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Visiting over Mardi Gras - please critique the list.

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Hello all - I'll be in town from Sat 13 at noon until Wed 17 at noon. Galatoire's and Mila are closed while other places have somewhat limited hours, but here is what I actually have reservations for so far. I will have a car the whole time I'm there.

2/13 - Lunch at NOLA, Dinner at Brigtsen's
2/14 - Jazz Brunch at Arnaud's, Dinner at Commanders Palace
2/15 - Early Breakfast at Brennan's, Dinner at Clancy's
2/16 - Lunch at Emeril's, Dinner at August

Regarding 2/13 - I fully admit that even though I am hesitant about superstar chefs I've been to all 3 Emeril spots in Vegas and 2 in Orlando and have always been pleased - but perhaps that is because I was in areas that didn't do TRUE Creole/Cajun and my standards weren't super high. Brigtsen's is closed for Mardi Gras for the rest of the time I am there and it is a must, from everything I've read.

Taking into account that 2/14 is Valentine's Day AND a Sunday, reservations were tough - but I really wanted to have the full menu at Commander's available to me as it seems intriguing and while lunch is cheaper and perhaps a better "scene" it doesn't have as many options.
With regard to the Brunch, I liked Arnaud's menu a lot but if Antoine's or Dantes is "better" then I'd consider that as well.

2/15 - I know Brennan's is pricey, but most say it is something you should do once - worst case scenario I get the Banana's Foster and a Bread Pudding. :-) Lunch, I figure I'll get whilst wandering the Quarter - perhaps Mr. B's (open to recs here.) Clancy's gets rave reviews and seems to be a not-so-touristy Galatoire's. It is hard to find recs, but if Lunch is the same as dinner at Clancy's I'd consider doing Clancy's on 2/13 instead of NOLA.

2/16 - Emeril's Flagship is open on Mardi Gras Day, most other places are not - plus the menu looks excellent. August is a must for me and I figure a great way to end the trip.

I have three breakfasts open in this case and was thinking Stanley, Camellia Gril, and perhaps Johnny's (I don't mind a PoBoy for breakfast at all) but am certainly open to suggestions.

Other places that interest me for breakfast are Mother's (though many say to steer clear,) Elizabeth's, and Praline Connection. Other places interesting for dinner are Bon Ton and Imo's. While Stella looks interesting I really don't like all the focus on non-native ingredients (maine lobster and such) - I can eat Continental Cuisine in any US City - I want to have things in New Orleans that you just don't find in Ohio, New York, Chicago, LA, etc.

I certainly plan on stopping by Croissant d'or, Central Grocery, and Cafe du Monde during the stay as well.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. All I can offer right now is the advice to Know What You Are Doing when you drive. Commander's is within the "grid" surrounded by the Bacchus parade route. When you are there for dinner, you are hemmed in & it can be tricky to get there that night. Keep in mind you will have to work around parade schedules every night.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hazelhurst

      DITTO!!!! Be careful where you park, as neighborhoods can change w/in a block or two from a main avenue. Not trying to scare, just keep your wits about you. And be sure you know where to go pick up cars that get towed. Public transportation can be quicker and cheaper during Gras.

      1. re: edible complex

        Ditto again. Your plans sound a touch ambitious to me, as every day except Monday there are parades all day long. Monday parades start at 5 so the street will be closed by 4. It's not impossible to be in a car on the streets uptown and in the CBD, but it can be time consuming and frustrating and you will have trouble parking. You might consider using a cab (United Cabs only, or at the very least, find one that is using a meter. Taxi scams abound during Carnival).

        I think your restaurant selections are fine and your three breakfast picks of Stanley, Camellia Grill, and Johnny's sound good (trust your instincts and skip Mother's). Definitely Bon Ton over Jacques Imo's for dinner if you find yourself needing to make that decision, but your current selections seem good to me. I'd probably skip Brennan's. I don't think it's something that you MUST do once but you should do what you feel.

        Parade schedule: http://www.mardigrasday.com/schedule.php
        The paper will have the parade routes for your perusal, or pick up Arthur Hardy's guide at the Walgreen's for all the information you'll need regarding parades.

        1. re: uptownlibrarian

          Good info - thanks!

