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Dec 4, 2012 12:57 PM

NYE in NOLA - First Time - HELP


First time poster here and this will be my first trip to NOLA! I had NOLA on my “to-do” list since I was 18, but unfortunately never made it down there. Luckily, my wife had suggested we spend my 30th birthday in NOLA, which is also New Year (yes, I am New Year’s baby) and I am beyond stoked for this trip. I always heard great things about the city and the people and my expectations are so damn high, but something tells me that I shouldn’t be worried ;)

But… I sort of am worried… there are just so many great places to eat and so little time that I am just not sure where to start or where to go first… and what if I miss a place?! I have already started to compile a list of places to check out while in NOLA which is based on the info on this board and the word-of-mouth from friends that have been to NOLA, but I figured I would post a thread here and get a response / suggestions from the “locals” on things to do / see and, most importantly, where to eat!

I have travelled the world and ate some interesting dishes, but I do have to say that Cajun is one of my favorite foods (and this is coming from a guy who when first came to the US from Europe could not eat pepperoni pizza because it was too “hot”). The reason why I say this is because I am interested in the culture and local cuisine vs. eating the “tourist-trap” food or the food I can get here in Ohio. This is also one of the reasons why NOLA is so appealing to me: fresh seafood, creole / Cajun food, French kitchen – all in one place. I am more stoked about the food then partying on the infamous “Bourbon” street (which I am still planning to do)!

So… what are some of the places a “local” would recommend? My wife and I will be in-town 12/29 - 1/2. I’m really interested in local cuisine: gumbo, jambalaya, oysters, seafood, benedicts, deserts (banana fosters!) and similar. Oh, and definitely jazz (during or after dinner)!

I know this is not related to chow (aka food) , but what are some of the sightseeing things we should check out? I’m not huge into football (I’m European, remember), but I do think we’ll go check out the Saints. I was told about the cemeteries and haunted houses as well so that’s something we may check out (yea, I know it’s touristy, but I may as well check them out while down there). Any other historical locations worth checking out? Yes, the primary focus of the trip is party and food, but like I had mentioned before, I am really interested in the local culture when visiting a new place.

Last, but not least, any suggestions what to do for New Year’s Eve? I have not made any reservations since I have been burned before (didn’t really like the event we had booked last NYE and we had more fun after the actual even and the day after).


Here’s my list of places to check out (I realize I do not have the time or money for all, but I figured if we’re close-by why not get a drink or a small appetizer just to try it). I'm staying in FQ, but which one’s would you definitely recommend?

Absinth House

Acme Oyster House






Café DuMont (spell?)

Café Pontalba

Cat’s Meow

Central Grocery


Commander’s Palace

Court of Two Sisters

French 75




Montrel’s Bistro

Mr. B’s Bistro



Original French Market Restaurant

Palace Café

Pat O’Brien’s

Preservation Hall

Ralph and Kacoo



Spotted Cat


Tropical Isle

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  1. I would take Cat's Meow and Razzoo off your list, neither is worth the effort, unless of course you want to karaoke, then go to Cat's

    1 Reply
    1. re: roro1831

      Thanks for letting me know! I think both places were suggested as a place for drinks. Then again, my buddy did go to NOLA for a bachelor party so I am questioning some of the places he had recommended lol

    2. One rule-of-thumb I've heard is never eat anywhere that has it's food on display under plastic on the sidewalk and/or uses a 'hawker/barker'; by that rule Montrel's is out. For activities, if the weather is nice the Confederacy of Cruisers creole bike tour is fun, insist they stop at Marie's Bar for a Bloody Mary. Ralph and Kacoo is rather touristy/chain-like in my view. Dining at Antoine's without your own waiter (yes, I know how that sounds) can be less fun according to some, but apps at the Hermes Bar of Antoine's are great, same food, good live tunes. I agree with roro. Enjoy!

