Mike’s Travelogue: Food, music, and fun in the Big Easy
SPONSORED POST – When I was in college, a group of my friends decided we wanted to take a long road trip. We had a free week and could have gone anywhere. But we wanted to see one of the coolest, most unique cities in this country. And sure enough, we were not disappointed by New Orleans. Fortunately, you don’t have to drive there from Seattle thanks to Alaska’s non-stop flights. And this year, football fans have an extra reason to head to the Big Easy – a midday date at the Superdome!
There is no shortage of things to do in New Orleans but let’s start with the basics: food, music, and fun. And food starts with breakfast, and that means beignets. You can get them plenty of places, but the most famous is Café Du Monde in the French Quarter. The line will be out the door and down the street, but it’s worth it for the sweet, doughy delicacy that just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else. Even better, you don’t actually have to wait in that huge line to eat there! The line is just for takeout. If you are willing to sit and eat there, just walk inside, grab a table, and someone should be over to take your order. Café Beignet on Royal Street is a close second, but in this case, I recommend the most famous, even if it’s become a tourist attraction. Trust me, it got that way for a reason!
There are two famous local treats that you’ll have to try for lunch. Thankfully, you can get both in the French Quarter as well. The muffuletta sandwich is…unique. Made with salami, cheese, and olive spread, it was created in the French Quarter over 100 years ago. Traditionally, it is served cold (like at the Central Grocery, said to be where it originated), but you can also get it hot, and Cochon is the place for that. Cochon Butcher is owned by chef Donald Link (more on him to come) and is well worth your time.
If you aren’t into olives or prefer seafood, you should be looking for a po’boy. Shrimp is a classic, but gator is more local. Johnny’s Po Boys does a gator sausage, among other options (including soft-shell crab). My favorite though is the catfish, and Zara’s is a popular spot (though not in the quarter).
Alternatively, there is one other local delicacy that you might not know is a New Orleans thing: banh mi sandwiches. Pho Bistreaux is a great uptown option, and Mint Modern has some creative combinations.
For dinner, I mentioned Donald Link, and for good reason. He is a James Beard award winner, and he has a host of options in the area. Personally, my favorite is Herbsaint, where you can get a southern menu that changes by the season. Cochon is more traditional, and Peche is focused on seafood.
For steak, I had one of the best of my life at Mr. B’s Bistro (though it is a little touristy).
There are plenty of great hotels in New Orleans as well. Of course, all the chains are well represented, but the Hotel Mazarin is a great option. It isn’t too expensive, has a perfect location, and has a really unique design. It works perfectly for families as well.
For fun, many will seek out the countless bars and clubs, especially along Bourbon Street. If you are like me, you will spend most of your time there eating (or walking to digest your meals), but there are some cool attractions as well. Fans of the movie JFK might want to stop at the corner of Camp and Lafayette to see the Newman building, which plays a big role in the conspiracy theory. There are also JFK assassination tours of the city for the dedicated.
If partying on Bourbon Street (which is kind of overrun by amateurs) isn’t your scene, the National World War II Museum is a more refined and historical option. And I love anything close to the river, whether you are viewing it from the shore or getting out in a boat. Of course, you can always try one of the numerous ghost or graveyard tours.
There is plenty to do, but make sure you save some strength to out-scream the Who Dat chanting fans on Sunday!
Let’s also not forget that this is one of the greatest music cities in the country, especially for jazz. The Blue Nile, The Spotted Cat, Tipitina’s…the list goes on and on. Don’t come to this city without an open musical mind – you will not be disappointed!
Stadium: Caesar’s Superdome
Stadium Food: Not the greatest option but the Parish Grill has po’boys
Seattle haunt: Nope