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Where Should We Avoid?

We will be leaving NY for our first trip to NO in about a week. We will be staying at Hotel Monteleon, no car. We'll be doing lots of sight seeing and walking. In addition to the FQ, we plan to be in the Garden District, Faubourg Marigny (how is that pronounced?), Warehouse/Arts District, Riverfront, Esplanade and the University area. I've scoured the CH posts and studied guide books and travel sites. The choices are overwhelming: there are so many great places for food & drink, we will run out of time and money long before we can get to most of them. We've decided not to plan anything too rigid food wise, but will try to be more spontaneous and eat when and where we happen to find ourselves as we tour the city (except Sunday brunch at Cafe Atchafalaya), and will probably do more late lunches and appetizers or small plates for dinner. With our food plans looser, I'm wondering now what places we should stay away from -- we will be in lots of "tourist" areas and would like to avoid the spots that look busy and popular but just don't measure up in the end. Any advice?

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  1. Avoid: any place that has plates of food on display outside the restaurants or people huckstering you to come in.

    1. It's 'FOH-burg 'MA-rinny ( where "MA" is pronounced like the "ma" in "marriage").

      I wouldn't trust entirely to serendipity, or you'll run the risk of wasting a meal at a mediocre restaurant. In a great food city like NOLA, that would be a cryin' shame.

      The French Quarter is tourist central, so I'd exercise particular caution there. Arm yourself with a list of good restaurants (give yourself two or three choices in each of the neighborhoods you've mentioned), and if there are popular places you want to try — upscale places, especially — don't hesitate to make reservations. They're easily canceled if you change your mind. You'll be in town the final week of Jazz Fest, and better restaurants are likely to be busy.

      I love Cafe du Monde, although if you've ever bought a bag of zeppole at the San Gennaro Festival, you could skip Cafe du Monde (a beignet is first cousin to a zeppole). I like to go in the quiet off-hours. It's open 24/7, so you can really stop by anytime.

      Bayona, Nola, and Acme are, I feel, overrated, although each has its fans. Nor would I bother with Brennan's. Avoid Court of Two Sisters. Coops serves passable bar grub, but I wouldn't waste a meal there. With a few notable exceptions, the city's best restaurants are, for the most part, outside the Quarter.

      Add United Cab to your cellphone before you arrive: 504-522-9771 and 504-524-8380

      Enjoy your trip. You're going to have a wonderful time.

      19 Replies
      1. re: BrooksNYC

        Another good number to have is that of a Pedicab. I usually call Bike Taxi 504-891-3441 in the FQ. After dark, take a cab or a pedicab back to the hotel...unless you are walking with a large group.

        1. re: TaTee

          Ta Tee and BrooksNYC,

          My wife and I are planning a visit (in early August) and we'll be staying at the Roosevelt, which is just outside the FQ. If we go for a dinner or drinks in the FQ, will it really be unsafe for us to walk back (through the Quarter)?

          I would think that there would be enough people strolling through the Quarter that it should be reasonably safe at least before midnight...is that not so?

          1. re: Gizmo56

            It's a safe enough walk; however, (a) don't be showing off your new phone, (b) keep a tight grip on your bag, and (c) if you look even a little unsteady on your feet take a cab. In other words, don't be an easy target.

            That said, United is cheap and comes almost immediately; any maitre d' will call one for you.

            1. re: Gizmo56

              The Roosevelt.....fantastic! When the Sazerac Bar isn't busy, it's a great, civilized place to enjoy a Ramos Gin Fizz and (not surprisingly) a Sazerac.

              I personally think you're fine walking back to the hotel 'til about midnight. If walking home from Frenchmen Street, Decatur is usually well trafficked. Follow Decatur to Canal, Canal to Baronne, and you're home.

              Or call a taxi. It's a quick ride.

              1. re: BrooksNYC

                Thanks a lot for your guidance, we'll definitely use that route for walking. I will also put the numbers for the recommended taxi companies into my phone.

                I love Sazeracs, and (for my taste at least) I think I've mastered the art of making a great one at home, but I am really looking forward to sampling different versions, both at the Sazerac bar and elsewhere. A Ramos Gin Fizz will be ideal after the summer heat as well.

                1. re: Gizmo56

                  I love Sazeracs too!

                  In a concession to the Bourbon Street crowd, N.O. bartenders started over-sweetening Sazeracs about 25 years ago. If you're in a Sazerac mood, it pays to go to a decent bar (the one at your hotel, French 75, Bar Tonique, Cure, Tujaque's, Swizzle Stick, to name a few.) And it couldn't hurt to ask your bartender to go easy on the sugar.

