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MSP 'hound's first trip to NOLA - help!

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Hi All!

I've already posted a thread about breakfast in NOLA, and I probably should have given things a little more thought and posted this first, but I've been overwhelmed by all the options! My husband and I are making our first trip to NOLA the second week of June. We'll only have 3 full days in the city (Thur-Sat). We don't have tours figured out yet, but our main goals are to learn a little more about the history of the city, probably do a cemetery tour and then eat really good food. Not in that order though. We want to figure out some restaurants first and then we'll plan tours and activities around those places. :)

I don't necessarily have days selected for particular places yet, but I will list our contenders so far below and ask for your thoughts. Feel free to suggest places you think are absolute musts that we've missed. A few things to note first:

1) Hubby spent a few years in the south as a youngster, so he loves southern food - red beans, rice, grits, collard greens, the whole nine yards. And he loves spicy! I've been a mid-westerner my whole life and while I love some southern things (fried chicken, waffles) other things are a bit more of struggle for me - still haven't taken a liking to collard greens - and while I like a little spice, I like spice of the MN variety. :) Aside from personal taste, we don't have any real dining restrictions.
2) Our ideal dining scenarios are always eating somewhere we can't eat at home and cuisine we can't find at home. So no chains and probably more emphasis on the creole, cajun, seafood, French/NOLA side.
3) Dress code is an issue for us. We are not slobs by any means and have eaten at many fine dining establishments all over the world, but we like to be comfortable when we travel and that means hubby doesn't bring along a jacket (especially in HOT weather) and I am rarely in a dress. Khakis/button down/maybe a tie for hubby and a nice shirt/sweater and dress pants for me will work for a meal or two but overall we like REALLY good food at restaurants that don't have a meltdown over someone wearing nice jeans (maybe even shorts) and a nice shirt. From what I've read it seems like dining in NOLA is a dress-up affair, so I'm looking for some suggestions of places that definitely won't require a jacket for dinner and may even being willing to deal with <gasp> jeans.
4) We'll be staying at the Hotel Monteleone and will not have a car, so we'll be relying our our tootsies and public transportation to get where we need to go.

Breakfast Contenders - can only choose 2 or 3
Cafe du Monde (non-negotiable - have to do this)
The Old Coffee Shop
Stanley!
Elizabeth's
Surrey's

Saturday Brunch Contenders - can only choose 1
Cafe Atchafalaya
Eat
Commander's Palace

Lunch Contenders - can only choose 3
Commander's Palace - if we don't go there for brunch
Johnny's in the Quarter
Willie Mae's Scotch House
Cafe Amelie
Clancy's - if we wouldn't go there for dinner
Herbsaint - if we wouldn't go there for dinner
Ralph's on the Park

Dinner Contenders - can only choose 3
August (I love, love, love John Besh. Is this the best Besh option?)
Green Goddess
Brigtsen's
Clancy's
Herbsaint
Orleans Grapevine

Cocktails - haven't figured this out yet, thoughts so far
Carousel
Jean Lafitte's
Napoleon House

Treats
Angelo Brocato's

As an aside - I've read a lot about Galatoire's and while dinner wouldn't work for us there given the jacket requirement. What about lunch? Is it really uber formal? And could someone explain to me what the "show" is that is constantly talked about? Is it jazz music or something else? I haven't been able to figure it out.

I have read the posts that say food portions in NOLA are large, so we may not hit all of these places, but want a variety of options just in case. Also, we're considering the New Orleans Culinary History Tour - http://noculinarytours.com/tour/frenc... - any thoughts on that? That would obviously cut out some of the dining options I've listed here.

Oh and notably absent from my list are any of Emeril's restaurants. We have eaten at his restaurant in Orlando and are guessing his NOLA restaurants are fairly similar. If we're off base with that and really missing out, let me know.

Sorry this got long, but thanks in advance for your help! We're looking forward to enjoying your city's culinary treats!

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  1. Replying to myself, I know. Just added Mr. B's to the list. Anyone know the dress code there? Could we get by with jeans or are khaki's/dress pants a must even at lunch?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Seige

      Mr B's is a little more casual than you might think, although I always like to dress up a bit more than usual there and elsewhere when traveling. At lunch you'll be fine there as long as you don't look like a mess.

      I might scratch Commander's if you're not going to dress up a bit. I've seen people underdressed there but they don't fit. It's a place to do it up right.

      I'd also scratch Galatoire's. If you're not going to dress up you probably shouldn't go. The "show" isn't an official show. It's more of... an expression of human behavior and exploration of the upper limits of volume and lubrication.

