The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul


New Orleans....The Jet Set Chick Recommends.....

Ah, yes, New Orleans. One of the culinary jewels of America (right up there with San Francisco and New York).

Me and the Tsar spent his 31st birthday and our four-month anniversary in the Crescent City. The Tsar had never been there before, and always wanted to go. I figured, what the hell....I've got some vacation time, let's go!

We got in Saturday afternoon, saw a Mardi Gras parade in the French Quarter (Krewe de Vieux....definitely NOT for kids, and no, I didn't flash the parade. It was too damn cold. Didn't see anyone else doing that, either!) and settled in.

Here's my totally opinionated reviews of the city and what we experienced:

Best Breakfast: Sorry, didn't get up that early. Too much partying. It would probably be Cafe du Monde's beignets. They're open 24 hours, so you could have breakfast any time. Very limited with chicory, coffee straight up, hot chocolate and beignets. Just be warned, the beignets have tons of powdered sugar on them. The tsar and I were there twice and both of us ordered a plate of three both times. I swear that in total there had to be a good half pound of powdered sugar in those four orders. Oy!

Jazz Brunch: Mr B's. Wandering musicians, lots of hot coffee (which was important, since it only got to the mid-40's that day), and amazing BBQ shrimp. If you order that, wear the bib your server will offer you! Yeah, you may be the most delicate eater at the dinner table, but these little buggers will make a mess that will get all over you. It's worse than the beignets at Cafe du Monde. The shrimp may be disconcerting to those who are not used to seeing the entire shrimp (heads, eyes, antennae), but it is one glorious mess for those of you who can ignore your entree looking up at you. The jazz brunch is only offered Sundays from 10 to 2. Be there.

Best Place to Celebrate a Special Occasion: Commander's Palace. Lunchtime. 25 cent martinis, and they ain't watered down. Take a loan to pay for the meal (it's worth it....this place hasn't been called the best restaurant in America for nothin'), and then take a cab back to your hotel.

Best Place for a Drink: Pat O'Brien's. Why get a hurricane anywhere else, when you can go to the birthplace of that lethal concoction? Just remember, you get charged for the glass when you order. You can get your money back if you stagger to the bar with the empty one ($3 per). There are 4 ounces of rum in each drink. If you can down more than two and stand up, you are either bulletproof or a serious alcoholic.

Best Place for Photos, indoor: The Aquarium of the Americas by the Mississippi River at the end of Canal Street. Bring your tripod and snap away at the penguins, otters and fish of all kinds. Nice seahorse exhibit. There are no restrictions on taking pictures.

Best Place for Photos, outdoor: Jackson Square, from across Decatur Street by the cannon at sunset, and just after sunset.

Best Dive, food division: Mother's on Poydras. Cleanliness is, well, questionable. The wait is ridiculous, and obviously no expense was spared on the decor (as in, not one thin dime since FDR was in office). I really don't want to know what was in that Ferdi sandwich I ate. But the gumbo special the Tsar had was mighty tasty.

Best Overrated Place: Clover Grill on Bourbon Street. Hey, I couldn't pass up a place that's open 24 hours and grills your burger under a hubcap. Why a hubcap? Beats the hell outta me, especially since it was well done and I like 'em medium (my bad, forgot to tell the waiter.) It is supposed to be the best burger in town. If so, well, I prefer Wendy's. Sorry....Deep in the gay end of Bourbon Street on the corner of St Ann. The Tsar and I were the only straights in there, but no one seemed to care. Almost rivals Mother's for decor, but it gets some points for being pink and having cool art Deco light fixtures.

Stupidest Thing We Encountered: Hustler's Hollywood at the corner of Canal and Bourbon. The Tsar had his camera equipment with him (tripod, two expensive cameras and a bunch of other toys that only serious photographers have), and we went into the store to see if there was anything interesting (save your's nothing special if you've been in a sex shop anytime in the past 10 years). They got their pants in a tizzy because the Tsar wouldn't let them take his photo bags to an unguarded place at the front of the store. We offered to let them inspect the bags when we left, but the manager insisted and was incredibly snotty about that. The only thing worse than his 'tude was his breath. Yow! Someone get him a breath mint!

Best Reason to Take a Big Tube of Toothpaste and a Bottle of Scope:
The muffalettas at Central Grocery in the French Quarter. Loaded with meat, cheese and olive salad (not as nasty as it sounds....I liked it on this sandwich and I don't like olives), this remnant of New Orleans' Italian heritage requires two things: a friend to help you eat the huge thing, and plenty of dental care products to help take care of the nasty breath problem you are going to have after consuming one of these bad boys. Nice for a picnic on nearby Jackson Square, and pretty inexpensive to boot.

Best Cheap Seafood: Acme Oyster in the French Quarter. Pretty decent po' boy sandwich (the Peacemaker -- fried oysters and fried shrimp with some tabasco mayo on it...) and fresh oysters on the half shell. People line up along the streets at mealtimes to get in, and they're not all tourists.

Best Thing to Take Along with You to New Orleans: the latest copy of the Zagat guide. The New Orleans edition is for 2004 at the local library here in Phoenix. It never steers you wrong, gives you a good idea of the local specialties and "Best Bangs for the Buck".

Stupidest Thing to Do in New Orleans: renting a car. Seriously. Parking is a nightmare, and most hotels charge at least $15 a day for guest parking. One hotel close to the Quarter was charging $29. Plus, if you are going to spend any time drinking, do you REALLY want to leave a vehicle out on the street for heaven knows how long until you sober up and/or can remember where you parked it? Overall, a cab will be cheaper and much more convenient.

Best Reason NOT to stay in the French Quarter: Too damn noisy, and just outside the Quarter in the Central Business District, there are two hotels that are the highest ranked on They are right next to each other....the Homewood Suites and Le Pavillon. We stayed at the latter. It was a lovely, high ceilinged room, and they served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as late night snacks at 10 pm.

No, New Orleans isn't a place to bring the kiddies. It's more fun than Vegas, though. Better drinks, better food, and nicer people. There's still plenty of old buildings, some in good condition and others not. The sidewalks are ripped up, it's generally pretty dirty and there are a whole bunch of weirdos walking around....and those are the locals.

But,'s got its charm. I wouldn't want to live there, I just want to eat there!


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