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First timers in NOLA

Hello all... My husband will be taking me on a 30th birthday trip to NOLA for the weekend. We are going to be there from 7/10 - 7/12 and are staying in the FQ. I am ridiculously excited about our visit and have been researching restaurants and things to do for a while. We love good music, good food, good beer and good wine. We have an eating agenda put together, but I welcome your opinions and thoughts on the matter. Also, if there is a dish that you've had at any of the places I've listed that is a MUST TRY, please share. Also, I would love to hear more about the bars / lounges / nightlife - Places that we just can't miss.

Friday :
Late breakfast - Cafe du Monde for some coffee and beignets.
Lunch - Cochon
I signed us up for the walking cocktail tour - Is this a mistake? It got great reviews on tripadvisor.
Dinner - Luke
Drinks or Live Music??? Any suggestions or recommendations? We read about French 75, which we want to check out. Thoughts?

Breakfast - The Old Coffee Pot
Lunch - Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Dinner - MILA
No idea what we are doing after dinner - would like some recommendations as well.

Brunch - EAT

Look forward to your responses!!

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  1. You've somehow listed all places that I've never been (except CDM) so let me just throw a couple of alternate ideas out there:

    Friday lunch: Commander's Palace. It's one of the most incredible overall dining experiences you will ever have. They throw all their energy into lunch even though it can easily run under $20 a person.
    Saturday lunch: BBQ Shrimp at Mr. B's Bistro. A stand-out dish.
    Sunday brunch: Lil Dizzy's on Esplanade - Very neighborhood, very lively, really good (and cheap!)
    Dinner either night: K-Paul's
    Drinks: Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (it spins!)
    Live music: at least one night you need to o to Preservation Hall. Check the schedule on their website to find out what nights the PH Jazz Band is there.

    I have a lot of detail on most of these in my thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/633414

    Lil Dizzy's Cafe
    1500 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116

    Commander's Palace Restaurant
    1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

    Carousel Bar
    214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA

    Mr B's Bistro
    201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

    Preservation Hall
    726 St Peter St, New Orleans, LA

    2 Replies
    1. re: kukubura

      I love Little Dizzy's and my friends from VA go to the Carousel Bar every time they visit, which is about twice a year. I will also add that lunch at Bon Ton is wonderful. I know Chowhounders have heard me say this before, but the house salad w/house dressing and the bread pudding are great. You can't go wrong with any entree, but I love the crabmeat au gratin.


      1. re: kukubura

        +1 on Commander's Palace, but i would swap it for the sunday brunch at Eat, keeping Cochon. cochon is an interesting place and lunches are pretty good, definitely not what you have back home.

        +1 on the bbq shrimp at Mr. B's, it is a "must try" for my guests. but since you have no lunch slots open, i would consider it for a dinner alternative to Luke or Mila; probably Luke -- while ive been for lunch a couple times its never really compelled me to come in for a dinner.

      2. I would tend to steer you away from the walking cocktail tour, but I have never been on one before. You can pick up a great book-Obituary Cocktail, and read the history of each bar and the signature drink. After doing so, you can create your own cocktail tour and may enjoy it more. Most of the bartender's in the bars they visiti on tours would probably be happy to share any history or bar lore with you. Only my opinion. Your current agenda looks pretty good. On Saturday, you may want to try Stella instead of MiLa, although since you are in town for Tales of the Cocktail, reservations may be hard to come by. On Sunday Brunch EAT is very good, but I prefer Commander's brunch. For good, live music, check out a lot of the bars on Frenchmen Street. It is just steps away from the Quarter, and is an excellent choice. Tipitina's also usually has a good band as does Rock N Bowl. You can bowl while listening to a great local band. For upscale bars, try Carousel Bar, Swizzle Stick Lounge, Sazerac Bar, BAr Uncommon, Cure,. For stiff drinks, late at night try Miss Mae's or F & M PAtion Bar. I would definetly check out the book Obituary Cocktail if you have a chance. Good luck.

