In lieu of an April meal, which we didn’t cook because we weren’t home for half the month, I’m going to share our recent trip to New Orleans with you all.
We drove up on Thursday and stayed with some friends of ours who lives there, Nigel and Laura. We met Nigel when he was a server at a local restaurant here in Jax. We got to know him and became friends before he moved back to New Orleans, and now we have someone awesome to hang out with there, plus a non-tour-guide tour guide (his words).
On the way, we stopped in Pensacola for gas and lunch at The Tuscan Oven Pizzeria. We split an order of bruschetta and a margarita pizza. The bruschetta was delicious—it was 4 pieces of bread topped with Italian spices, tomatoes, and cheese. The pizza had so much cheese that when we took 2 pieces, the cheese basically formed a whole other piece. So so good.
We arrived in NOLA around 4pm and Nigel introduced us to his pup and gave us a tour of his home. They have an awesome backyard with a pool surrounded by lots of palm trees; I’m sure he just loves the maintenance for those. We hung out around the pool until Laura got home from work, and then we all went to a place named Kate’s for dinner. I completely forgot to take pictures of dinner; all of the amazing smells and delicious-looking food passing by our table must have distracted me. Laura ordered a crawfish beignet for the table, which was actually pretty tasty even though I’m not a fan of crawfish. (I don’t like eating things with faces, or having to do a ton of work just to get to the meat.) Zeus and I split a grilled shrimp po boy with fries, which was the perfect amount of food for the two of us. The sandwich was huge and had plenty of shrimp on it. The fries were the skinny kind, perfectly salted. It was definitely a good meal.
After dinner, Laura went home and Zeus, Nigel, and I went downtown to the French Quarter to Frenchmen Street. All the best music is on Frenchmen, and we wanted to go back to the Spotted Cat, a jazz music club. We spent a few nights there the last time we were in NOLA, and it’s our favorite. They were super packed though, with no room to stand or even get in the front door, so we walked around the art market going on next door, and then went into another bar called Bamboula’s. We spent the rest of the night there, listening to the band and the amazing singer who sounded like he could have been Louie Armstrong’s son.
Friday – Exploring
Friday, we woke up and went to breakfast/brunch/whatever at Russell’s Marina Grill, right off Lake Pontchartrain. Zeus and I started the day off right with Bloody Mary’s, which tasted like they had a lot of cocktail sauce in them. Very interesting, but good. I ordered a pretty standard breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries, and a biscuit) and Zeus ordered a shrimp omelet. Nigel had pancakes and eggs, plus a grit cake appetizer. He gave us a bite of both and I can definitely see why Russell’s is well-known for its pancakes. My breakfast was good, nothing incredibly mind blowing, except the strawberry jelly that came with the biscuit. I’m pretty sure it was homemade and it was amazing. Zeus’ omelet was the highlight though; it had green peppers, onions, cheddar cheese, and Crabmeat Monica sauce on top. It was so delicious I wish I would’ve gotten it.
After breakfast, we drove to some of New Orlean’s famous cemeteries. We walked around a few, including Greenwood Cemetery, while Nigel told us all about them. All the graves are aboveground because the city is below sea level, and most are these huge tombs that house entire families. Apparently, each one holds around 3 caskets (the latest 3 in the family to go) and after that, they’re put into a body bag and down into a hole below the tomb. There were some that had 15+ people on them. Everyone gets a year and a day on top, and then they’re moved down when the next person goes. Very interesting and crazy stuff.
After the cemeteries, Nigel drove us around Uptown before stopping for a famous New Orleans Snowball. These are like snow cones but WAY BETTER. The ice is shaved super fine, almost to a slushy-like texture. Also better than slushies. They have all sorts of flavors you can put on them, and then they add toppings on after that. Nigel ordered a creamy chocolate flavor topped with sweet condensed milk. It might sound weird, but it was sweet and delicious. To try something different, I ordered one with pineapple flavoring topped with pureed strawberries. Zeus ordered a pink lemonade flavor. Mine was better. What I liked so much was how non-artificial the flavors tasted. They didn’t taste like straight sugar like most snow cones. The pineapple flavoring tasted legit like pineapples, and obviously the strawberries were real.
While enjoying our snowballs, Nigel drove around the Audubon Park and we went to a park the locals call “The Fly.” Its full name is Butterfly Park we learned. It’s a park by the Mississippi River with lots of trees, some pavilions, sports fields, and playgrounds. There were a couple groups of people cooking a seafood boil that smelled spectacular; this is a regular occurrence here.
We left The Fly and drove through the park a bit more. Stopped at the Labyrinth, which has a fun story. Apparently, as a way to build up the park after Hurricane Katrina, the city announced they were building a labyrinth. They didn’t say what it was going to look like, but most people imagined an actual maze. Instead, it’s a “maze” of paved bricks. See the pics below. Zeus and I walked it just for kicks while Nigel told us we were stupid. I met my step goal that day!
