Everything about New Orleans is an assault on the senses: the loud and vibrant music, the colorful people and buildings, the often disgustingly smelly streets and, of course, the delicious food that is unlike anything else. I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of my spring break in the city, but five days is not nearly enough time to get the full experience. I’ll do my best to recall my experience (some of it’s a bit hazy) so you can have some priorities for your future trip.
The first meal I had was a wonderful catfish po-boy from Johnny’s Sandwiches on Bourbon Street. A po-boy, I have come to learn, is just a fancy name for a sandwich. They come with all kinds of meats and are traditionally served on a French roll with lettuce, tomato and mayo. If you want to do it right, you definitely have to get some kind of seafood like shrimp, catfish or even alligator. The one I had from Johnny’s was very filling, with a generous amount of fried catfish and delicious homemade bread. Basically every restaurant you find will serve some kind of po-boy, so don’t worry about where you’re going to get one.
As I’m sure anyone who has been to New Orleans will tell you, Café du Monde is an absolute must. The famous French café is known for its rich, creamy coffee and French donuts, called beignets. The beignet is topped with powdered sugar and reminds me of a funnel cake that has taken the form of a dense pillow. Café du Monde is open all night, so it’s not a bad place to unwind after a night of live music and drinking in the streets.
Not far from the café is the French Market. This was probably my favorite place to walk, since you get a taste of everything the city has to offer in one stroll. There are street side bars, outdoor cafés with live music, weird hand-crafted merchandise and a great selection of food. This was also where I had my favorite meal of the trip.
In the middle of the market, there is an open-air oyster bar. It’s really just one friendly local shucking oysters all day. Although the wait can be long, the atmosphere is great. People gather around the bar and openly talk about their origins as they await their meal. The oysters themselves were incredible, definitely the freshest I’ve ever had. They come served with horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon, but with or without they tasted amazing. This place also serves them fried, but I firmly believe the only way to have them is raw.
Another notable spot that we stopped by for lunch was at Domenica. Located under the Roosevelt Hotel, they serve gourmet thin crust pizza with meats that they smoke themselves. Their ridiculous happy hour special is really what sells it. After two, they have half off pizzas and craft beers.
I’m going to skip a lot of meals, but definitely get some jambalaya and gumbo. Like the po-boy, they’re served virtually everywhere. A good place to get a taste of everything would be at the Olde N’awlins Cookery. For a place that caters mostly to tourists, the prices aren’t too outrageous, and the food is definitely noteworthy. I had the alligator bites (they taste like a chewy, more flavorful chicken) and the Taste of New Orleans special.
Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to New Orleans without the nightlife. The city is known for its ridiculously sweet mixed drinks served in odd containers that can be drunk openly in the streets 24/7. I managed to sample most of the classics: Fishbowls, Hand Grenades, ice cream Daiquiris, Hurricanes and, my favorite, the Huge Ass Beer. It’s 72oz (a six pack) of any draft beer you want served with a straw in a huge plastic jug. I went with Blue Moon because I’m too basic for my own good.
I visited a lot of the clubs on Bourbon Street during my trip; most of them have semi-live music (really just a DJ). On one of my more reckless nights I even rode a mechanical bull, which was an experience you really only need to have once. Here’s some proof:
For less seedy options, I suggest you try Frenchmen Street, although it’s more of a local scene and a bit harder to get into. Pat O’Brien’s, a great place for a Hurricane, is an amazing piano bar that takes requests no matter how ridiculous. Their rendition of “I Like Big Butts” definitely made my night.
There is so much more that I wish I could share; the trip was truly non-stop indulgence. My biggest piece of advice is to go with an open mind and a deep wallet.