                  1. re: BrooksNYC

                    That's good advice, especially for me. I use a simple syrup to sweeten mine, and I found as I perfected the proportions that I favored less sugar and a little more bitters than most recipes typically advise. I think the absinthe on the glass lends some sweetness to begin with, so not much more is needed. I am guessing that in NO many batenders will be using Herbsaint rather than true absinthe. I like Herbsaint, but find it is not as pleasingly viscous on the glass as is real absinthe.

                    Besides the Sazerac Bar, I was planning to try French 75, Tonique and Tujague's. I'll now add Swizzle Stick to the list, and I'll request them all to tone down the sugar and let the spirits in the venerable drink have the spotlight.

                    Thanks again.

                    1. re: Gizmo56

                      The Swizzle Stick is in the Loews hotel on Poydras Street. Fine if you're in the neighborhood, but not worth a special trek.

                      Napoleon House serves middling pub grub, but it's a lovely spot for a drink in the quiet off-hours between lunch and dinner. (It's jammed at mealtimes, so aim for the 3:00 - 5:00 slot.) I'm no Pimm's Cup devotee, although the bar's signature drink can be refreshing on a hot day. And if Mario is tending bar, you can get a good Sazerac (just ask for less sugar).

                      As you say, most N.O. bartenders will reach for the Herbsaint when making a Sazerac, but nowadays any good bar should have a couple of bottles of absinthe on hand. Just make sure it's decent absinthe so you don't ruin the Saz!

                      : )

                      1. re: BrooksNYC

                        You have been a goldmine of useful tips, BrooksNYC.

                        In my own experiments, I was surprised how changing the brand for the minute amount of absinthe in the drink would have such a profound effect on the overall outcome. In my own formulation, Lucid won the day, with Pacifique being a rather distant second. Perhaps one day soon I will start a thread on the making of a Sazerac and include my personal recipe; it would be interesting to see what others have come up with. And I am looking forward to seeing how each bartender in NO assembles the classic cocktail.

                        Napoleon House already is on my list of targets (the full list can be seen in the original post of my "New Orleans in August (seeking Advice)" thread. Like you, Pimm's Cup is not high in my cocktail panteon, but maybe I have never had a great one, and it sounds like NH can put together a decent sandwich. The history of that space is of course a major draw.

                        Cheers!

                        1. re: Gizmo56

                          A Sazerac thread is a great idea, and I'd love to try your Sazerac recipe.

                          1. re: BrooksNYC

                            I shall make it happen, perhaps as soon as today.

                    2. re: BrooksNYC

                      That is good advice. I found the re-opened Saerac Bar was making them too sweet & tell them up front to go light. You can always add more. My only otheer problem with the bar itself is that sometimes they cram a band in there and it is too goddamn loud. But on a day with a few civilzed, behaved people it is delightful.

                      Sazeracs almost vanished. The only good ones I could get in the 1970's were either made by myself with my old recipe or by old verans who could remeber the real thing. most of the ones in restaurants, if you could get them,w ere made from bourbon. Just about the only rye you could find in those days was Old Overholt. I think the local standard for taste has been won over by Herbsaint. Most folks I know don;t bother with absinthe becuase they are used to Mr Legendre's replacement.

                      1. re: hazelhurst

                        Gizmo and Hazelhurst: Have either of you tried the "new" Herbsaint released a few years ago in honor of Herbsaint's 75th birthday? It's actually a re-release of the original 1934 recipe. An article from Serious Eats:

                        http://tinyurl.com/7u9c4x8

                        I had a few sips at an absinthe tasting, and found it closer in flavor to real absinthe, and a lot more interesting than regular Herbsaint.

                        The beautiful vintage label should be easy to spot on a bar shelf. One of us should test-drive it in a Sazerac, and report back.

                        Gizmo, here's everything you need to know about Napoleon House's Pimm's Cup:

                        To a tall glass filled with ice, add:
                        3 oz. lemonade
                        1¼ oz. Pimm's #1
                        Top off with 7up, and garnish with cucumber

                        The nicest thing I can say about it is that it's thirst-quenching and won't shipwreck your day. In any case, Napoleon House feels like old New Orleans, and is a lovely place to ride out a late-afternoon thunderstorm.

                        1. re: BrooksNYC

                          I'm aware of it but have not tried it yet. I'm already in G&T mode right now, along with my martinis (allowing for one---and only one---julep on Saturday). I'll probbaly get a Sazerac mood soon, though.

                          Napoleon House is also a great place to watch fog roll down Chartres. Quite magical.

                          1. re: BrooksNYC

                            Yes, I have bottle of the vintage style Herbsaint in my cabinet, and I agree that it seems even closer to absinthe, although to my taste absinthe still makes a better Sazerac.

                            Thanks for the (surprisingly simple) Pimm's Cup recipe. Napoleon House will certainly get a visit from the two of us.

                          2. re: hazelhurst

                            Thanks for the historical perspective, hazelhurst.

