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Oct 17, 2010 04:22 PM

Need advice for upcoming trip

Hello - a friend and I are coming to New Orleans this Thursday-Sunday from Northern California to celebrate her birthday. We will be staying in the FQ and I want to give her a great sampling of NOLA cuisine. She loves spicy, interesting food but has a husband with digestive problems and a first grader so her daily food life is pretty bland.

I have been to NOLA once, a couple of years ago, and had an amazing food trip, including lunches at Drago's, Coop's, and Galatoire's; and dinners at Commanders, Cochon and K-Paul. Plus some interesting "fourthmeals" or whatever it's called when you eat more than 3 meals a day in New Orleans... So these are my dilemmas:

Friday Lunch:
Initially I wanted to take her to Galatoire's Friday Lunch, since that is her actual birthday, but I am worried that it will be too much of a scene, or that we won't even be able to get a table since we aren't regulars/locals. I have read on CH about some of the other places offering Friday lunch, but can't seem to find specific info on the restaurant websites so would love to hear from locals what the up & coming favorites are. I have seen Commander's Palace, Bayona, and Restaurant August mentioned, and am intrigued by the 25 cent martini option at Commanders if they still do it. Basically, we just want a festive lively atmosphere and great food. So suggestions on that would be very appreciated.

Sunday Brunch:
If we end up doing Commanders Friday lunch instead of Galatoire's, then I need alternative suggestions for Sunday brunch. We won't have a car but are willing to cab/streetcar it. I see mixed reviews about Brennan's, like it is a must-experience or that it is terrible.

Best of New Orleans:
Any suggestions on "must haves" in New is not an issue, but I do like to go to both fancy places and holes in the wall to get a full range of flavor.

Drinks/Happy Hours:
When we aren't eating or exploring, we will be drinking. Where should we go and what should we avoid?

Thanks in advance!

Restaurant August
301 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

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

430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Galatoire's Restaurant
209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

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  1. Jenny..........Galatoire's is an outstanding place to celebrate your birthday on Friday. Go around 11 AM to see if there's a line. I don't know of anything going on in NOLA this weekend that would cause a big crowd in the FQ. Galatoire's on Friday is outstanding. If you go at 11 AM I believe you will get in when they open at 11:30. Just don't stay all afternoon celebrating like the local folks will be doing. After an hour or so head to the FQ for some fun. Go to Bayona, Mr. B's, Stella, August or Emeril's for dinner Friday night.

    Then go to Commander's for lunch Saturday. Take your friend down Magazine Street shopping in the 3,000 to 5,000 block area for more fun after lunch. You could take the street car to Commander's and back if you don't shop too long. Go to some of the more casual place for dinner Saturday night such as Acme, Napoleon House, Green Goddess, Gumbo Shop or maybe Bayona or Mr. B's even.

    I love Brennan's. Go there for Sunday brunch. You will love it. Or even Antoine's, Mr. B's or Arnaud's. Go to Napoleon House, Carousel Bar, Molly's at the Market or French 75 Bar to good drinks. There are happy hours at Domenica and Luke with half price drinks and appetizers. Here's a link to drink specials. Go to Lucy's Bar on Tchoupitoulas near Emeril's for fun times and drinks.

    Go to the Marigny if you have time to hear Jazz and get cold drinks and good food. Port O Call, Buffa's, Mimi's and Snug Harbor are good places for fun.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Littleman

      Commander's for lunch in the garden room on Fri. The food is good (not great) but it's lively and always fun. 25 cent martinis. Littleman is incorrect, Commander's serves brunch, not lunch on Sat. (different menu, no 25 cent martinis). August has a $20 prix fixe lunch M-F. It's a steal, however the atmosphere is sedate. Perhaps for dinner. The tasting menu w/ wine pairing is lovely. They will be happy to substitute a course if needed. Herbsaint (Link's more upscale venue) has delicious food. Sat. lunch: Coquette (3 course prix fixe avail plus creative cocktails). Sunday brunch: Patois. Coquette also serves Sun. brunch (if you don't go for Sat. lunch). I've not yet been, butThree Muses (in the Marigny) has been getting great buzz. Small plates, live music., scroll down for a review.