      2. re: hazelhurst

        Those aren't food recs at all! :-)

        I'm staying near the airport so the car will be needed - I plan to park a good mile or so from the Quarter and walk the rest - provided the weather is nice. I put 34 miles of walking in in NYC 2 weeks ago, I'll be alright. :-)

      3. Interesting game plan, to which I add, what, no parades. Seriously, I am assuming that you are staying in the Quarter, which makes dinner Uptown Friday, Saturday and Sunday an interesting proposition, not only getting where you are going but getting home as well. If you have a plan share it here, and we can offer advice, plus we can always use a laugh. I hope you are patient sole and/or flexible.

        10 Replies
        1. re: CharlieH

          You assumed wrong. :-) I'm happy w/ public transport and it was cheaper (and a nicer hotel) to stay near the airport and get a car than to stay in a dump in the quarter. Plan is actually to park in the Uptown area and either street-car it or walk to the Quarter during the day and then depart from uptown at night back to the hotel, since you ask.

          1. re: uhockey

            With the parades on St Charles all day long on Sat and Sunday, the street car does not run, except for Napoleon to Claiborne via Carrollton. Plan on walking.

            1. re: uhockey

              Didn't mean to sound flip, its just that transportation can be a real cluster. Get going early Tuesday. If you enjoy the exercise, walking is great way to get around and be part of the fun at the same time. If you can get your hands on a bike, that could be your best bet. Public transportation can be a challenge as well.

              1. re: CharlieH

                Understood and thanks for looking out - my goal is to see as much of the city as possible so being on foot will be ideal - I tend to base my sight-seeing around my meals so seeing the cemeteries, the parades, the neighborhoods, and the aquarium will be fit-in. Essentially I buy a touristy sort of map (the laminated sort) and mark all my dining destinations and then explore the neigborhoods in between point A+B.

                That noted - has anyone done Clancy's for lunch and dinner both - if so, how do they compare?

                1. re: uhockey

                  have been to Clancy's for both lunch and dinner. Have enjoyed both equally, so just fit it in when you can. Get the oysters w/brie, sweetbreads, veal chop, smoked soft shell crab, and a frozen brandy alexander for dessert. cheers!

              2. re: uhockey

                I love this thread! It's getting me excited for Mardi Gras.

                I like your plan of parking Uptown and walking. You could park near the aforementioned intersection of Napoleon and St. Charles, outside the parade route, where parking will be a little more accessible and you can still navigate before parades. From this intersection it is a pleasant hour's walk to the Quarter, with lots of sightseeing and people watching along the way, along with opportunities to purchase beverages if you wish. From here you can also easily walk or cab to all of your restaurant destinations. The Quarter to Clancy's is a hike, so maybe you could walk along the parade route until you reach your car and drive from there, as Clancy's is outside of and pretty far removed from the parade route.

                1. re: uptownlibrarian

                  Perfect - thanks. Not a big drinker (IE 1 is quite enough in a 6 hour period) but I do plan to sample some of the more unique/famous drinks in New Orleans if only to see the bars.

                  1. re: uhockey

                    It should also be mentioned that the closer you get to the beginning of a parde the further you will be forced to park from St. Charles Avenue. (On Saturday, the big parade goes down Canal.) Know that locals attend the parades in droves, esp. in the Uptown area. In the event you are thinking about doing an end around on a parade, check with someone before as many streets some far away from the parade route, are affected by the logitics of getting the floats around. Also, as mentioned, some areas become landlocked once the parade starts, but that's not so bad, just watch it until passes by. Also, you don't have to stay on St. Charles, there is always something going on on the side streets. And don't miss the day pardes, they are as fun as the night parades. Also, know that the restauarants are all very buisy and plan accordingly. You should have a blast. Don't worry about catching anyplace at lunch or dinner, they will all have a similar vibe at this time of year, and be ready to be flexible, a change in plans is just an excuse for something to happen.

                    1. re: CharlieH

                      Ya gotta admit that navigating---and out-manuevering trouble spots---is lots of fun but it is not for the neophyte. I once saw a driver get a former Rex from his toasting station on the route, out of the parade area and to the Boston Club hours before the parade got there. First-class work.

                  2. re: uptownlibrarian

                    The Freret Jet would do the trick for Clancy's. I cannot remembeer the last lunch I had there and I've been going since Brad started the place. I usually drop in at cocktail hour and eat at the bar. But, come to think of it, it has been awhile since I did that.

