New Orleans Basics
I will be visiting New Orleans between 2/12 and 2/17 (with perhaps a day trip out of the city) and was hoping I could get some very basic reccos on places to eat. I've only been to New Orleans once, and it was for just 18 hours, so I didn't get far!
To try to narrow my query a bit, I suppose I'm looking for guidance on two things:
1) As a rule, I generally try to avoid touristy places -- but that said, are there any touristy places that I just shouldn't miss? As an example, I went to some sandwich place (Momma's? Big Momma's?) that had a hero (maybe a Po-boy, but I don't want to misuse the term) with oven scrapings that I really enjoyed. And I really want to try beignets, and suppose I'll go to Cafe du Monde unless some Hounder steers me elsewhere.
2) This is the harder one -- where are a few places that I should go to try to begin to understand the grammar of New Orleans cooking? Put differently, what do you think I need to try during three or four days of eating opportunities? Gumbo? Po-boys of different varieties? Fried chicken? I'd love to hear your thoughts. By way of example, if you were coming to New York City (where I live) and were asking the same question, I'd steer you to very precise places to try real bagels and bialies, hot dogs, pizza, deli, knishes and any number of things that are distnictly NYC.
By the way, on my first brief trip I managed to make it to Uglesich's, which fairly put me over the moon. I'm told it closed.
My general mantra is, show me the first place the returning soldier goes when he comes home on leave. That's where I want to be.
Sorry -- this is a bit longer than I'd intended. I really, really appreciate your guidance.
I'll leave the inner city suggestions to the other folks but if you take a day trip I have a couple of suggestions. If you take a ride west on Airline, stop at the visitor center in Gramercy and get your free bag of Zap's chips. Then take the short nature walk on the boardwalk. Next cross the MS river bridge in Gramercy, head north, eat at B & C on River Road and take a plantation tour. My favorite is St. Joe. Don't forget to get a snowball under the bridge on your way home. Or go west on I-10 and take the first LaPlace exit. Then go right and take another right on Peavine Road. The Crab Trap and Frenier Landing are two good restaurants there right on the lake. Upstairs from the Crab Trap is Lakeview Snowballs. They are fabulous. If you continue up highway 51 there's a nature trail just before the interstate meets the old highway. Continue north on 51 and you reach the beautiful old town of Ponchatoula. There's old hardhide, the gator, in the middle of town right next to Paul's Cafe. At Paul's you can buy some sweet Louisiana wine and have a fine inexpensive meal. When you get into Ponchatoula take a left on the main road and go a couple of miles to A Taste of Bavaria bakery and restaurant for some fresh baked bread. On your way back stop at Berrytown Produce for some Liuzza Farms tomatoes or strawberries. Check out my daytrip pics at www.ladayrides.com - it might give you some ideas.
The Crab Trap
Peavine Road near the Peavine Boat Launch, Frenier, 985.651.4150
Louie Lipps' weekend-only seafood joint is a seasonal business, with the season beginning just as the demand for crawfish approaches its fever pitch. This year, opening day is Feb. 13, when the specialist will unveil a new twist on the otherwise bare bones seafood menu: wood-smoked ribs.
1) Mother's; and you likely had a roast beef debris po boy. There are many other po boy places to try: Parkway Bakery, Mahoney's, Parasol's, Domilise's...to start.
Cafe du Monde is still a great place for beignets (don't wear black there)
2) check out Cochon, Acme Oyster, Boucherie, Jacques-Imo's, Brigtsen's, Patois, Galley Seafood, Liuzza's, Rivershack Tavern
when I've traveled and been away for a long time, I want raw oysters, fried oysters, soft shell crabs, boiled crabs and crawfish, roast beef po boys, rabbit.
for a road trip, you might to check out Middendorf's or Roberto's River Road.
