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New Orleans in August (seeking advice)

Greetings hounds!

My wife and I will visit New Orleans during the first week in August, staying five nights at the Roosevelt Hotel (with no car). Our visit coincides with Satchmo SummerFest, and so we are planning to do the festival "club strut" on Frenchmen Street on Friday night, and catch at least one full day of the music over the weeeknd at the Mint (probably Sunday, but waiting to see the artist lineup on both days before a final decision). Meanwhile I am trying to plan the rest of our stay and I have appreciated all of the insight this board has provided.

My main question is about the heat and humidity. The two of us are average physical specimens in our mid-50's and we reside in the Pacific Northwest, where heat is very rare and humidity only comes in the form of cool rain and fog. We are going to have to pace ourselves.

Any thoughts about navigating the city in August heat? Can we expect air conditioning in most establishments? Will we be wise to favor cabs over long rides in a streetcar? Are the standards of dress in formal spots like Commander's Palace and Galatoire's relaxed at all in Summer? Any seafood that is to be avoided altogether in August (or, conversely, which is especially good in late Summer)?

Also, I am wondering how many establishments participate in the "COOLinary" promotion that happens in August?

All advice will be appreciated. Currently, here are the places I am hoping to work in:

A lunch at Commander's Palace
A dinner at Emeril's
Lunch or dinner at Herbsaint, Coquette, August, GW Fins, Mr. B's Bistro
Grilled oysters at Drago's (Hilton location, because we'll have no car)
Happy hour pizza, apps & wine at Domenica
Cocktails at Sazerac, Bar Tonique, French 75, Tujague's, Napoleon House, and the Carousel Bar
Breakfasts at Cafe du Monde and Camellia Grill (FQ location)
Muffaletta at central Grocery or Frank's
Po Boy at Parkway Bakery

I'm also interested in Green Goddess and, Cochon (and Cochon Butcher), but they may need to await a future trip. I'd like for us to dine at Galatoire's as well, but for me that's an "either/or" experience with Commander's Palace (on the same visit).

Thank you for any thoughts about our plans and about survival strategies in the August heat.

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  1. Well, it's almost always very hot and humid in August. We escape to the Pacific Northwest in the summer - lol. San Juan Island where the weather is always so fabulous. Most everywhere I know of has a/c. Can't remember being anywhere without it except maybe in Canada and your area a few times. But the walk can wilt you, it still does me after 60 years in this climate. I can't think of a cure for it except dress light - no long sleeves, long pants or socks and shoes (wear sandals). You can save longer walks for after dark but it's not a whole lot better.

    We drive and I've only been on the streetcar a couple of times in the last decade (just for fun) and I don't remember if they have a/c or not. Standards of dress remain the same year-round as far as I know. We usually go to the more dressy places on our pre-Christmas trip and more casual places on our summer trip. But arriving in an a/c car and getting into a restaurant is good. Some places you have to park a few blocks away especially on weekends so a cab would be perfect if you are dressed up.

    Check out Cafe Atchafalaya. We really liked it last visit. Have fun and don't forget to report back.

    15 Replies
    1. re: texasredtop

      Thanks a million. I'll definitely consider Cafe Atchafalaya.

      I don't think the streetcar has AC, so if we are dressed for Commander's, that's unfortunately probably not our best method of transportation from the CBD to the Garden District in the summer heat.

      Enjoy your summer visit to the beautiful San Juans. I will definitely post our impressions after the NO trip.

      1. re: Gizmo56

        Your restaurant selections are pretty good, As far as the humidity and heat I am a Houston native 90 percent humidity etc... but New Orleans is heat and humidity on steroids. I would love to see yalls faces when you get off the plane and experience it that would be amusing. as far as the streetcar st. charles no ac dont let that stop you its bearable the canal street line to parkway bakery is air conditioned. you picked a good time to visit believe it or not august is my favorite time of year for new orleans less crowded.

        1. re: joedontexan

          lol - you must live on the west side of H - over here near Galveston Bay it rarely gets under 99% humidity :-)

          The Friday night before Katrina, we took the streetcar from Harrah's to the Crowne Plaza because my mother was moaning and groaning about walking the few blocks again and I thought I remembered it having a/c but that was a long time ago and I wasn't sure.

          1. re: joedontexan

            Thanks joedontexan. I've experienced southern summer heat and humidity many times, but it will be a new experience for my spouse. I'm glad to hear that the Canal St. line does have AC, thanks for the tip.

          2. re: Gizmo56

            We've done a few streetcar-to-Commander's trips in June and made out just fine. Just bring a fan and a sunbrella for the lady and make liberal stops for refreshing "beverages" and you'll do alright!

            1. re: kukubura

              That's my kind of strategy...many thanks.