              3. Are you sure you want to visit during Mardi Gras? It's a pretty cool experience but it's all about wretched excess and little to do with fine dining. Lots of good places just give up, lock the doors and join the party.
                Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the Crescent City, it's just that there's a time for touring, a time for partying and a time for dining. Choose carefully.
                ...hotel near the airport? renting a car??, walking a bazillion miles when mass transit will be disrupted??? shakes head slowly.

                6 Replies
                1. re: steve h.

                  "wretched" excess? hmm...my carnivals have always been pretty enjoyable and not at all wretched. they also included some great dining, tho not on fat tuesday. what are you doing on yours that makes mardi gras so wretched for you?

                  1. re: kibbles

                    Wretched excess is a pretty cool term. It means over the top. Way, way over the top.

                    It is not a pejorative.

                  2. re: steve h.

                    A) I LIKE WALKING - I run, daily, 7-10 miles and have for years.
                    B) The point of visiting is to see New Orleans during Mardi Gras - just like my visit to NYC two weeks ago for NYE (I managed to eat at Ko, Daniel, Per Se, and Picholine just fine despite the overcrowded city.)
                    C) I've no interest in partaking in the the drunkeness and debauchary - that does not mean I don't want to see the parades and the city in full "spirits"
                    D) The only restaurant that was on my must-do list that I can't do is Galatoire's - not a big loss when I can do Arnaud's, Antonie's, Clancy's, and Commanders instead.

                    Edited to better reflect the spirit of frat boys who want to see nudity in point C. :-)

                    1. re: uhockey

                      You're going to have a great time. The weather will be much more pleasant for walking and enjoying than NY for NYE! You've got great restaurants lined up, and you sound like you're ok with being flexible if things go a little off script. I would love to do Emeril's on Mardi Gras Day! What a treat that will be.

                      P.S. Drinking a lot doesn't equal alcoholism.

                      1. re: uptownlibrarian

                        Edited - I fully expect a good time - and as incredibly crowded as it was I have to say the mood in New York on NYE is electric.

                      2. re: uhockey

                        Have too much fun.
                        Brigtsen's is a treasure and a pleasure to walk to on a clear day/night. Street car is better but the Garden District up to Riverbend is a fine way to scrape off some excess shoe leather. The homes are stunning, the parks beautiful and the universities have history. Allow more time than you originally thought because the area is so cool.

                        It's all good. Especially for walkers.

                    2. Please don't take our notes of caution personally, it's truly out of concern. It is hard to describe how profoundly Mardi Gras effects the city in practically every aspect of it's functioning, and on what a scale; there isn't a comparison in the States. Thus, we just don't want you to experience any needless frustrations that would in any way besmirch your trip. That being said (again) you sound like an adventurous and ambitious sort, and with a dose of carnival flexibility and patience, I'm sure you'll have a great time.

                      And you will find that you won't go hungry at all with your line-up, although all the walking will work up your appetite, so that's good. I cannot comment on Clancy's, but I would suggest also leaving open a spontaneous "stumble upon" option, there are scads of great joints on practically every block of uptown.

                      Happy dining and good luck!

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: swampsue

                        I wasn't taking it personally - I was taking the assumption as an assumption. :-)
                        I asked for restaurant recs - not travel recs or whether I should stay near the airport and drive (slowly shaking head.) I get 3 weeks off per year and they're scheduled a year in advance - I normally go to Los Angeles during this week but my reason for going there isn't present this year and I've always wanted to see NOLA during Mardi Gras.

                        That said - considering I'm doing a lot of "old New Orleans" restaurants - should I consider adding another classic (Antoine's) in place of NOLA since I'm also doing Emeril's?

                        Thanks for looking out for me!

                        1. re: uhockey

                          NOw, I have not checked this but as far as Antoine's goes, SUnday they are closed and MOnday is the Proteus luncheon and that takes the whole restaurant over (There was grumbling years ago about moving so I honestly don't know if they did). That would be Monday. I think you should try it sometime..I've always liked it but it is not exactly on Modern Radar in that it does its old warhorse meals. One thing we like about it is that it seems to be the same as it was when we were kids..but more expensive.

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            I was thinking about replacing NOLA's lunch with Antoine's on Saturday.

