest the last couple of years, but I don't recall having seen it around town. I like it better than my old Fest favorite, the softshell crab po'boy. Is there a softshell crawfish season?

                        1. re: Blumie

                          Not that I am aware of. Catching softshell crab or crawfish normally happens on a farm and not by luck in the wild. I've raised softshell crabs but I don't think I've ever eaten a softshell crawfish. Try googling the caterers Sharon and Guilherme Wegner of Metairie, they are the vendors that do the soft shell crawfish po-boy. I can't say that I know of any place off hand that serves this item. If you find back...I'm intrigued I think.

                          My personal Fest fav is Crawfish Monica. I make it all the time at home...super easy to make! If you do a google search for Crawfish Monica recipe...the most authentic one is the link from gumbo pages titled crawfish pasta. FYI.

                          Red Beans

                          1. re: RedBeans04

                            I've only ever seen frozen softshelled crawfish, never fresh (whereas fresh, live softshell crab is fairly easy to find). Personally, I don't like the taste of softshell crawfish at is far from subtle. For a while, SSC were here and there on menus around town, but now you hardly ever see 'em.

                          2. re: Blumie

                            Basically, non-farm-raised soft-shelled crabs are going to come in about May and run thru July, with a few stragglers in August (the month, not the restaurant). You will be too early, except for the farm-raised (actually, many are raised in the desert in AZ, and are not bad - just not quite up to par with the "wild" versions), or the frozen. I'd pass, as there is too much good food otherwise, to waste the time, the $, or the calories.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              All softshelled crabs sold in restaurants today are produced by commercial shedding operations. They're not "farm-raised" in any sense. Rather, they're wild-caught, about-to-shed crabs which are sold by fishermen (then usually to a wholesaler) to operators who maintain the "shedders" or "redline" crabs in wide, shallow tanks for anywhere from about 1-10 days until the crab sheds. Once it pops out, it is removed from the water, which prevents it from hardening any further. During the whole process, the crabs aren't fed (they don't really eat in the wild during the immediate pre & post shedding anyway).

                              During the peak of summer, crabs grow more quickly due to the warm water temps, so they shed more quickly & generally move around more, so more crabs are caught overall (leading to lower prices & better availability). Crabs do shed in the winter, though. A fresh softshell is a fine thing, but a properly handled frozen crab is nothing to avoid. I happily eat softshells year-round, though the price is often higher in colder months. Due to the price increase, some restos don't serve 'em in winter, leading to a widespread misunderstanding about "seasonality" or "availability".

                            2. re: Blumie

                              Just got back from NO. Had a soft-shell crab loaf at Casamento's. Just perfect.

                          3. I forgot to address your query regarding fried okra. It is a staple around many restaurants here. I believe I've even had it "to-go" somewhere but for the life of me I can't remember where. Ask around when you get here...I'm sure you'll get lots of people who know. They should always be crisp...not soft or soggy.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: RedBeans04

                              I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Piccadilly Cafeteria has good fried okra.

                              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                Don't be embarrassed about that- if it wasn't for Piccadilly there would be a lot of people in the world who never had the chance to taste Crawfish Etouffee...

                                1. re: Clarkafella

                                  Go to Liuzza's on Bienville for fried pickle slices, that's good stuff.
                                  Cafe Reconcile is def. good home cooking, and my friend is one of the teacher/chefs there.
                                  As far as crawfish go, not sure who does good boiled one's in the quarter, although Deanie's in the quarter is open again and they do decent crawfish.
                                  If I was down there I'd have a crawfish boil for you and show you what good crawfish is all about.
                                  Cafe Du Monde for the beignets and cafe au lait.