        37 Replies
        1. re: ScarlettNola

          Ditto Commanders for Fri. lunch, reserve the garden room. It's a glass enclosed room upstairs. Complain if they try to seat you elsewhere. Not a big fan of MiLa. I'd go to Emeril's ( the food just tastes good here) or Herbsaint.

          1. re: JazzyB

            Thanks everyone!!

            So far, I've changed Friday's lunch from Cochon to Commander's Palace- made reservations and asked for the Garden Room. VERY EXCITED!! =0)

            Since we are going there on Friday, I don't think that I'll go back for Sunday's brunch - only because I want to try another restaurant. I'm actually really looking forward to EAT - heard they have excellent shrimp and gritz which I'm dying to have. I'm going to have a hard time parting with my original plan here.

            Will check out Lil Dizzy's instead of the Old Coffee Pot on Saturday.

            Still considering my dinner options for Saturday night. I'm also having a tough time parting with my Saturday lunch choice of Parkway Bakery & Tavern, only because I've heard that their po boys are out of this world. I'm not sure that I can miss out on that opportunity. Although Mr. B's BBQ Shrimp does sound pretty darn good!

            Love all of the drink / bar / lounge recommendations. I wish there were more hours in the day!! And more meals too!!

            1. re: JFarah

              The shrimp and grits at EAT are excellent. You may want to fit Parkway in as a "snack" (you and hubby split po boy of choice) early in the day or midafternoon sometime after lunch, or you could be like me and skip breakfast entirely and eat at Parkway as soon as they open, and eat lunch a little later.

              1. re: JFarah

                Very happy to hear you're gong to Commander's. Definitely come back and post about it.

                Mr. B's doesn't have to be dinner. The BBQ Shrimp at lunch is plentiful and much cheaper. You can also make it a snack and sit at the bar. You can even split a plate with some cocktails there. We did that a couple of times and loved it. New Orleans is about sampling flavors and this is a great way to try a signature dish while still leaving yourself open to other meals.

                Also, Mr. B's is right across the street from the Carousel Bar, where you can go and discuss the amazing BBQ Shrimp you just had over yet more great cocktails! If you're there in the evening and you get Eddie as your bartender you'll be in good hands. He's our bartender of choice there.

                1. re: kukubura

                  Great idea!! A BBQ shrimp snack. Yummy.

                  1. re: kukubura

                    Question for all... What would you order at Commander's? Any spectacular dishes come to mind?

                    1. re: JFarah

                      I think they change the menu all the time. But they usually have a seafood bisque type soup that is incredible. And the bread pudding souffle with whiskey sauce dessert is also incredible. The best entree I remember was a crawfish strudel, but they didn't have that this last time.

                      As for cocktails, I'm especially in love with the whiskey smash. And the hibiscus martini is great too. Regular martinis are 25 cents at lunch, so that's nice too!

                      Oh, and don't forget to dress up for lunch! You'll be glad you did. Did you ever say where you're staying? If it's in the FQ or CBD then take the St Charles streetcar to Commander's. It's the best way to go. You'll feel very fancy strolling through the Garden District on your way to a swanky lunch.

                      1. re: kukubura

                        We're staying in the FQ... They did tell us that it was business casual for Friday lunch. The husband was planning on wearing a pair of beige pants and a polo... Is that fine?
                        Is a little sundress with a cardigan ok for me?

                        1. re: JFarah

                          Sounds like a good lunch ensemble.

                          1. re: JFarah

                            NOLA is still a tad more formal than many US cities. For "business casual," I'd do a blazer and open collared shirt. You should be perfectly fine.



                            PS do not discount Old Coffee Pot for breakfast.

                        2. re: JFarah

                          Don't miss Commander's turtle soup.


