For many a year, the first thing that came to mind whenever New Orleans was mentioned in my presence was a bare-chested Ned Flanders yelling “STELLLLAAAAAAAA” in the Springfield Community Theatre version of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. That, and the fact that’s it’s sinking. And to be honest, even after visiting the famed city, Ned Flanders is still the default image in my mind when I hear the name, but I have many, many other wonderful images in my head now too.
My wife and I both agree: New Orleans is our favourite city so far. That, dirty, old, poverty-stricken, beautiful, amazing, noisy, delicious gem. That chaotic, bustling, masterpiece of human culture is a living entity like no other. Yes, Rue Bourbon is a bit cheesy after a few nights, but who cares? There’s so much more than one street to discover.
Yes, it has some dark alleys and seedy sections you don’t want to end up in because they’re dangerous. Sure it has drug problems (we saw homeless people smoking crack in broad daylight more than once), and issues with crime and violence, but those can easily be avoided by not making stupid decisions resulting in unfavourable outcomes. Same as any other city.
We spent ten days in New Orleans (a few times we were out almost all night) and nothing sketchy ever happened to us. My father-in-law got his fanny-pack picked once, but in my opinion, if you wear a fanny-pack you should get robbed. Nothing even remotely negative happened to my wife and me though.
The party goes for as long as you want it to in the French Quarter, and probably other areas as well, but we didn’t ever take our parties past the French Quarter. We didn’t need to. As soon as we were east of Canal Street after dark, the party found us. Even in the afterglow of a recent Mardi Gras, people from all over the world filled the restaurants, bars, and streets until the wee hours of every night we were out.
But marathon debauchery isn’t the only fare on the menu of “The Big Easy”. Top-notch live jazz and blues can be heard just about every hour, all days of the week, in countless restaurants, squares, bars and other venues. Too many places for me to even begin naming. There are green spaces, plazas and parks galore, along the river especially, which we rarely strayed far from.
New Orleans has so much to keep one occupied it’s not out of the question that an entire month could be spent exploring museums, parks and trails, old plantations, mansions and neighbourhoods just between North Causeway Boulevard, Ponchartrain Park, and Bywater, and a person still wouldn’t see everything.
For travelers like us, one surefire way to win our hearts is to feed us well. In New Orleans, our hearts were won, and won, and won again. Over and over and over. Especially considering we had previously been in Colombia for over two months.
With so much variety, love and vitality in the food scene of “NOLA”, it’s a serious future consideration as a place to settle down for a few months every year. Unlike my hesitation in listing where one might find great music in the city, I will name names when it comes to where we had our minds and mouths blown away with epic blasts of culinary creativity. In no particular order.
“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.”~ Mark Twain
Perhaps you’ve watched Ugly Delicious on Netflix and have seen the Three-Legged Dog Tavern featured? If not, in the episode “shrimp & crawfish”, David Chang chats with Master Chef Todd Lively about breaking traditionalism. However, Chang’s philosophy, “who cares about tradition, let’s just make it delicious”, wasn’t well-received in Nola. We agree, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Three-Legged Dog Tavern is a local favourite, a popular dive bar in a town where such establishments are revered. The traditional crawfish boil is huge and delicious. Not to mention there’s also 2 for 1 beer. We hung out in the back with the chefs, and some other entertaining locals, for hours to watch the magic happen, and we had a blast.
However, Three-Legged Dog is dark and dirty, so if you’re all dressed up in your finest summer whites, ready for a classy night on the town, maybe this isn’t the place for you. Us though? We absolutely loved it. Well, maybe not the bathroom. It looked like a Tijuana murder stall from a Tarantino movie, but you’re not in there to do anything classy anyway, so what does it matter? Everyone was welcoming, hilarious and cool, so we most certainly will be returning to this awesome spot.
Three Legged Dog Tavern (400 Burgundy St., New Orleans, 504-412-8335): Open 24 hours, seven days a week, the bar serves a traditional crawfish boil seasoned with Zatarain’s Crab Boil, lemon juice, red pepper, chilli pepper, salt, garlic pepper, black pepper & love.
Keeping with the dog theme, I can accurately and honestly say that the ultimate of my hot-dog eating experiences were enjoyed in this fine town, on Frenchman Street, another noted locale for good music. The establishment that served up the best dog of my days, not once but twice, is named Dat Dog. And, dang, Dat Dog done did deliver a delicious dinner! I don’t know how a hot dog can be made so goddamn tasty, and maybe I don’t want to, but there’s magic in whatever they’re up to.
Across town (across downtown, at any rate) sits yet another delightful establishment with a canine inspired moniker: Ugly Dog Saloon and BBQ. Before visiting “The Big Easy” I never ate slow-smoked brisket ends. After trying them for the first time at the Ugly Dog, I ate many slow-smoked brisket ends. And many other things too. Our hotel wasn’t far away, and Ugly became a bit of a regular spot. All the food at Ugly Dog Saloon was stellar. There was lots of it and the price was always right. I’ve been a dog-lover my whole life, and New Orleans cuisine has broadened my horizons for all things “dog”.
Ugly Dog Saloon & BBQ (401 Andrew Higgins Blvd., New Orleans): Open 11 am-2 am, seven days a week, Slow-smoked BBQ & made-from-scratch sides in a no-frills sports bar setting with a patio.
A stone’s throw from the Ugly Dog, a person, if they were extremely blessed, could find themselves within the hallowed walls of the “Cochon Butcher”, an absolutely world-class meatery. Queue up to pick a few delectable items for the incredibly friendly and helpful staff to package for enjoyment elsewhere if that tickles your fancy, but Chocon does have an option to dine in, should a body be so inclined. The deli looks deadly and to go this route is almost assuredly divine. The place was full every time we walked by or went in.
Everything is good at Cochon, everything. They gave us samples of all different types of whatever we wanted, all three of us, and were eager to do so. Maybe it was our wide-eyed wonderment, or possibly the strange west-coast Canadian accents that endeared us to them, but they certainly rolled out the red-meat carpet for us. From the Cochon Butcher, much goodness was purchased, to be secreted away to our lair and promptly devoured.
“STELLLLAAAAAAA!!!” I can’t help it.
Oh my! I could go on forever about that town, but there are other things for both you and I to do, like go to New Orleans, and I had better bring my gushing proclamation of love for “NOLA” to a close at some point. I love her, “The Big Easy”. I love ‘em big and I love ‘em easy. And dirty. And delicious. Feed me your slow-smoked brisket, baby, and I’ll be your dog any day.
If you haven’t been yet, you should git on down to Looozzy-anna, if’n ya can. It’s one of the friendliest places we’ve ever been lucky enough to visit.
Whether dining, dancing or drinking, or just laying low in Lafayette Square after the party’s over, or chillin’ at The Corner Pocket, a little gay bar that sells one-dollar beers before four (I think?), Nola has something to make you feel at home. A person can enjoy acrobatic entertainment in Jackson Square, or just stroll through the Upper Garden District looking at beautiful old mansions. But whatever you fancy, whatever you need, whatever tickles and titillates your sensibilities, you have to admit, New Orleans is a special, special place.
Special enough that it seems odd for it to be part of ‘Murica. It doesn’t quite fit. It could “big easily” be its own country. Where I would promptly apply for full citizenship.
Best Things to See & Do in New Orleans:
- Total Food, Cocktail and Jazz Tour
- French Quarter Food Tour
- Garden District Tour
- 2 Plantation Tours & Swamp Boat Ride
- History and Haunts Carriage Ride Night Tour