After walking the Labyrinth, we walked over to this giant oak tree. I’m not sure if it’s the oldest one in the park, but it’s been there for quite a while because it is absolutely huge. Some of its branches are even growing into the ground and back out again. It’s a beautiful tree.
Next, Nigel took us to Magazine Street and we stopped for some shopping and a few drinks. After that, we stopped by Fat Tuesdays for a daiquiri (mango) and then went back to the house to get our stuff to move to the other house for the next 2 nights. We were there for Jazz Fest primarily, and there was a big group of us that rented a house in Bywater.
I drove to the Bywater house (driving in New Orleans is very interesting), we unpacked the car, and then got ready for dinner, which was at a place called Antoine’s in the French Quarter. Antoine’s is the oldest restaurant in New Orleans, and is surprisingly huge for the city. It felt like a maze that just kept going through many different rooms.
Now, before I start my review of Antoine’s, let me say that I am not a fan of fancier restaurants. I think Zeus can make a better steak than Ruth’s Chris (obviously for way less money), and most of them don’t offer a lot of options if you don’t like fish, which I don’t. I just think the food is unnecessarily overpriced, and I don’t need all that because I know I can find something better for cheaper (especially in New Orleans). I understand people like them and that’s fine. I get that they offer an experience of sorts, especially this place. I just recognize they’re not for me. I have only found one that I like in Jacksonville, and that’s Marker 32. They might have a small menu that’s full of mostly fish, but they always have shrimp and their land dishes are all amazing! But anyway, back to the story…
So we go to Antoine’s. I open the menu to see that no entree is less than $20, and most aren’t less than $30. The group started with an Oyster Rockefeller appetizer. They apparently invented this dish, but I hate oysters and it looked like a pile of green-gray poop on top of an oyster shell. I heard mixed reviews from the table—Zeus said it had an “interesting” flavor but wasn’t bad. For dinner, I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, Poulet aux Champignons, which is chicken breast sautéed with fresh mushrooms, butter, and garlic served over onion rice. It was good, but tasted like chicken with with brown gravy over it. Not worth $27 in my opinion. Zeus ordered Cotelettes d’Agneau Grillées (prime center cut lamb chops grilled and served with mint jelly). It came on a way-too-small-for-the-price plate, but the meat was juicy and tasted great. Sides were a la carte of course; we ordered potatoes au gratin and broccoli with hollandaise sauce. The potatoes were delicious and the broccoli was fine, but the hollandaise sauce was an odd choice. Good for Eggs Benedict, broccoli not so much. I’ll stick with cheese.
After paying way too much for dinner, we bar hopped around the French Quarter. First stop was 21st Amendment. We had one drink here and listened to the band before going on a wild goose chase for a zydeco bar that we’re not sure even exists. Then we walked to Frenchmen Street for some more music! We stopped at the R Bar for a few drinks and met up with Nigel again, then went to the Spotted Cat. We stayed here for a while, even after half the group went home. I have no idea what time we went home, but even after that, I know we stayed up for a while drinking in the courtyard.
OH! The house! Let me tell you about this house we rented. I think it must be a B&B or something because the layout was just so odd. The only common space is a central courtyard, which is lovely, well furnished, and shaded, but obviously wouldn’t be pleasant if the weather sucked. The building to the left had a kitchen and half bath downstairs and a room they called the “Tree House” upstairs with a queen bed, two twin beds, and a full bathroom. We stayed in here with our friends Jessie and Nicole. The others stayed in a separate house with 3 bedrooms and a bathroom with a clawfoot tub only (no shower curtain but it did have a shower nozzle). This one also had an outside shower and toilet. Apparently the shower was lined with mirrors. It was very odd, but it worked for our group. Plus, we got the only normal, indoor shower so yay for us!
Saturday – Jazz Fest
Saturday, we woke up a bit later than we planned, because no one knows how late we were out the night before. We all got ready, grabbed our chairs, and Uber-ed to Jazz Fest. The Uber driver was super friendly and happy to recommend places to go and eat.
We arrived to see a super long line waiting to get in, but luckily, those were people who didn’t have tickets yet. We had ours so we got to skip all that. Went through a very thorough security check (they made us take chairs out of their bags and everything), and then made our way to the main stage where the early crew had saved us some seats. Not real seats, just a spot in a huge lawn where you set up chairs. You can set chairs up and leave them there the whole day as a “home base” without worry of people stealing your spot. It’s pretty cool.
Once we set up our chairs, we set out in search of food. They have booths of everything under the sun at Jazz Fest. A million different kinds of shrimp and crawfish—it’s just heaven. We were starving so we ordered a lot to start, but everything was in small portions and pretty cheap.