                          1. re: JFarah

                            Plus 1 on the turtle soup. It is incredible. They also have a "Chef Tory Special" which generally includes 3 courses with your choice of an appetizer, entree and dessert. (the bread pudding is excellent). If you do order the special it is a set menu. My husband always orders a la carte and really likes the Oyster and Absinthe dome, as well as the tasso/shrimp henican. They also generally offer a fish special it is always absolutely delicious and varies from day to day. I would not recommend the streetcar for lunch, only because by the time you walk over from St. Charles to CP, you may melt in this heat and show up for lunch rumpled and wilted. Kukubura has a great idea for nighttime dining, or during any season but summer. Sorry kukubura! I grew up in this heat and would not want to walk in my finest during summer months if I can help it. You will be glad you lunched a Commander's Palace.

                            1. re: ScarlettNola

                              I have to disagree, but maybe we're just crazy. We take that route no matter the weather. It helps that my wife is a drama queen and carries a sun umbrella and an old fashioned hand fan. I highly recommend those particular accessories!

                              But, like I said, it could just be that we're crazy.

                              Here we are on our way to Commander's on June 16. It was only 95 or so!:

                              1. re: kukubura

                                Not crazy-just adventurous! I love the picture and it sounds like great fun. Husband just hates how linen rumples in the heat, and my hair tends to turn into a mess of ringlet curls

                                1. re: ScarlettNola


                                  Linen is supposed to rumble in the heat and humidity. That is part of the wardrobe... ! The same for seersucker - it's supposed to look that way in NOLA.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I know-he is just a little odd when it comes to anything looking less than pristine. I have had numerous debates with him regarding this topic even though he has worn these fabrics since he was little. He would never walk anywhere in this heat if he can help it and likes to keep the linen as pristine as possible. Oh well.

                                2. re: kukubura

                                  Kukubura, I love your seersucker, man. Y'all look like natives!

                                  1. re: BrooksNYC

                                    It's a point of pride that practically any time we chat with someone in a restaurant, bar, gallery, store, or anywhere else they start off by saying "you guys are from here, right?". A particularly great night for me found three different Preservation Hall old-timers asking me for no reason "what do you play?"

                              2. re: JFarah

                                get the Fois Gras du Monde app if they offer it. amazing.


                            2. re: JFarah

                              Also, be aware that Lil Dizzy's is BYOB. If you go for brunch bring a bottle of champagne and they'll make you mimosas.

                              1. re: kukubura

                                Where can I pick up a bottle of bubbly? Are there liquor stores in every corner or are they scattered about? Never been, so I just wanted to get an idea. Thanks!!

                                1. re: JFarah

                                  Rouse's grocery on St Peter and Royal. Also, there are a lot of places on Canal (including CVS and places like that). It's probably harder to find a place where you CAN'T buy booze!

                                  1. re: JFarah

                                    Try Martin Wine Cellar on Magazine or Rouse's (Grocery Store) They both offer a great selection of bubbly! Your lunchtime attire sounds perfectly fine. My husband usually wears linen slacks and and a white shirt, and I wear a summery dress.

                                    1. re: JFarah

                                      Vieux Carre Wine & Spirits
                                      422 Chartres (between Conti & St. Louis)

                                      Mon-Sat 10:00 - 10:00
                                      Sun 10:00 - 7:00

                                2. re: JazzyB

                                  JazzyB, what don't you like about Mila? Just curious. Thanks!!

                                  1. re: JFarah

                                    I didn't dislike like MiLa, it just didn't live up to all the hype. The food was well prepared but the flavors were flat. I prefer well seasoned dishes with first bites that "wow" me. Nothing here had that effect. Conversely, Emeril's, Herbsaint , Brigtsens, usually August and Cuvee evoke that response.

                                    1. re: JazzyB

                                      I can understand your comments. Considering the marriage of Mississippi and Louisiana, there could well be a problem. Given that most of the cuisine of MS is not so well spiced, and much of the cuisine of LA is, I am not surprised.

                                      For our dining, I felt that they bridged the gap nicely. Perfectly? Well, maybe not, but still good.

                                      Since my wife and I meet the general requirements of MiLa, I can relate - I am the MS and she the LA side of things. Still, the meals was quite good, as was the wine and wine list. It's almost like doing a FR/IT restaurant. They managed to pull it together for us.


