Really brief visit to New Orleans, trying to pack as much in as possible!
I'm hosting a small group trip to New Orleans in August for a bunch of people who have never been there before, We're arriving by train at about 3:30 pm on Saturday, and departing at 1:45pm on Sunday -- less than 24 hours! YIKES! We're staying at the Hilton Riverside, so we're in easy walking distance to the FQ, streetcar etc. Since everyone will be looking to me to cart them around, and we have so little time, I'm trying to map out an itinerary that gives them a decent taste of things.
I'm thinking that we'll arrive, drop bags at the hotel and immediately head out to the FQ for cocktails. Tujagues is somewhat of a tradition for the first drink in town. Has it managed to escape the clutches of the evil t-shirt empire? The group may not want to all dine together on the first night, some have already expressed interest in Herbsaint, Peche and Coop's -- they're a fairly adventurous bunch, so are there other places I should direct them for their "one-shot" at dinner in the FQ? We've got some self-proclaimed "high-end foodies" and some others who might wander into TJ McFunsters if we don't stop them!
What would be a good night spot for after-dinner cocktails for a group of about 20? Festive, but not too loud and not filled with drunken tourists? OK, we will also be slightly drunken tourists, but you know what I mean!
In the morning I'm thinking of rousting them early and heading out on the streetcar to Camellia Grill for breakfast, some Garden District strolling, then back to the French/Farmers Market for the inevitable trinket shopping and to pick up snacks for the train that afternoon. I will not be allowed to avoid a visit to Cafe Du Monde, although it sounds like Cafe Beignet might be giving them some competition.... I'm inclined to stop at Johnny's for po' boys for lunch and send some of them to Central Grocery for muffs before we head back to the train station.
I know all of this sounds a little predictable, but I'm trying to give people a "taste", given how little time we have in town. I've visited NO a bunch of times, but still have so much to learn, so I'm eager to get an insider's perspective on how you might do things differently.
Experiencing New Orleans in 24 hours is certainly a challenge. Although I agree Po’boys are a large part of New Orleans’ cuisine, I don’t think Johnny’s would be the place to go. There is always an extremely long line, limited seating, and a loud and dirty environment. The Po’boys at Napoleon House (about three shops down from Johnnies) are extremely delicious and very reasonably priced. There is also a cute little gelato shop in-between the two Po’boy eateries called The Sweet Palate which would be the best place for dessert. Po’boys and homemade gelato will certainly leave your group with a great impression about our city!
OK, here’s what I’d do. I think you can pull off two good meals on Saturday. Upon arrival, head over to Cochon Butcher and grab some awesome sandwiches and some microbrews. Then get on your pre-arranged party bus (http://www.nopartybus.com/) or call around to other limo companies because it’s so damn hot in the summer and your friends are gonna be whiney b-tches after a few hours of walking around. Take the bus down to the Jackson Square and enjoy your drinks at Tujagues. Check out the square, maybe walk up to Pat O’Briens for a hurricane in the piano bar. Jump back on the bus and take it to Molly’s on the Market for a Frozen Irish Coffee. Yum. Back on the bus for a little air conditioning and over to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for a sazerac. Walk up to Bourbon Street for a little bit and meet your bus for your 9:30 dinner reservation at Herbsaint. Enjoy your dinner and some fine cocktails. The bus will be waiting for your 11:30 departure to take you to Frenchman Street and some live music at DBA, Blue Nile, Three Muses or any other club that suits your fancy. Let the bus go so you don’t have to spend another $300 and grab taxis back to the hotel at 6 in the morning. Then sleep until noon, grab some beignets from Cafe du Monde and some frozen cafe au laits and a few po boys from Johnny’s for the train ride home.
a group of 20? wow. with a size that big any bar that can accommodate you will most likely be loud and as you say filled with other drunk tourists.
for a one-shot dinner, it's all about what you want to impart of your friends. Peche is very good, but is not traditional new orleans food by any stretch. Galatoire's is, but is formal. Cochon is pork-heavy cajun comfort food, etc.. as noted Red Fish Grill is large, more casual than fine, and has a mix of traditional new orleans stuff.
as also noted there is another Camellia Grill, this one in the FQ. same food and vibe, but not as impressive from the outside as the garden district.
id do Cafe du Monde over Cafe Beignet.
As far as I know, Tujaque's is still open, but is a bit of a hike from your hotel. If you're just looking for cocktails, the Monteleone would also be a nice option. It has undergone a very classy renovation, although the eponymous carousel bar is still there.
I'm sure you know that Herbsaint and Peche aren't actually in the Quarter, however they are both excellent choices and wouldn't be a bad walk (or take one of the bike cabs that seem to be everywhere now). You might as well add Cochon to that list, too, and do the whole link trio.
I'm going to defer on the question of drinks, as there are just so many places. Most hotels and restaurants have nice higher end bars that can be a little more quiet, but there are plenty of others, too. It really depends where you want to be.
I haven't been recently, but camelia grill has been going through some legal issues, however there is also a location now at Toulouse and Chartres that you may want to investigate. There are also several places on the streetcar line that are actually closer to the garden district, if that's where you want to be (Surrey's, Coulis, Gott Gourmet).
For lunch, Johnnie's is a good choice. You might add Bourbon House and Redfish Grill to that list, as both also serve casual fare, but have oyster bars and alcohol as well (and of course Cochon Butcher is also a great choice if you are with LInk fans).
That's a good start. Have fun!