      1. OK, don’t know how many days you have, but I would recommend doing the Bourbon Street thing just one of those days. Go ahead and hit Razoo’s, Pat O’Brien’s, Cat’s Meow, Tropical Isle and finish up at the Old Absinthe House. I know others will discourage you from doing it, but it sure is a sight to be seen your first night in New Orleans. It gets old quick, but you won’t notice that until the hangover. Second night, head over to Frenchman Street in the Marigny and listen to some great live music on the street and pick any club that suits your fancy. My favorites are Blue Nile, Spotted Cat, DBA, Snug Harbor and Three Muses. The third night, you might want to head Uptown and check out other music clubs like Tipitina’s, Mapleleaf or Mid City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl. Dr. John is also playing at the House of Blues a couple of those nights and he’s amazing. On New Year’s, I think the best huge party will be the one at the Hyatt with Cowboy Mouth and Big Sam’s Funky Nation. But if you want to steer clear of that type of thing, just head over to Jackson Square and watch the fireworks and the ball drop and then hit a club for some late night dancing. Of the places you name, the best dinners would be Herbsaint, August, Bayona, Mila, NoLa and Antoine’s (in that order) and Stanley and Commander’s Palace would be great for brunch. Galatoire’s, Cochon and Boucherie would be good lunches, but I prefer Cochon Butcher. Cafe du Monde is great for a snack, so is Mr. B’s but in a different way. The rest of the list isn’t worth your time or money. Have a great trip.

        16 Replies
        1. re: shanefink

          Everyone should "do" Bourbon St. (and, I think, the Las Vegas strip) once in his life. While doing so, you'd be well advised not to wear open toed shoes. Seriously.

          I like shanefink's list, though I personally would sub Cochon for NOLA ... to each his own.

          StRoch's advice, i.e., avoid restaurants with hawkers, is very sound. I'd make one exception(-ish) to that: if you're a fan of bop jazz, Maison on Frenchmen is often a good place to catch some. Even if someone sticks a menu in your face. Though to his or her point (hence the -ish), avoid the food. It's passable (if pricey) if you're a local and hungry and it's raining and you're pretty well in the bag anyway, otherwise stick to a beer and eat elsewhere.

          1. re: montuori

            Thank you all for your responses and suggestions! I really do appreciate it!

            Also, thanks for helping me "create the schedule" :) I used some of the ideas from another thread ("4 lunches, 2 jazz brunches") to plan out my trip; however, given that I'm going to NOLA with my wife and two other couples for NYE and my bday and neither one of us had ever been to NOLA, I figured we definitely need to hit Bourbon St. at least once - for the experience.

            StRoch - I didn't realize Montrel's has food on a display that's covered in plastic! Thanks for pointing that out! I definitely agree with your "rule-of-thumb" ;)

            Getting stoked just looking at my calendar and counting down the days - can't wait for this trip!

            1. re: Cerberus

              By that logic, which I definitely agree with, you'll also want to ditch Cafe Pontalba and the French Market Restaurant. Also on the "just not worth it/not any good" list are Ralph & Kacoo's as mentioned above, Remoulade, and Court of Two Sisters. And I would steer my own friends away from Palace Cafe and Acme.

              1. re: uptownlibrarian

                Thx Uptown! Just curious, why no Acme? I heard good things about that place (we're actually looking for a place with best, but reasonably priced, oysters). Do you have any other recommendations?

                1. re: Cerberus

                  The current widsom is go to Felix, across the street. Two days ago an oysterman told me the place had been sold to new guys but I cannot confirm that and I have not been in the courthouse lately so have not seen the records. But it has been my view that Acme has become too damn corporate. It just doesn't have the soul of teh old place, at least to me. For the local feel, Casamento's on Magazine near Napoleon is your best bet, Don't know the holiday hours, though.

                  Lots of people are flocking to Felix's though because they evidently had $$ trouble awhile back for the rallying cry is out.

                  1. re: hazelhurst

                    Definitely Casamento's, or the oyster bar at Manale's. I don't do Felix's or Acme anymore.