                                      1. re: JazzyB

                                        I'm glad to hear you say that about Emeril's. My next visit is with another couple that we love dearly, and the one request they had was dinner at Emeril's. I'm leary due to my horrible experience at NOLA. That did me in witth the Emeril empire, but I'm willing to give this a shot because I love my friends. I don't want them to leave their first trip to NOLA wishing they had eaten somewhere else.

                                        1. re: FoodChic

                                          Haver never dined at NOLA, but all of our experiences at Emeril's have been great fun, good wines and excellent food.

                                          Now, things change over time, so what we came to know, might not be enforce now. Still, to do it so correctly in the past, would be a good indication that they DO know how to do it correctly.

                                          Enjoy, and please report.

                                          I hope to add NOLA (reviews not withstanding) in our next vist's mix. I have just go to do it, and see for myself. I'll try to not be judgemental, and dine with an open mind.

                                          I recently did this at Mama's Fish House on Maui. Half that board hated it, and half loved it. As it turned out, we loved it.



                                  2. re: ScarlettNola

                                    Sccarlett, other than Stella! can you recommend another great dinner spot for Saturday? What don't you like about Mila?

                                    1. re: JFarah

                                      I would recommend Brigtsens or Bayona for dinner. MiLa is good-but IMHO tries to be a bit too "gimicky" and some true components of fine dining fall by the wayside. They have a good concept-a twist on good ol fashioned Southern classics, but I am not certain if it is quite "there". The food is fine, don't get me wrong, I just think there are better options. Also, since you will be in NOLA for Tales of the Cocktail, there are many dinners and events based on this. There are many tastings, seminars and events based upon the love of cocktails. Check out www.talesofthecocktail.com for more information and details. This would take the place of a cocktail tour if I were you.

                                    2. re: ScarlettNola

                                      yep, +1 on Stella for dinner over MIla. but may be hard to get. also would consider Brightsen's over Mila. not to bag on Mila, i like their colorful space, its very sheik but also somewhat generic. ive only eaten at the bar so i cant really speak to its full dinner service. the apps i had were good, but since i havent been for dinner yet....

                                      1. re: kibbles

                                        I agree on both counts. While we enjoyed most of MiLa, it was not the stand-out that both Stella! and Brigtsen's have always been for us.

                                        The biggest complaint that I had was with the acoustically hard surfaces and one very, very loud party some distance away. I felt so sorry for the three folk, in between us and the badly behaved group, as they were trying to have a business dinner. It would have been totally impossible for me.

                                        Food was good and creative in a homey way, coupled with a good, fun wine list. Service could not be faulted. The decor was interesting and, other than the loudness, enjoyed it. I hate to fault a location on the behavior of one group dining at the same time. Still, it is the responsibility of the management to speak to such a group, especially when diners in the other room are being disturbed by their behavior. I give them high marks, but below the earlier two.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Thanks for the explanation! We've decided to leave our reservations for Saturday night's dinner with MILA. I'm pretty sure we'll be back in NOLA and we'll be sure to check out Stella! on our next trip since everyone has such great things to say about it.

                                          In exactly 24 hours I'll be hopping on a plane and on my way. I can't wait!! Thanks for all of your suggestions and recommendations. I'll be sure to write about my experience upon my return.

                                          1. re: JFarah

                                            Have a wonderful and safe trip. Do plan on coming back (OK, that sounded like I still live there, and I do not, but do love the City). Even for one with roots, there are too many great places to dine, to ever cover them on one trip.

                                            We try to hit several old favorites, and then add a few of the newer places. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not.

                                            As for my comments on any restaurants, I try to establish my frame of reference, and otherwise give the most objective review that I can. Of course, some personal aspects will enter into the reviews, but that is unavoidable. I want any person reading to see things, as I saw them, good and bad. Unfortunately, that does not mean that they will see things, just as I did, but if I have done my job, they should have a pretty good idea, as to how things will likely go. They may miss some nuances, that I have picked up on, and they may not get my waiter on the same night that I did, but they should not be blindsided about anything.