    2. You may be a lot more comfortable if you brought a dress - a light cotton dress. As hot as you think it will be you will end up wishing it were only that cool! You say that breakfast at Cafe du Monde is non-negotiable so by all means go. But I would hit it in the afternoon or evening - there is nothing much to it and the menu is so limited. The place is a tourist attraction and packed in the morning. I'd skip Elizabeths - it's overrrated and you'd have to take a cab to get there. Stanley is dressy for dinner not sure about breakfast. Surreys is not as dressy and is located in the garden district. Get there by the street car - not walkable from the Quarter

      Herbsaint and Ralphs are dressy - so is Commanders. You may want to try Dante's. Eat is not as dressy but you might be able to get away with dressing down there.

      As far as cocktails are concerned I would skip Jean Lafitte's and Napoleon House. During the week Bourbon House (on Bourdon) has a good Happy Hour with drinks and snacks. You could also go to the Roosevelt for Happy Hour at Domenica and sample the pizza.

      Enjoy yourself - but take it easy. The heat will wear you down qucikly this time of year!

      1 Reply
      1. re: sunsuze

        I agree on Cafe Du Monde. It IS a must-do, if one has not yet been, BUT, the "menu" is limited. It is a coffee shop, after all. Personally, I enjoy it much more, late at night, and especially if the fog rolls in. Most tourists queue up for early morning, or lunch, and disappear later on. We enjoy it, and it is meaningful to us, but most of our forays were around Midnight, when my wife got off her shift at Oschener's, just up river. Back then, the Jax brewery was busy brewing, and while I never like their beer, the aroma was good - plus then the fog!

        It IS worth the effort, and is fun (sat with Tennessee Williams one night), but is not really a "breakfast" place, per se. Go, but do so, when the tourists are elsewhere.

        Enjoy,

        Hunt

      2. I'd consider swapping in MAndina's for lunch; you can ride the Canal car there, and walk to Angelo Brocato's for dessert.

        1. I agree with Kukubura re: Commander's and Galatoire's. The latter is open all day but the jacket, as you no doubt know, is not required until 5:00 or all day Sunday. I don't go in there for even a visit without a suit on. Once, when the air conditioning blew up, we let a guy from Pennsylvania take off his heavier coat but that was an abberation . THe "show" is table-hopping and cork pulling and do-rag wearin'. The Friday rodeo is a gin-fueled frat party. Everyone knows everyone else. That fifty-year old lawyer at the next table, in seersucker, was practically raised by that 75-year-old waiter in the back, and much of the rest of the staff. He'll thunder--in good humor--at the waiter if the last soft shell has been sold to someone We Don't Know.

          Commander's is similar but locals are often outnumbered in there and it is not as obvious since Galatoire's is just the one, tile floor room with mirrors and ceiling fans (that's don't work)

          1. Folks, dress code discussions are always testy so we'd ask that everyone keep things pretty strictly focused. If you've got a suggestion for a restaurant that will accept the criteria laid out in the original post, by all means suggest it, but please don't take this as an opportunity to comment on the poster's choice of attire or on dress codes in general.

            14 Replies
            1. re: The Chowhound Team

              Hello,

              I see Hazelhurst, and others, helping the OP with regards to what dress code (and even times) will be helpful.

              Sorry but I disagree with you.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Right, Hunt. There's a reason dress code comes up again and again in the NOLA forum. It's a critical element to dining in some of these places. Before CH (and without a southern fine dining background) I was ill-prepared once we moved beyond exclusively eating in po boy shops when visiting NOLA. I like to think that this board contributes to people being better informed than I was at first.

                1. re: kukubura

                  I think that this might have been pointed out recently, by "Travel+Leisure" magazine's "best dressed" for cities. NOLA was way up near the top. Their "diners" beat out some really "heavy-hitting" cities, and with good reason.

                  There is always a bit of controversy, between "dress codes" (mandatory dress requirements), and what one would be comfortable wearing to dine at restaurant ____ . If one is allowed in, very casually dressed, but every other diner is dressed noticeably higher up the scale, how comfortable would those diners be?

                  Since NOLA is a "tourist city," and a "dining destination," alerting tourists as to what they can logically expect, should be part of the "service," that CH provides. Yes, it is first about the food, but dining "experience" can include other aspects.

                  I do not wish to seem to be a contrarian, or an iconoclast, but feel that I would certainly want to know the “appropriate” dress for any restaurant. Having grown up in the “shadow” of NOLA, and having lived there, I learned a great deal about “appropriate” dress, when dining out. Now, some of that had to go by the way-side, when we moved out West, to Denver, and then again, when we moved to the “tropical” resort environs of Phoenix/Scottsdale, but I did learn the lessons. I know how it feels to walk through a full dining room, inappropriately dressed, or sporting a “paper tie,” because I left mine behind. OK, I got in, but was not comfortable, and comfort is very important to many dining experiences.

                  Again, I completely understand that CH is not the venue for too much sartorial comment, but if one is dining at restaurant ____, for the first time, they should be somewhat informed.

                  Just my thinking on the subject.