                2. Also, something that gets stated quite often on here: New Orleans is a destination town. There are a lot of tourists who come to go to the real, classic places and those places are still frequented by locals. So Commander's Palace, Galatoire's, Mr. B's, plus many others may be a pretty even split of locals and tourists. These are places that tourists go BECAUSE there's something worthwhile about them, not because they've been pre-packaged for tourists. Just make sure you dress well and tip well and you'll be treated well!

                  1. To go back to part of your original query, we spend an anniversary weekend at the Roosevelt every December and between that and a large trade show that goes on at the same time, spend almost a week eating like a tourist in our home town.

                    We've never been that concerned about transiting to/from the hotel and the FQ restaurants. But we do stick with Decatur and Bourbon Streets north/south and busier cross streets like St Louis or Conti and do keep some situational awareness returning along Bourbon Street.

                    Then there are so many good places withing 2-3 blocks of the Roosevelt on the American side. Foot traffic is lighter at night but the street lighting in the CBD/Warehouse district is much more distinct than in the Quarter.

                    Returning from a week in Baltimore where I was hit on every evening by street people it made me realize how very rare that is when walking the "tourist" streets of N.O.

                    As has been noted most of the noted restaurants are patronized by locals and by tourists alike and if it is a tourist trap you won't see its name mentioned fondly here.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: collardman

                      Excellent information. I'd truly welcome your specific recommendations for restaurants nearby the Roosevelt on the American side.

                      1. re: Gizmo56

                        The most obvious is Dominica which is on the riverside of the Roosevelt and which, mercifully, replaced some godawful chain outfit.

                        1. re: hazelhurst

                          Yes, I already plan for us to take advantage of their happy hour pricing on pizza and drinks. Just wondering what else is in the neighborhood (but not in the FQ).

                          1. re: noradeirdre

                            Our favorites in the area are Dominica and the Sazerac Bar, MiLa, and Luke. For a little bit further away there are Rio Mar (lunch and dinner), Emeril's, Bon Ton, Grand Isle (lunch) and in the other direction Herbsaint.

                              1. re: collardman

                                We enjoyed Dominica, and also the Sazerac Bar (like going back in time for us), but were horribly unimpressed with the Sazerac Restaurant. That was an embarrassment, at least to us.

                                Though we were looking so forward to The Roosevelt, based on memories of our youth, and also that of mother-in-law, we were not at all impressed. Though I am a Diamond Hilton member, and we had the Louis Armstrong suite, but another un-named suite, the hotel really let us down, and on every front.

                                Still, Dominica and the Sazerac Bar WERE excellent, and well worth our time.

                                We traveled around the FQ, to/from the Roosevelt, with a small group, though one was in a wheelchair, and never had even the slightest issue - the hair on the back of my neck stayed flat, though we did stay on alert.

                                Our dining might have been a tad on the early side, and the farthest that we ventured was Stella! so that might not be relevant, if one is dining, and returning late, or walking from beyond the FQ.

                                Now, I must add that over the last few years, we have had great brunches at Brennan's, and dinners at both Bayona and NOLA. Maybe in only 8, or so visits, we have just been lucky.

                                Enjoy,

                                Hunt

                                1. re: collardman

                                  Ditto Domenica, Luke (great solo lunches at the bar for each of these), Emeril's & Herbsaint. Also Ruby Slipper Cafe for brunch is a treat, but be prepared to wait on weekends.

                          2. You will be safe walking anywhere in the quarter as long as you aren't "pass out" wasted or wearing giant diamonds everywhere. Also, don't walk in the dark all alone. But I'd say don't walk in the dark all alone in any city. We know that tourism is a top revenue source for our city and thus keep the quarter very well patrolled. Don't let the scary stories scare you. Frenchman is totally safe. Further into the marigny you'll want transportation after 11 on and same goes for uptown. But in the quarter and down Frenchman, you'll be fine walking. I'm 5'0" and scrawny...I'm not tough, you can trust me. :)

                            1 Reply
                            1. Since I haven't seen it mentioned in the thread yet - avoid Mother's. Even at best it is hit or miss. In my experience, a total miss - the food was not good tasting, a poor value, the service exceedingly rude, and the heaps of garbage on the tables with overflowing trashbins simply unacceptable.
                              But there is a line to get into the place. I know some people are paid to steer folks to Mother's. I even know some people haven't had the bad experience I did but I know I am far from alone in my experience there.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: PenskeFan

                                Thanks for all the advice and interesting chatter. We will be on our way to NO on Tuesday armed with pages of restaurant advice from Chowhounders. We are looking forward to a wonderful time and lots of great food. Will report back once the dust settles.

                              2. Hi, folks -- just a quick request to keep the focus on food in New Orleans. Neighbourhood safety is off-topic. Even how to make a Sazerac would be better suited to the Spirits board (though where to get a good one is definitely on topic here). Thanks!