                                            Do think about Stella! on your next trip. We have been impressed on each visit, and get to dine around the globe at some of the top restaurants. Even though most of those are on an expense account, and Stella! is personal, that was the first place that my wife wanted to go back to - and she's a NOLA native, though now removed for 30 years.

                                            There are few places that I would fly to, just for the food, and New Orleans leads my list.

                                            Enjoy and travel safely,


                                    3. HEY- just checked in- We are going to NOLA this weekend too- 32nd Anniversary- We ate at Mila in April and loved it and are going back on Friday. Hope to do some Tales tastings. Cochon is great! Luke is really good too, We enjoyed the Coffee Pot for a hearty meal and surly waitress. Had some spectacular fried chicken at Willie Maes last time - hour wait though. Check out Snug Harbor also for music. Be sure to do the Carousel Bar! It is really tough to fit in all the great places, but you will enjoy wherever you are. For a big buck meal/ fine dinning August is hard to beat

                                      1. If it's one thing NOLA does right, it's the food and the music. It's been almost 7 years since we've visited, but what a great time we had! I 2nd the Preservation Hall recommendation but, one place I really enjoyed was Napoleon's in the quarter. It was me and some friends and I loved having the red beans and rice and a Pimm's cup. We killed nearly 3 hours in there just hanging, talking, drinking and eating. What fun. Is Napoleon's still there?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Sampaguita

                                          Napoleon House, yeah it's still there and everyone loves it. It gets mentioned in nearly every thread. First timers: Go there!

                                        2. The Southern cocktail tour is a lot of fun I took it and it was well worth it.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: joedontexan

                                            Is there a schtick to it? I envision sort of folksy, toursity swamp-tour type chatter but would be pleased to hear that it is more learned.

                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                              You know, that is my noral reaction to such things. However, in the recent past, some of these have been hidden gems, even to an "old-timer." Two years back, we did "Haunted London," and I held my breath. It was outstanding.

                                              Now, this does not directly equate to this "tour," but one should not totally dismiss such, just because it IS a tour.

                                              Done correctly, with reverence and knowledge, such tours can be great.


                                          2. I'm back from my trip and have to admit that I am IN LOVE with New Orleans. Been back for less than 24 hours and already can't wait to return. Thanks to all for your great recommendations and feedback - they helped create a memorable experience for both my husband and I. Here's a little overview of our time there:

                                            Got in at around 11:30 am on Friday and headed straight over to Cafe Du Monde for some beignets and coffee. Yum!

                                            Walked for a little while and then cabbed it over to Commander's Palace. This was one of the highlights of our weekend! We didn't sit in the garden room as requested, but instead sat in the dining room to the right of the entrance which was great fun. We got a kick out of the way they say things in the south, "May I get you a libation?", "Has your drink expired?" These little things really do add to the experience that is Commander's Palace. We tried the whiskey smash (delicious!) and the hibiscus martini (another winner). My husband had the turtle soup - not my cup of tea, but he enjoyed it. The short ribs and pork dish were both very tender and perfectly seasoned. We also had the bread pudding soufflé for desert, which was divine. I was absolutely wowed by every aspect of our meal and service.