      701 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130

      1. re: JazzyB

        +1 for Saturday lunch at Coquette. All of Jazzy B's recs are really good.

      2. re: Littleman

        I would amend the Friday plan to arrive at Galatoire's at 2:00 or a little later. That will allow some early elbow benders to leave. It probably won;t settle down 'til mid-afternoon. Could also tell Arnold (or whoever is working the door) that it is a birthday. This will likely begin a chorus of song (and it will trigger some tipsy people to say "Hey! my birthday in in three months! let's celebrate today!....usually we have at least three birthdays once the ice is broken.)

        Or it would be easy to switch Friday/Sunday

        One of my confederates was in Galatoire's last Saturday and said he'd had a wonderful soft-shell. Didn't know if it was that particular crab..or the time of year...or the martinis....but he said it was great. I know the feeling.

        Galatoire's Restaurant
        209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

        1. re: hazelhurst

          We just had a wonderful soft-shelled crab at G W Fins last weekend. I was a bit amazed at the quality, so late in the "season." 'Cause they do a good job with "local seafood," I was a tad incredulous, but they delivered, as they promised. Their "take" on things was that soft-shells would be good through October, which was a bit of a surprise to me.

          Did not make it to Galatoire's this trip, but would suspect that they would only have the freshest and the best.


          Galatoire's Restaurant
          209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

        2. Bon Ton is classic cajun cuisine, old school style. Very good! Lunch and dinner M-F.

          Galatoire's is an excellent choice, you can always go at an off time...

          Mandina's on Canal St, New orleans neighborhood place (po-boys, seafood, Italian

          Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel for cocktails

          (I'd avoid a lot (not all) of Bourbon St, obvious tourist traps with sugar filled drinks


          Mandina's Restaurant
          3800 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119

          Galatoire's Restaurant
          209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

          Bon Ton Cafe
          401 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

          1 Reply
          1. re: Suzy Wong

            I do agree with Sazerac Bar (and the Carousel, mentioned above), but would definitely not recommend the Sazerac Restaurant - big let-down to us, though Dominica's was very good, even though we kept them open far beyond their "bed time." All was very good, but short of great. Also, not what I would typify as NOLA cuisine, but I'd definitely return.


          2. Drinkin': Cure has fancy-pants cocktails on Freret Street, would probably be the most on par with Alembic or Bourbon & Branch. There's also Bar Tonique on North Rampart Street. I love the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone and Arnaud's and French 75 and I have a sentimental attachment to Absinthe House on Bourbon, though I know it gets mixed reviews here. Also in the quarter, far more casual but lots of fun, the Chart Room. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop all the way up Bourbon is fun, that's the only place I've ever had a Hurricane, and it was pretty tasty (made with actual fruit juices instead of sugary water.)

            Go to Frenchman Street on Friday night- it's a great vibe with music clubs everywhere. You can also hit Pravda on Decatur to escape the craziness of the Quarter or Frenchman- it's a great place for absinthe or vodka. Coop's is next door, you can pop in there for jambalaya or other snacks.

            If you like beer, check out The Avenue Pub in the Lower Garden District on St. Charles. There's some tasty food to be had there too (courtesy of J'Anita's).

            Also on Magazine Street (right past the overpass) is the Bridge Lounge, renowned for its mojitos. Further up Magazine is Coquette, which has great cocktails (and, of course, food)

            Breakfast thoughts: Surrey's on Magazine Street, Huevos in Mid-City (that might be a little far off the beaten path to cab it though), Slim Goodies on Magazine at Louisiana, Croissant d'Or for pastries, Stanley in Jackson Square. These are much more casual breakfast places, so maybe not what you are looking for.

            Avoid: Bourbon Street, anyplace that serves hand grenades, anyplace that has food on display outside of the the restaurant or folks hectoring passerbys with menu.

            jennyo, I feel like I saw your posts last year when I was planning our trip to San Francisco/Northern CA. Just sounds familiar...