Liuzza's By the Track
1518 N Lopez St, New Orleans, LA 70119
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
Domilise's Sandwich Shop & Bar
5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
538 Hagan Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119
Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130
723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
8324 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118
6078 Laurel St., New Orleans, LA 70118
Galley Seafood Restaurant
2535 Metairie Rd, Metairie, LA 70001
Mahony's PO Boy Shop
3454 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
2533 Constance St, New Orleans, LA 70130
3449 River Rd, Jefferson, LA
In response to #2: this is an excellent question--and one that will generate a great diversity of responses if you ask locals, as everyone has their own spin on "essential" New Orleans cooking, shaped by their particular neighborhood, ethnic background, and personal favorites.
My take follows:
--you definitely need to visit a seafood joint/oyster bar. Skip the ones in the Quarter and head uptown to Casamento's, where you'll encounter mostly locals, a friendly shucker, and impeccable seafood fried in lard. I'd start with half a dozen raw (unless you're with friends or have a massive appetite), an order of fried crab claws, and a fried softshell sandwich (or an oyster loaf, if you want more oysters). Other possibilities include the oyster stew or the gumbo (but it's too italian a gumbo for my personal tastes).
--you need to experience a neighborhood poboy shop. Parkway Bakery is a fine choice, or Crabby Jack's, or Domilese or Parasol's or Guy's. Try a roast beef, or a hot ham & cheese, or fried oysters (yes, again), or anything else that tickles your fancy.
--if you don't have time to get out into the hinterlands, then Cochon will provide your palate with a sampling of the pork-centric flavors of Acadiana.
--if you're inclined toward classic dining establishments with a sense of history, then Galatoire's is a must. Or Commander's Palace, especially if you like bustling places with people-watching opportunities.
--if ingredients-driven modern fine dining is your thing, then you could hit MiLa, Restaurant August, or Cuvee for Louisiana inspired creations.
--please do go to Cafe du Monde. Locals go there--how else do you explain the success of the satellite locations in shopping malls? CDM is cheap, tasty, and fun. Drink a cafe au lait, eat some beignets: it will cost all of $5, a little more if you tip generously.
As far as gumbo, you could live three lifetimes and not sample all of the delicious variations available. There is no one or two definitive versions: more like a hundred.
re: Hungry Celeste
What she said, and....
I never have gumbo in restaurants -- my mom's gumbo has spoiled me -- but Brigtsen's makes a great duck gumbo, and Commander's always has great gumbo, as well as turtle soup. The added benefit of Brigtsen's is getting out of the quarter (way out) and having an excuse to go Uptown.
I second votes for Cafe Du Monde, Parkway, Cochon and Galatoire's, but I would add a Central Grocery Muffaletta (only if you like olives) and lunch at Bayona.
Also, as you probably are aware, there will be parades going on when you're here, including Barkus, the dog parade in the Quarter. Here's the schedule:
As Hungry Celeste states earlier in the thread, a visit to Galatoire's is really a must.
Now, comes the hard part. Standing in line and dining downstairs is a real treat. It is a show, with no real cover-charge.
However, for your #2, I will break from tradition, and give you the reason for doing so. Make a reservation and dine upstairs. Plan on several hours of dining. Walk slowly past the downstairs, as it is worth seeing. Once upstairs, things are just a tad bit quieter, and often more laid-back. That's why I am recommending it. Once your server has introduced him/herself, inquire about every aspect of the food. Show that you are very interested and wish to learn. Explain that you are "new in town," and want the "ultimate New Orleans experience." Your server will guide you, and in the quieter, upstairs, will likely be able to spend a bit more time with you. If you wish to learn about New Orleans cuisine, Galatoire's is the place. Do not be in any hurry. Allow the server to pick for you, and allow them to tell you why. You will likely walk out quite full, and satisfied, plus will have an honorary degree in cuisine, history and social anthropology - all for the price of one meal.
There is also a New Orleans (or maybe fully Louisiana) cuisine museum in the Riverwalk area. I have not been, but it might be worth a trip.
Relax and enjoy,