              1. re: Gizmo56

                An offbeat bit of advice: Carry a laminated map — impervious to humidity and jungle downpours. I like the Streetwise map. Your neighborhood Barnes and Noble should carry it, or order it from Amazon:

                http://tinyurl.com/ltkqaj

                1. re: BrooksNYC

                  Great minds think alike. I have used the Streetwise maps for years, since buying my first one for a trip to Manhattan eons ago. I ordered one for NO last week from Amazon. Thanks again, BrooksNYC!

                  1. re: BrooksNYC

                    I havn't bought a map in years since I had a smartphone :)

                2. re: kukubura

                  Maybe the heat has worn me down by late July/August, but June just doesnt seem to be as intense. I always tell folks to visit March or October.

                  1. re: JazzyB

                    Yes, I'd love to come in those months. My wife is an elementary school teacher, so it is hard to plan vacations outside the narrow window of Summer. But once she's retired, look out for us!

                    1. re: Gizmo56

                      December (around Christmas) can be a good time to visit too! We really enjoyed our visit and got a really cheap hotel price because of the time of year. I understand about the limited choices in when to visit, being a teacher myself!

                    2. re: JazzyB

                      JazzyB,

                      We feel somewhat the same in AZ. June is usually our "first blast," but by early Sept, we have just flat had enough!

                      Now, if our monsoon sets up, the humidity rises, NOLA-style, unlike many other months of the year.

                      Still, NOLA in August can be rather hot and humid - just the time for some tall, cool drinks in the shade of a beautiful courtyard.

                      I am thinking a chilled melon soup, maybe a shrimp cocktail over ice, and then crab claws (chilled), with a slightly chilled Rosé, or Brut Rosé Champagne.

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Phoenix...June 26 1990. 122° . I dont really complain much about the heat here now :)

                        1. re: Mytah

                          Yes. Though I did not live in PHX yet, I shot a job in Las Vegas that week, and the temp reached 128 F. We got a respite in San Diego, where it was only 100F, but then had to shoot in Tucson, at 119F, and then Phoenix at 122F.

                          Heck, after that week, when we got to Knobnoster, MO, and the temp was 95F and 98% humidity, it almost seemed cool.

                          Though I grew up in NOLA and its environs, I got by, and the restaurants are cool and somewhat dark, plus the food is world-class!

                          Hunt

              2. Commanders and Galatoire have the same dress code, that's why linen and seersucker are so popular in the summertime!

                Yeah, it's hot, but just move slow and stay in the shade. Drink water and expect to sweat. Most places are air conditioned, so you should be OK.

                6 Replies
                1. re: noradeirdre

                  Thanks for taking the time to reply, noradeirdre. Your advice works for me. We don't see a lot of linen and seersucker on the racks out here, but I'd love to own a seersucker suit if I can find a decent source....

                  1. re: Gizmo56

                    It's all about expectations- if you go in with accurate ones, you can probably work with the situation!

                    1. re: Gizmo56

                      While dining on or near Magazine Street (Coquette, Mayas, Commander's Palace, La Petit Grocery, Atchafalaya) stop by Perlis @ 6055 Magazine and pick out a seersucker or linen suit.
                      http://www.perlis.com/

                        1. re: Gizmo56

                          Or if you wear 42 regular, and have time to alter...I'll sell you mine! white linen.

                          Ordered....aggressively...and the damn thing delivered too small!

                          It had NOTHING to do with too many trips to NOLA and an expanding waistline.

                          1. re: Monch

                            Thank you for the kind offer. Sadly, I'm a 44R. So if it won't alter to fit you, it certainly won't alter to fit me.

                  2. As others have said, it's a good time to hit the restaurants. Many good deals.

                    Shift your clock a little. Fit your outside time to 6 AM-11 AM and 7 PM on. My favorite time in New Orleans is just before sunrise during the summer.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: collardman

                      Thank you for this. I was already thinking that we should do most of our walking early and late, and retreat to the hotel for a splash in the pool in the afternoons.

                      1. re: collardman

                        Great sentiment - just before dawn is an interesting time, and one that I used to explore with a bunch of Nikons - then off to The Original Coffee Pot (then Maxie's), when the opened. Also, a great time to hit Cafe Du Monde, before the "tourists" wake up from their Pat O'Brien's hangover. The market area in what we once called The Frenchmarket, is just coming to life, and is not to be missed.

                        Hunt

                      2. As others have said, everywhere is air-conditioned now, even the Napoleon House which caved in thirty years ago to the dismay of many old timers (not including me). There is an art to navigating, particularly in the Central Busines District, and grabbing little bits of a/c en route (and the Roosevelt is a classic..it gets you a whole block of comfort). Seersucker/poplin/linen are essential to survival as is ice. It'll be hot on the St Charles line but the windows will be open and there will be a breeze. The few block hike to Commander's will wilt you some. But that heat will help the crabmeat which is always better, redfish should be running well. Avoid the oysters..it is just not fair to them (although rockefeller might be OK since the sauce is the star).

