Tuesday, January 25, 2011

new orleans: where we stayed + what we ate.

 {our cotton anniversary, new orleans}

Jordan and I got married in November, but we've yet to actually celebrate our anniversary in that month. We're both pretty low maintenance and willing to celebrate anything at any time, so when Jordan had the opportunity to attend the national championship game in Glendale, who was I to stand in his way? We'd already waited until January; what was one more week?

So finally, last week, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary by traipsing through New Orleans.

Before I go into where we went and, more importantly, what we ate, I must confess: New Orleans is not my favorite. I know, I know. The jazz! The food! The party-all-the-time atmosphere! What's not to love?

Well, for one, the mimes.

That's right. I was 8 years old the first time I visited New Orleans, and all I can remember about the trip was this persistent street performer who would not. leave. me. alone.

I was an imaginative, quiet child, and it was terrifying.

My fear of mimes (and clowns. and statues. and bizarre street people painted silver to look like statues) remains, but luckily, New Orleans isn't quite so scary the second time around.

And since I use blogs for all kinds of information gathering, I thought I'd provide you with this, my little guide to New Orleans, in case, like me, you're planning a trip for Jazz Fest 2011. (Robert Plant? Mumford and Sons? The Avett Brothers? Um, yes, please.)

{The Rathbone}

Where we stayed: The Rathbone Inn. When you're driving into town at night, the place is not appealing. (Read: Not too far from very scary things.) I'm a pretty brave traveler, but I wasn't impressed. We wound up sticking it out, and in the daylight, the place isn't that bad. I'll just say this: You get what you pay for, and we didn't pay much.

What we ate: Food is my favorite. When it comes to our anniversary trips, Jordan does the planning, but the food? Oh, the food I help pick. Here's a listing:

{at Lambert's}

- Saturday lunch, Lambert's, Foley, Alabama. Okay, Jordan talked more about the "home of the throwed rolls" than the actual trip to New Orleans. He's been dying to take me forever, and he was so excited. We got there, and... Let's just say you go to Lambert's to laugh at the throwing of bread. Not to eat good food. (Although, this is Foley, Alabama, so people watching is at a premium.) I love my husband, but poor Lambert's left a lot to be desired. Maybe if you're with little kids, it's more fun? 

- Saturday dinner, Lola's, 3312 Esplanade Ave. This was my favorite eating experience of our entire stay. It's off the beaten path of the French Quarter, but we stayed on Esplanade Avenue, just a few blocks from this tiny restaurant, so location didn't matter to us (and even if it's a drive, I'd still tell you: Go). They don't have a website (the best places don't), but their atmosphere and their food is amazing. It has a really European feel to it, and there's often a line out the door. I had some kind of shrimp something (how helpful, I know), but it's not a seafood place, so if you're not a seafood fan, still give it a shot. (Frommer's describes it as Spanish/International. Whatever it is, it's good.)

- Sunday lunch, The Gumbo Shop, 630 St. Peter St. The Gumbo Shop was a recommendation from someone we met at church, and since locals seem to know where the good food is, we happily took his recommendation. I had the jambalaya, which was delicious, and the service was excellent. This is definitely a tourist favorite, probably due to its location in the heart of the French Quarter.

- Sunday dinner, Cafe Nonna Mia, 3125 Esplanade Ave. Jordan was craving a pizza (isn't he always?), so we found this spot right across from Lola's. The pizza reminded me of Italy, light and fresh. I wouldn't necessarily call this New Orleans-esque, but if you're looking for good pizza, I'd say this hit the spot. The gelato was good too.

{at Cafe Du Monde}

- Monday breakfast, Cafe Du Monde, 1039 Decatur St. Okay, okay. You already know to go here, but I promise, this isn't just a tourist trap. The beignets are delicious (I can't speak for the coffee, but the orange juice was good), and the people watching is top-notch. Plus, street performers often put on a show outside, and who doesn't like a free show?

- Monday lunch, Parkway Bakery and Tavern, 538 Hagan Ave. Another "off-the-beaten-path" locale (my dad would be proud), this place supposedly serves the best po'boy in town. I'm certainly not some po'boy connoisseur, so I'll just have to take their word for it. I ordered the roast beef, and Jordan had the barbecue. We'd give both As, and the atmosphere was really fun too. (And they were really busy for a Monday, which is always a good sign.)

- Monday dinner, Mandina's Restaurant, 3800 Canal St. I don't mind waiting for my food, especially if it's good, and our guidebook assured us this would be good. But we waited for about an hour -- standing room only! -- and I thought the food was only okay. Maybe this was a bad night, or maybe I was disappointed in our cute old man waiter who essentially told me that whether I ordered fried catfish or fried shrimp, it would all taste the same (I ordered the catfish), but I just wasn't all that impressed. It was seriously packed, though, so maybe it was just what I ordered. Jordan liked his red beans and rice, and I certainly wouldn't say this place was terrible! I'd recommend it, though maybe go more in the middle of the week (and before 7).

{Camellia Grill}

- Tuesday lunch, Camellia Grill, 626 S. Carrollton Ave. This was my other favorite dining experience of the trip. You really have to go! The Camellia Grill is essentially an old-fashioned diner, but the food is phenomenal, and the service is excellent. You're seated around the cooks and servers, so it's just a fun atmosphere. I love me a good patty melt, and this one... Mmmmm. Perfection. Jordan's burger was -- in his words -- amazing. One of the best burgers he's ever had. Like I said, go. You won't be disappointed. (Side note: Apparently after Katrina, the Camellia Grill didn't reopen right away, and patrons left dozens upon dozens of post-it notes all over the restaurant doors, begging them to come back. It's easy to understand why, and I think New Orleans is very happy to have them back.)

- Tuesday dinner, Marigny Brasserie, 640 Frenchmen St. We really, really wanted to go to Cafe Degas for dinner, but alas... closed on Tuesdays! Weird, and a bummer. But a blogging buddy had recommended Marigny Brasserie, so there we went, and it was good! It wasn't crowded at all, even though we waited until a little bit later in the evening, when crowds down near the French Quarter are worse. The barbecue shrimp and grits was delicious (I promise... I don't just eat seafood!), and Jordan said the ravioli was excellent. It was a quiet, nice dinner, thought not as fancy as the website makes it look, so don't let that deter you. The food was good, and it was a nice way to round out the trip.

- Missed opportunities: Magnolia Grill, Cafe Degas, and The Bluebird Cafe.

{Stay tuned for new orleans: what we saw + what we bought}


Jessica said...

new orleans isn't my favorite either. i've been twice and both times i was less than impressed. i want to like it, but i'm a small town girl and it's kinda scary. i practically live in mayberry so it's quite a change for me! we did have fun, but with reservation. i preferred the garden district and that whole side of town. it seemed more me. so we spent a lot of time on the trolley over that way. i'd go back, but a weekend is the maximum amount of time i can spend there before i'm over it big time.

*Priscilla* said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! ...for this because I've never been to NOLA and I'm going in March for a conference. My co-traveler and I were wanting to find some great NOLA places to eat, and this is perfect! :)

Kim Humes said...

Oooo good to know tips! That jazz fest line up sounds amazing! My bf and I have been discussing a trip so perhaps will check that out...I've always wanted to go to NO. Any tips for things to see/activities? Email me if so!

monster cakes said...

Happy {late} Anniversary! Mine is on Feb. 1st, but we are the same as you guys. No money = low maintenance for us! haha All you need is love! xo