                            1. re: uhockey

                              Ah...well, what with things I hear about NOLA these days, I think that would be a good idea and, moreover, educational. Rockerfeller for certain, tournedos marchand du vin....have a French 75 (made with gin which is not comme il faut but is damn good. I think you'd enjoy it. It is a wonderful place. It is fun to have the escargot bourgiounne AND the Rock..they are "related."

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                HH, Coquette is rocking French 75's w/Tanqueray and Prosecco! if you get a hankering.

                                1. re: edible complex

                                  Not a bad idea--have not had one in ages. Thanks for the idea. On Carnival Day I am likely to be having Diet Coke most of the morning. My days of second-line work on Da Avenue may be winding down as infirmity looms with the years....

                              2. re: uhockey

                                I have read your previous reviews and feel we enjoy the same types of food. SKIP Antoine's, I thought it was the worst restaurant of any of my NO trips. To commercialized.

                                1. re: Bayareafoodiei

                                  Interesting. To be fair, I really only want to see the place - all the rooms and the history. Will probably just do a few Oyster dishes (Rock and Foch) and perhaps a dessert unless something catches my eye on the main menu.

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    Building is cool, but extremely underwhelmed by the food. I'm suprised your not eating at Stella's! Awesome food!

                                    1. re: Bayareafoodiei

                                      Their menu looks like standard "continental cuisine" - tons of imported ingredients and a room that could be duplicated anywhere - not really what I'm looking for on this trip.

                        2. Price has nothing to do with dinner vs lunch at Commander's. Dinners have always come up short. IMO, CP is a fun, NOLA experience lunchtime in the garden room. The less than stellar cuisine is more easily excused/accepted as opposed to dinner, when expectations tend to be higher.

                          Brigtsen's is consistently good.
                          Both Emeril's and August (tasting menu) are excellent.
                          I can not recommend either NOLA or Brennan's.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: JazzyB

                            So would you say Antoine's over NOLA?

                            1. re: uhockey

                              Absolutely loved my lunch at NOLA. Service was quick and the food was fabulous, so I'm not sure why it gets so much dissing on here. And as you'll already be uptown, I love the Panola Cafe for breakfast. Cash only, as a note. At August, I highly recommend saving room for the Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake. I'm still dreaming about it!

                              1. re: stylenola

                                Yes, we too enjoyed our lunch we had at NOLA on Friday when we were in your fair city a few months ago. The service and food were both top-drawer, in our opinion, and FUN. Give it a whirl, we say.

                                1. re: Christine

                                  Purely for cuisine, I'd have to give the slight edge to NOLA. For everything else (tradition, ambience, wow factor), I'd go with Antoines. My rec is Antoine's. For best results, plan on a leisurely meal. Nobody's in a hurry there.

                          2. I would skip clancys. It was the one dinner I didn't enjoy. Everything was overly fried if that's possible. Brightsens was amazing. Definitely get the shrimp roumalaude to start. I had fried food at Brightsens too, but it was delicious.

                            1. Commander's Palace was great for lunch and dinner a couple of weeks ago. Emeril's was fun and interesting. August was the biggest dining disappointment ever. A place like August is only worth it if every bite is a flavor treat and frankly none of food that evening was a treat. A couple of dishes were actually slightly nauseating. I will say the atmosphere and service was excellent, but give me Elizabeth's with no atmosphere but good food anytime.

                              1. So - I have the chance to add 2 days to my stay (flight issues, so I can change it for free) but my car and hotel expire prior. For those who live in town - is transportation from MSY to the FQ reasonably easy to accomplish on public transport? I imagine FQ to MSY isn't too difficult.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: uhockey

                                  There is an airport bus. First question on New Orleans RTA FAQs:

                                  http://www.norta.com/faqs/

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    taxi is about 20 mins and $25-$30

                                  2. Try to fit La Forget in for lunch or dinner. Commander's is fun for lunch as has a 25cent martini menu,and a couple of 3 course menus for $30, so if on a budget and you are a drinker switch that one to lunch. I think you have some great places selected!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: AStone

                                      Thank you for bumping my thread from a year ago. ;-)

                                      All the reports are up here on the NOLA board, or in the blog. You guys and your city were awesome.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        Wow, I didn't realize it was last year, Hope you come back soon!