                  Hunt

                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  In the CH Team's defense, someone did tell me they thought it was "sad" that we'd be missing out on things because of my husband's non-desire to wear a jacket. While certainly entitled to their opinion, the point wasn't necessarily to tell me everything we'd be missing out on or a commentary on my husband but to help us find places we could go to either casually or dressy but sans jacket.

                  That said, I do appreciate the help. I never would have imagined that NOLA was such a dressy place for dining. We have James Beard Award winning restaurants in MSP and it's perfectly ok to wear jeans in them. In fact, I can't think of a single restaurant here that requires a jacket.

                  So - dress code aside - does anyone have thoughts on the restaurants we're thinking of? I just read that one of the chefs at Green Goddess has left. Still a good place to go or should we scratch it?

                  1. re: Seige

                    I love Brigtsen's food, decor & service, so I would definately recommend. The last couple of lunches & brunches I have had at CP have been underwhelming. I have never liked it for dinner. It used to be my favorite place for lunch particularly eating upstairs where you are surrounded by treetops. I agree with the recommendation for Mandina's. It is very casual & will give you a sense of the way NOLA neighborhoods used to have a neighborhood restaurant. I would also recommend Coquette on Magazine St for lunch or dinner. They have a great lunch special for about $20.00. Service is always consistent. August is good. You might want to check out their lunch special. For a treat, check out Sucre on Magazine. Yummy, yummy pastries. Hope you enjoy your visit. The weather will be warm!!!! No sweaters!

                    1. re: topeater

                      It's out in the same direction as Brigsten's but Dante's Kitchen is fantastic.

                      As for the whole dress code thing... New Orleans is just... different.

                      1. re: kukubura

                        The mores for the north and south are different, as they should be. When it comes to food you don't understand why a few N.O. restaurants have a dress code and I can't understand why people in MSP line up to eat ice cream on a sunny day in February! Viva la difference :-)

                        Your list contains many great places and you will do fine. Only 1 or 2 deal with dress code.

                        As for your Emeril comment, the Orlando restaurants are not like the N.O. restaurants, and Tchoup Tchoup's Asian based menu is far from what you will find in N.O.

                        1. re: collardman

                          I have been meaning to ask this question, since I first saw this thread - what is "MSP?"

                          Sorry to be so out of touch, and so dense.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            I think "MSP" is Minneapolis-St. Paul.

                            1. re: KatLa

                              Yes, Minneapolis - St. Paul. Sorry - sometimes I talk in airport codes. :)

                              1. re: KatLa

                                Thank you. I was trying to find some culinary relation to the abbreviation.

                                Appreciated,

                                Hunt

                          2. re: kukubura

                            Good one. While different menus and dining experiences, Dante's has always come through for us. Now, some of my wife's family knows the folk at Dante's (same for Brigtsen's), so maybe we have always gotten "B-I-L treatment?" Regardless, always very good.

                            Hunt

                          3. re: topeater

                            Topeater,

                            My most recent experiences at CP's (once my go-to restaurant) have been a let-down.

                            OTOH, we have always had great service and food at Brigtsen's.

                            Hunt

                          4. re: Seige

                            I can certainly understand that.

                            We have hosted many, from other parts of the world, in NOLA restaurants, and have had to "scramble," as some attendees did not bring the proper clothing. Of course we could have just excluded them, but that would not have constituted "good hosting."

                            There are really two levels at play here:

                            What is the minimum "dress code" for the restaurant?
                            What is the "common dress" for the majority of the patrons?

                            I would feel perfectly horrible, if I gave any poster just the food aspects of a restaurant, but then they were horribly uncomfortable, when all of the gentlemen were in suits with ties, and the ladies in more formal dresses, and I failed to mention that aspect.

                            I am usually much more formal, than most tourists, or casual travelers, but do make observations. I always travel (now) with a tie, and of course, my blazer, at a minimum. At many locations, I am a bit over-dressed, but I find that preferable to the reverse.

                            In New Orleans, there are but a few restaurants (most ARE worth the effort), that have a "gentlemen must wear a jacket" rule. However, there are some, where a gentleman would feel more comfortable, when seated among other gentlemen, wearing suits, if they at least had a jacket.

                            Because of my history, and my background, I am called upon, monthly, to recommend dining experiences in NOLA, far beyond CH. I never hesitate to provide "dress guides," so that these people (usually professionals, and often in healthcare) are comfortable. Then, their dining experience comes down to the food, and the service, on the night that they visit.

                            As for Green Goddess, I have read some of the same things, that you have. There, the locals will need to step up, and help you out. I try to keep current on the chefs, in NOLA and also in San Francisco, London, Rome and even in my home town, Phoenix, and have experienced great "replacement chefs," but also disasters. The locals can help you there.

                            Most of all, ENJOY and dine well,

                            Hunt