We ordered a shrimp po boy with remoulade sauce first. It was cold, surprisingly. The flavor was good but po boys should be hot. Next, we ordered a noodle dish called shrimp yakisoba, which was super flavorful. About halfway through it, I added some chili sauce for some extra spice and that made it even better. Zeus went on the hunt for boiled crawfish and I found a booth serving shrimp and grits. I’m not a fan of crawfish so I can’t personally say how they were, but Zeus was satisfied. The shrimp and grits was creamy and almost like soup. It had corn in it too. These were probably some of the best shrimp and grits I’ve had in a long time—lots of flavor and the shrimp weren’t overdone. I expect no less in New Orleans.
After eating too much, we went back to our chairs and let the food digest for a minute. Around 3:00pm, everyone got up to go see Amos Lee. Zeus and I, on the recommendation of Nigel, went to the Economy Hall Tent to see the Treme Brass Band. We were not disappointed in this choice at all. In fact, this was probably my favorite performance of the day. The band was fantastic and the tent was so lively. There were people marching and dancing around the whole time, in a congo line type thing. It was just so much fun. You couldn’t help but smile the entire time at the talent and mood of the tent in general.
We met up with Nigel for a minute after this and then went to Congo Square to watch another brass band play. This band was called Rebirth. They were also amazingly talented.
After Rebirth was done playing, we walked around watching a few bands nearby and perusing the t-shirt booths. We also ordered some more food—jambalaya and crawfish Monica. Then we met up with the rest of the group to watch the headliners at the Acura Stage, Maroon 5. Alabama Shakes and Usher/The Roots were also playing at the same time on different stages, but I’m glad we saw Maroon 5. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for a long time, and they did not disappoint. I knew all the songs and I sang along and danced the whole time. It was a lot of fun.
Maroon 5 finished playing and we were able to catch a little bit of Usher and The Roots. I was very impressed with them as well.
After the show was over, we went back to gather our chairs and make the trek home. It was quite a trek, considering the states of half our party. We lost half of them but just agreed to meet back at the house. Had to walk for a while to get out of the traffic so we could call an Uber that wasn’t crazy expensive with surge pricing. Along the way, we passed a couple bands playing and marching through the streets. Made the walk more pleasant.
We finally made it home around 8:30pm, took showers, and then went out for a late dinner. We had plans to go to a place called Deanie’s, but we didn’t make it in time for them to close, so we went to Corner Oyster House instead. This turned out to be an interesting experience.
Zeus ordered some more crawfish. I tried to order a hot roast beef po boy, but the server decided to talk me out of it for no good reason—it sounded like he was just tired of making them or something, I’m not even sure. But I was too annoyed by the time he finished his story to even argue, so I just ordered shrimp alfredo. Zeus liked his crawfish, but my pasta was overcooked and the shrimp tasted funny. I told the server as such when he asked how it was and described my disappointment that it wasn’t roast beef.
After dinner, we walked to a bar called Molly’s and had a drink before heading back to the house. We had a drink or two in the courtyard and then went to bed.
Sunday – More Exploring & Trying to Stay Dry
Sunday we woke up to gray, overcast skies. The weather forecast did not look good, and they even canceled the morning shows at Jazz Fest. We packed up all our things, loaded up the car, dropped our cars off at Nigel’s house (we were staying there again before heading home on Monday), and caught an Uber to Frenchmen Street. We figured if we couldn’t go to Jazz Fest, Frenchmen Street was the next best thing.
For brunch, we went to a place called Cafe Rose Nicaud. They had mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, food, and a roof to shield us from the rain, so we were happy with it. I ordered a BLT + avocado and some cheese grits and Zeus had a breakfast burrito, plus Bloody Mary’s for both. Everyone else got their food, but they forgot ours for a while, so we just kept ordering drinks. Eventually, our food came and it was fantastic. We all had a few more rounds of drinks waiting for the rain to calm down.
When it finally did, we walked to a brewery, Brieux Carré Brewing Co, that was a block or so away. When we got there, they were pushing water out of the bar because it was flooded. We stayed for about 3 minutes (none of the beers looked good) and then left to go to Bamboula’s, where it was dry and had live music playing. We stayed at Bamboula’s for quite a while because the music was awesome.
After leaving, we just bar hopped from place to place in search of live music. We went to Spotted Cat, Vaso, and one other bar whose name I can’t remember. A brass band named Secondhand Street Band that seemed to have two of everything was playing at Vaso and they were awesome. I hated to leave.
We left Vaso and headed back for Nigel and Laura’s house. They treated us to a delicious dinner of grilled fall-off-the-bone ribs and boudin sausage, plus some delicious sides. We ate way too much and then spent the rest of the night drinking and talking by the pool. It was relaxing, and just what we needed after a whirlwind weekend. Went to bed around 11:00pm or so and got up at 7:00am the next morning to head back home. The drive was long and tiring (multiple nights of no sleep will do that to you), but we made it home in time for dinner.
Until next time New Orleans!