                        My gang takes a sort of Britain-in-India approach to the summer: it's miserable but you don't show it. One friend takes a malicious pleasure in the discomfiture of tourists (in shorts) when they see him perfectly turned out in seersucker and, unlike me, perfectly pressed (for awhile., anyway).

                        20 Replies
                        1. re: hazelhurst

                          Thanks a million, hazelhurst. Your description of what to expect on the St. Charles streetcar is helpful and encouraging.

                          Your tips about seafood are likewise much appreciated. We get many nice local oysters at home so they are not our top priority. I may now cross Drago's off our list (despite my curiosity about the char-grill treatment). I'll look forward to classic Gulf redfish and excellent crab.

                          Thanks again-

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            I like your description, HH.

                            My dear wife refers to these treks as "Bataan Death Marches".

                            But on the upside we found a nice little taquiria, on Magazine, while walking from Audubon Park BACK towards the CBD.

                            Mind you I did NOT say we made it all the way to the CBD. Our second oasis was Creole Creamery and we marched straight to the streetcar stop, from there.

                            WICKED HOT!

                            1. re: Monch

                              I have considered trying to combine our lunch at CP with a dinner at Coquette, trying to use the shops and bars on Magazine as an escape from the heat in between, but I question whether we can comfortably kill enough time that way. For now, I am thinking we may cab from the Roosevelt to CP, enjoy lunch, take a quick stroll through the cemetery afterwards, then ride back to the hotel on the St. Charles street car.

                              1. re: Gizmo56

                                If you're not a native..and especially given your normal part of the country...New Orleans in August can wear you down. A light hat is a godsend (Meyer the Hatter can help you there..first block of St Charles). I think you are right to plan it this way but, again, the street car will be hot. You won't be in the cemetery long, either.

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  Thank you for the tip about Meyer! Yes, I was thinking we'll need to make our visit to the cemetery brief, or else it might become our own final resting place. ;)

                                  Our room at the hotel (or a dip in the pool) will likely be the best mid-to-late afternoon sanctuary on all days, although I am determined to take in a full day of jazz at the Satchmo festival on the grounds of the US Mint, probably on the Sunday (when they'll have a second line from a church in Treme).

                                  Out of curiosity, does anyone happen to know how often the St. Charles line comes along (i.e., what would be the longest possible wait at a stop)?

                                  1. re: Gizmo56

                                    Spot on, about Meyer.

                                    A wonderful straw Stetson Panama was one of my take-aways, last trip!

                                    1. re: Monch

                                      After getting that tip from hazelhurst about Meyer's I checked them out on the web and was pleased to see that the store also has a website and mail order operation. I may order a hat ahead of time and arrive fully equipped.

                                      1. re: Gizmo56

                                        Good idea, but I'll warn you.

                                        MORE than half the fun of Meyer is the experience!

                                        Stay cool!

                                        1. re: Monch

                                          Ah. In that case, I will either defer the purchase until we arrive, or else I may both order ahead and also drop in to the "bricks and mortar" store during our stay for some further hat shopping.

                                          Thanks, Monch!

                                    2. re: Gizmo56

                                      Streetcars during the day are about 10 minutes apart but two weeks ago I saw three stacked up back to back to back.

                                      Treme to the Mint (if that's the route) is a hike, esp. in the heat. I think you'll need to find some a/c places around there just to "spell yourself."

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        Yes, that is the route. It begins at a church in Treme and then makes it's way to the festival on the grounds of the Mint. I wasn't planning that we'd walk the whole route, more likely just find someplace near the Mint to watch it pass as it arrives, then go to see the music onstage.

                                        The frequency of the streetcars is encouraging, although I understand there are bound to be some irregularities in how they are spaced.

                                      2. re: Gizmo56

                                        There was something in the paper about the transit authority phasing in an app that would show you the whereabouts of busses/streetcars, but I don't think that's very active yet.

                                        Here is the link for the St. Charles line outbound. Norta.com will give you other bits of information, including a cheaper pass if you plan on more streetcar/bus riding. Even in the summer it is a decent way to get to many restaurants that are withing a few blocks of a transportation line.

                                        http://www.norta.com/rta_system/Syste...

                                        1. re: collardman

                                          Thanks for the link, and I will keep an eye out for the app. You folks have all been so helpful.

                                          1. re: Gizmo56

                                            Things don't always happen on time in New Orleans. In fact, time is infinitely elastic in "the northernmost outpost of the Caribbean." Will your bus or streetcar arrive on time? ¡Qien sabe! Pack a sense of humor, and surrender to The Fates.