            Avenue Pub
            1732 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

            J'Anita's Restaurant
            1906 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA

            4408 Banks St, New Orleans, LA

            Chart Room
            300 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

            Bridge Lounge
            1201 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

            820 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116

            2 Replies
            1. re: noradeirdre

              thank you all so much for the great options! I think we are going to try to do Galatoire's on Friday; I'm afraid I have built up the expectations too much to back off at this point. Hopefully some birthday pleading will do the trick (and getting in line early)...

              Galatoire's Restaurant
              209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

              1. re: jennyo

                Galatorie's will be great. On Friday afternoon, it will not be "romantic," but great fun, none the less, and the food is great, plus extra points for being the ultimate New Orleans fare.

                I love Stella! for excellent dining, and there is an element of "romance" in my book, in a Deep South style. As others have mentioned in other threads, it is NOT quintessential NOLA cuisine, but very, very good, none the less.


            2. Just got back - thanks again to everyone for great suggestions! I am sort of bummed we weren't able to consume as much food and drink as I wanted to, I don't know what happened with that!

              Mini trip report:

              Dinner at Napoleon House Thursday night after flying all the warm muffaletta and the leftovers provided needed sustenance late Friday night! Going to try to find an olive salad recipe to make those tasty buggers at home!

              Drinks in the dark afterward at Lafitte's blacksmith shop watching the Giants fail to close out the NLCS in 5 games....

              Friday lunch at Galatoire's was absolutely perfect! I think parties of 2 actually have an advantage (we got in line at 10:30 and groups of 4 and 6 in front of us in line did not get tables downstairs). Had the souffle potatoes, fried eggplant, shrimp remoulade, crab maison, sweetbreads, duck crepe, softshell crab...all amazing. Plus lots of champagne, a few bourbon milk punches, great company (most of whom were strangers to us before Friday), and musical entertainment! We stayed until about 3pm. My friend loved it and was thrilled we were able to do it. Also, excellent service!

              After a bit of a "nap" we wandered over to Drago's and shared some chargrilled oysters. For some reason, these were not as amazing as I remembered they were the first time I had them in early 2008. Had drinks afterward at the Carousel Bar, which was fun although the spinning was odd.

              Breakfast Saturday morning at Stanley was excellent. I had the Eggs Stella (more softshell crab - I can't get enough of it!) and my friend had the PoBoy Sliders, with chicken/pesto, Korean beef, and cornmeal oysters. Good coffee too. After a confusing bus-transfer situation due to construction, we took the St Charles streetcar to the Columns Hotel for stellar mint juleps on the front porch. Then walked over to Magazine Street and wandered in and out of shops and bars. I loved the bar with the beer-tap fountain! Then we made our way back to the FQ with more stops at the Chart House, the rooftop bar at the Omni, and the obligatory trip to Pat Obrien's.

              For dinner Saturday night, we had made a reservation at Louisiana Bistro, which I don't really see too much about on CH, but liked the concept of "Feed Me" so we tried it out. I thought it was really good! We chose the 4 course option for $49, which consisted of crawfish beignets, speckled trout on cheddar grits with a great pepper sauce, smoked quail on bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, and Creole rabbit, which was extremely tasty (the sauce was exquisite) but we were kind of in a food coma at that point. The chef came out to describe each course - that guy has some serious energy! I think it would be better if they were to size the portions based on how many courses are being ordered, like Gary Danko, and they would probably sell more 5-course options, but I still enjoyed it immensely. We did a sort of disappointing wine pairing option, but the people at the table next to us who were also from the Bay Area had 2 bottles and were pouring us glasses of theirs because we were providing Giants score updates from my iphone...

              Sunday morning we just got some stuff from Rouse's and made breakfast in the air-conditioned townhouse while watching the Saints game. All in all a great trip, but too short and I definitely didn't bring my A-game eating-wise. Have to go back soon.

              Columns Hotel
              3811 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115

              Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
              500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

              Galatoire's Restaurant
              209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

              Louisiana Bistro
              337 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

              1 Reply
              1. re: jennyo

                Thanks for your very interesting report Jenny. Glad you enjoyed your trip to NOLA. Have fun at home and come back again soon. Good luck.