                                            That evening we went to French 75 for a cocktail, then to the Carousel bar for another. It was pretty cool to see professional bartenders at work over in French 75- although they weren’t the friendliest of the bunch. Had my first Pimms Cup at the Carousel Bar - so refreshing and easy to drink. The bar was a little packed due to the tales of the cocktail crowd, so we left after one drink and walked on over to LUKE for dinner where we had a very nice meal. Chris, our server, was FANTASTIC! He gave us some great recommendations and never rushed us. We ordered the oyster salad, duck and rabbit pate, as well as the shrimp and grits. Everything was spot on good! After dinner we went to Frenchmen street and ended up at DBA for some good beer and tunes. The beer selection at DBA is impressively extensive - We had the NOLA Blond Ale for the first time which was great! They also carried a lot of our favorite micro brews.
                                            On Saturday morning, we walked over to Lil Dizzy’s for breakfast. We needed to rehydrate, so didn’t take advantage of the BYOB. Had the crab and cheese omelet with the hash browns – I’m pretty sure the hash browns are made with bacon fat… absolutely delicious!! After breakfast we took the St. Charles Street car to Audubon Park, where we walked to and through the zoo (needed to burn off some calories as well as build up our appetites for the next meal). Then we cruised through the FQ and stopped at Laffite’s for a beer and Tropical Isle for a handgrenade. Definitely ran into some unusual characters, but the people watching was fantastic! We didn’t make it to the Parkway Bakery for lunch, but we did have the BBQ shrimp at Mr. B’s Bistro – Yum!!!! That’s really all that can be said about this dish. Messy but delicious!
                                            Later that evening we went to the Sazerac bar at the Roosevelt Hotel for a drink where we met some great locals. After, we strolled over to MILA, where we had another fabulous meal--The service was impeccable and the food was fantastic. I also found it to be very romantic with the dim lighting and cozy booths (great for night out with the husband). We ordered a bottle of the albarino, which is one of our favorite summer whites. We also ordered the deconstructed oysters and foie gras as an appetizer. I admit that this was my first foie gras experience and have nothing to compare it to, but it was absolutely amazing. Rich and delicate at the same time… definitely another highlight of my trip. My husband ordered the pork chop for his entrée and I had the crispy red snapper, both of which were excellent. We finished off the night with a walk to the Swizzle Stick for a night cap. Great up-scale bar!
                                            On Sunday, we walked over to EAT. I was really looking forward to the shrimp and grits there, but to our surprise they were closed for a “much needed summer vacation”. What a huge disappointment! After walking around for a bit w/o a purpose, it hit me… The Old Coffee Pot!! We headed over there and waited in line for a bit – if it wasn’t for the couple in front of us raving about the food, we would have gone elsewhere, but we stuck it out and I’m glad we did. It was awesome! Just after placing our orders, one of the waitresses serenaded the entire restaurant with the song, Amazing Grace. Everyone started to clap and cheer. What a great way to start the morning in New Orleans! Then the food came out and I understood why there was a line at 8:00 am. The Jonathan style eggs were out of this world. The bloody gary wasn’t too shabby either. After that, it really hit us… we were only going to be in NO for a few more hours… so we checked out some of the galleries (which were open on a Sunday to my surprise) and hit a few more bars. We finally went to the Hermes Bar, Pat O’Brians, and ended up at the Royal House for some cooked oysters and drinks before our flight. This concludes our fabulous trip to New Orleans.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: JFarah

                                              I am so happy that y'all had such a great time. Your selections were wonderful. I have not been to EAT in quite a while, but have heard negative comments about the poor attitude of the servers and the food. What an awesome experience at TOCP. You fit so much into your time and hope you hurry back!

                                              1. re: JFarah

                                                Awesome! You really took those suggestions to heart. I'm mighty impressed with the barhopping as well. Well done!

                                                1. re: kukubura

                                                  Thanks... I'll definitely be checking in again before my next trip.

                                                  1. re: JFarah

                                                    Don't ya just love New Orleans!

                                                2. re: JFarah

                                                  Thank you for taking the time to list your choices and your experiences. All too often, people will make recs. and never get any feedback on how well, or poorly, they played for the OP.

                                                  Your efforts are greatly appreciated,


                                                  1. re: JFarah

                                                    Great report--thanks! Two questions, can you tell me what Jonathan style eggs are and (hate to admit it), what is a whiskey smash?

                                                    1. re: cajungirl

                                                      Yes I can... A whiskey smash is made with Maker's Mark, lemon juice, mint, and a splash of water with crushed ice. We had it first at Commander's Palace and then at the Swizzle Stick - the better of the two was at CP.

                                                      The Jonathan-style eggs are very much like eggs benadict, but it is served with a slice of tomato and honey cured ham. It also comes with friend shrimp on the side and a much lighter version of a hollandaise sauce.