                    1. re: uptownlibrarian

                      I've not been to felix since The Troubles but I am willing to give them a shot when I have time.. What's the name of the newer spot by the Supreme Court? Someone was raving about it last week but I have not been That Far into the Quarter in awhile.

                      1. re: hazelhurst

                        Royal House? Where the old Tortorici's used to be? It's part of one of those restaurant groups that cater to tourists.

                        1. re: BayouTeche

                          I'm trying to avoid as much touristy stuff as possible and actually experience NOLA for its known culinary and cultural aspects. Granted, some touristy stuff will have to happen (i.e., Bourbon)

                        2. re: hazelhurst

                          Something Else Cafe, I think. I work right there - wouldn't be caught dead. I'm glad they enjoyed it but no.

                          1. re: uptownlibrarian

                            It had a cutsey name, that might be it..the deponent liked the oyster bar but since I don;t know what he's talking about I am stymied. I'll take your word Not To Go There over the witnesses'. Re: Royal House, well, that corner has done a big tourist business since before I was born. Oh we wait to see what happens with Brennan's.....

                            1. re: uptownlibrarian

                              The Felix's v. Acme debate could fill pages. For your purposes, with 4 couples, the atmosphere at Manale's is my suggestion, order drinks at the bar and across the room pickup your excellent oysters. If you want to dine make a reservation and arrive early. The best oysters are in the bar, sometimes the ones in the dining room have been open for a bit. This is a great site if you have not seen it yet.

                              1. re: StRoch

                                I have been having my share of raw oysters in the last month but most of them have been north shore places. The best was the new Shuck n Jive (didn't want to go there because of the name). It is a place stared by a couple from "da parish". When they have them the boiled crabs are outstanding. The worse was the north shore Acme.

                                In New Orleans Saturday lunch we had raw oysters at Grand Isle and they were cold and briney. They were good this summer when we had them during Tales of the Cocktail but even better Saturday. Probably the best I've had in LA. this yeat.

                                The shrimp po-boy was just OK but shrimp po-boys are never my sandwich of choice (I split one with my wife)

                    2. re: uptownlibrarian

                      Haven't heard too many good things about Felix, but I have about Acme.

                      Manale's looks good - will add it to the list - thanks!!

                      I do have to say THANKS one more time for helping me out with this (despite the fact you guy are giving me homework to do over the weekend lol). Also, good point about the holiday hours - I will have to make some calls in the next week or two just to figure out which place is still open during NYE/NY day.

                      Do I need to make reservations for NYE (I really don't want to do that b/c I don't want to get "stuck" at one place and not knowing about the atmosphere) or can I just grab dinner, check out the fireworks at the Square and head over to Bourbon / French st for some tunes (club or jazz, I haven't figure this one out yet since I will have to be cognizant of other couples -- this is what I get for planning it all!)?


                      1. re: Cerberus

                        You will most likely be disappointed with your dinner if you don’t make a reservation for New Year’s Eve. I much prefer restaurants that work off their regular menu that night so you might want to call around to find out who is doing those overpriced prix fixe menus. One suggestion would be Sylvain which is more like a bar that serves great food. I bet the ambiance would be fun for your age group and it’s a hop, skip and a jump from Jackson Square.

                        1. re: shanefink

                          Thanks Shanefink! Sylvain does look pretty neat (sort of intimate, based on the pics at least, but I think that will work). I'm sure we can always bounce to Bourbon or similar if we wanted "more action."

                          Any other suggestions for NYE? A place where they have live music (preferred) or just some good tunes in general would be ideal. Sylvain's menu looks good so something in line with that would be good as well.

              2. Instead of Cochon, hit their casual place next door, Cochon Butcher. Their food is simply loaded with flavor, and really filling (good excuse to do some walking).

                Also, I have had nothing but great meals over several years at the original Emeril's. Dress even reasonably well and you will be treated very nicely.

                Cafe DuMonde is a must!