                                            The way to snag a seat on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar is to catch it at Gravier and Carondolet. The streetcar will be headed downtown when you get on, and packed. But most of the passengers will get off at Canal Street, and you'll grab a seat. The car will then swing around the block and head uptown again.

                                            GW Fins is not unlike a good seafood restaurant in NY, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. Which is not to discourage you from going. It's wonderful. Am just letting you know that it's not particularly New Orleans-y.

                                            With an eye to the future, December is a gorgeous time to visit NOLA. The weather is sublime — cool and sunny — and perfect for long walks.

                                            1. re: BrooksNYC

                                              My last planned trip was set for the week following Christmas. Alas, we had to cancel at the last moment, because of a family emergency. I still plan to visit in December as soon as we can.

                                              I am prepared for (and looking foward to) a city that doesn't operate on a strict timetable, mainly I was just wondering what the worse case scenario might be while waiting for a streetcar on a hot and muggy August afternoon. Your tip about hopping on board just before the turn-around is absolutely priceless. Many thanks.

                                              1. re: Gizmo56

                                                Good to hear you are planning a December visit!

                                                1. re: Gizmo56

                                                  We visit every year in early December. It is a great time in the city, everyone seems to be in an exceptionally good mood, the weather is usually great (just a bit of nip in the air) and I find it very romantic.

                                            2. re: collardman

                                              Yes, norta.com has a beta release of the app to tell when busses/streetcars are about to arrive. Most of the time it's accurate but we found some buggy behavior around the 11 Magazine line. Mostly helpful, especially if you're about to stand out in the heat for 25 minutes.

                                            3. re: Gizmo56

                                              There is nothing wrong with a dip in a cool pool, prior to dinner. Good move, and one that we often employ in Phoenix (drier, but hotter).

                                              Enjoy, and the local restauranteurs will appreciate you being there.

                                              Hunt

                                      3. re: hazelhurst

                                        Yes, we have been known to "duck in" to get a bit of AC. I pretend to admire the architecture, while my lovely, young wife, admires the art. Then, we move on.

                                        White linen, or seersucker, and a Panama, is the word(s) of the day.

                                        Hunt

                                      4. Hi Gizmo,

                                        Good choices for restaunts to start, and I would suggest spending more times in cabs and less in street cars if you aren't used to the heat.

                                        My two cents:

                                        Emeril's does a very good lunch special pre-fix for an affordable price

                                        I wouldn't miss Cochon's...(I've made the Butcher my last stop on the way to the airport so my carry-on ends up being a cooler bag ;) )

                                        If you find yourself hungry later in the evening after listening to Music on Frenchman, hit up Mimi's in the Marigny for some very good small plate dishes and usually some excellent music as well.

                                        If you stay Tuesday night, it might be worth a trip to Jacqeus-imos for dinner if Rebirth is playing at the Mapleleaf that night...that's a great night.

                                        Laslty, if you feel like venturing out a bit, for some very casual eats, there is always Willie Mae's fried chicken...it's special.

                                        Hope that helps.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: TedyB

                                          Hi TedyB,

                                          I know the WM's Scotch House has a fair number of detractors on this board, but I'd love to try it and form my own opinion.

                                          Sadly we come in on a Wednesday afternoon and fly out on Monday evening, so Tuesday is the one day of the week that we won't have. I'd love to see a set at the Mapleleaf.

                                          Thank your the Mimi's tip, it looks like Three Muses on Frenchmen also has some nice small plates. I was planning on a dinner at Emeril's but I will ponder trying it at lunch and working in a visit to Cochon's, if possible.

                                          All of this advice is invaluable, Thanks so much!

                                          1. re: Gizmo56

                                            While Emeril's pre fixe lunch is a bargain, dinner is a much better experience.

                                            1. re: JazzyB

                                              Thanks, Jazzy. We are having dinner at Emeril's the night we arrive.

                                              1. re: Gizmo56

                                                The andouille crusted redfish( sometimes drum) and the tamarind glazed pork chop with poblano mole are standouts. Angel hair with smoked mushroom app and banana. ream pie are good choices. Portions are generous. You'll probably need to share the pie. Request the main dining room.

                                                1. re: JazzyB

                                                  Thanks. My wife loves pork, me not so much, but I'd like at least bites of the legendary pork chop, so I suspect she'll order that and I'll go a different direction, and we'll share. The redfish/drum rings my bell. Also had the banana cream pie in my sights, splitting makes sense. I'll be sure to request a table in the main room.

                                                  This trip coincides with our 33rd anniversary, and I mentioned that in my reservation request, so I am hopeful they will give us some modest consideration in the table location.

                                                  1. re: Gizmo56

                                                    The tuna app is very good and large enough to share.