Whoever pronounced “All Work and No Play…” knew what they were talking about. At BTGP, we tend to work hard, but we also find time to play. Luckily, we are well suited for both.
New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region offer many and varied distractions for play and relaxation. From sport fishing to fine dining, from museums to bar-hopping, and to endless festivals, you’d have to work hard not to play. We are proud ambassadors for the Region and will be pleased to answer any question you might have in connection with your visit. You may find our New Orleans’ Visitors Guide at the link, and we offer the following sample hoping to whet your appetite.
Brunch is an art form in New Orleans. Hip, with artsy vibes and fare at Elizabeth’s in Bywater; Drag show at Bywater’s The Country Club; Classic with live Dixieland jazz music and Creole food at Commander’s Palace (Garden District) and Ralph’s on the Park (City Park); and with a Parisian flare at Café Degas (Bayou St. John) on Esplanade. Or find modern dishes at Patois near the Audubon Zoo, and Achafalaya Café in the Irish Channel. It’s not just for breakfast.
Po Boys, Muffalettas and other Oddities
New Orleans has not one but two indigenous sandwiches. Po-boys – some say “Poor Boys” – are well-known and immensely popular (everyone has a favorite sandwich and shop). You should know the lingo: “dressed” means lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise (Blue Plate, of course). Hot sauce, pickles and ketchup might be added as well. A few top contenders are Johnny’s in the French Quarter (“FQ”), Parkway Bakery & Tavern (near Bayou St. John) and Bevi Seafood Co., in Mid-City, and R & O’s Restaurant in Bucktown (tucked behind the levee on Lake Pontchartrain).
Muffalettas can be found everywhere, but the best come from New Orleans’ eponymous Italian market, Central Grocery in the FQ. A large, round, sesame seed-topped loaf is split crosswise and piled with cured meats, cheeses, and tangy olive salad. Cut into quarters and perfect for sharing, the sandwich needs nothing more than a cold beer or Barq’s root beer to sip alongside. Don’t skip a stroll around the store for amazing aromas and Italian specialties. Truthfully there’s no wrong muffuletta, only distinctions (like getting it warm or cold) so order the sandwich anywhere but be mindful of filling up; there’s more food to be had.
Oysters abound – raw at Acme Oyster House, Bourbon House and Felix’s Restaurant in the FQ, Pascal’s Manale (quaint Oyster Bar, oddly cash only) or Superior Seafood both Uptown. Where the streetcar line bends at St. Charles and becomes Carrollton, college coeds crowd Cooter Brown’s Tavern for tavern food, pretty much any beer imaginable and fresh, raw oysters. Pascal’s Manale has great oysters, but be sure to get a table, put on a bib and dive into buttery, seasoned, New Orleans style Barbecue Shrimp; no pit nor charcoal involved. Heaven. Be sure to dip plenty of warm, crusty French bread in the sauce.
Barbecued shrimp is also a specialty and a must at Mr. B’s Bistro in the FQ. Drago’s Restaurant (two locations, foot of Canal Street in the Hilton or the grittier Fat City location) makes chargrilled oysters which, if you try nothing else or can’t stomach raw oysters, you still should try. Everyone in town now serves chargrilled oysters, but go to the fountainhead for the best. If you are ready for old school New Orleans, go to all ceramic tiled (inside and out) Casamento’s. Step back in time and enjoy freshly shucked oysters on the half shell, garlic butter-laced grilled oysters, oyster stew, or black pot fried seafood piled onto Texas-toast-sized sandwich bread; a pile of hand cut fries on the side.
Boiled seafood (crawfish, crab and shrimp) is dive-in, get messy, eat-with-your-hands fantastic. A bit of a learning curve on the crack and peel, but well worth the time and trouble. A number of the shops mentioned above sell great boiled seafood, but right now the best is Bevi Seafood in Mid-City. Close contenders are Clesi’s or Trep’s, and for the Viet-Cajun experience, Boil and Mukbang. The Galley Seafood in Metairie is a beloved classic. Beware of boiled seafood in the FQ for sky-high prices. Boiled seafood is really a casual, counter-sale item and, aside from the above, restaurants, not always a FQ best bet.
From white tablecloth to bistro there’s no going wrong at G.W. Finn’s in the FQ; Restaurant August, in the Central Business District; Peche, Emeril’s, Meril and Herbsaint in the Warehouse District; Coquette, La Petite Grocery, Lilette and Patois uptown; or Brigtsen’s in the Riverbend. Try the Beard Award winning, Israeli-inspired menu at Shaya on Magazine Street uptown or hit Avo for modern Italian.
Galatoire’s downstairs dining room is like eating in a Paris bistro, but with crabmeat on top of everything. We have the usual steak suspects Morton’s and home-grown Ruth’s Chris, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Desi Vega, Mr. John’s, and Crescent City Steakhouse, but Doris Metropolitan is a must if you like aged beef.
Drinking is a local bloodsport. The City is graced, perhaps cursed, with an unending supply of dive bars like The Club Ms. Mae’s (which never, ever closes), Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, Les Bon Temps Roule and The Mayfair or Kingpin Uptown, Finn McCool’s Irish Pub in Mid-City, Vaughn’s Lounge in Bywater … the list goes on and on. Of course, you should stop by Pat O’Brien’s in the FQ and, if you feel the need for rum – a lot of rum – try the Monsoon at Port of Call. By the way, Tiki-drinks are back – why did they ever leave – with more great rum drinks at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 and Cane & Table, both in the FQ.
For the refined drinker, New Orleans has a number of award-winning bars featuring bar chefs (yeah, that’s what they are called) like Bar Tonique, Chart Room, Hermes Bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Jewel of the South, Arnaud’s French 75 which has won a Beard Award, and the venerable Carousel Bar, all in the FQ; Cure and Val’s on Freret Street Uptown; and Twelve Mile Limit in Mid-City. There is a great bourbon bar called Barrel Proof on lower Magazine, and a great outdoor bar on Tchoupitoulas (pronounced CHOP-ah-too-lus) called, wait for it, The Tchoup Yard.
For the beer drinker, there are a number of breweries you can visit, including NOLA Brewing Company, with a brewpub serving pizza, Port Orleans Brewery, Urban South Brewery, Second Line Brewing and Courtyard Brewery, and a rising tide of distilleries, including Old New Orleans Rum and Lula Restaurant Distillery. Also, the most authentic beer-centric bar in New Orleans, The Avenue Pub, is on St. Charles Avenue, a few blocks uptown of Harmony (formerly Lee) Circle.
You already know about the French Quarter, and there is too much to talk about even if not, but don’t forget to prowl the music scene on Frenchman Street. Nightclub high spots Snug Harbor, Three Muses, d.b.a., and The Spotted Cat. If you are into vinyl, there is a great record store at the foot of Frenchman called Louisiana Music Factory and another not far, in Bywater called Euclid Records. Also, check to see who is playing at Tipitina’s and the Maple Leaf uptown. If you are into Lounge, check out Jeremy Davenport at The Davenport Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton. And, if you like to bowl while you enjoy your music – just try it, you’ll see – roll over to Rock’ N Bowl, at Carrollton and Earhart. The music scene is fierce all across the city: you can find a daily music schedule at https://www.wwoz.org/calendar/livewire-music.
Shopping, Walking and Carousing
After all the eating and drinking, there’s some walking, shopping and playing to do. At the back of the French Quarter where Esplanade Avenue meets the Mississippi river, there is a neat walking path called Crescent Park. Meander from the Quarter, down river, passing along the Marigny neighborhood. The paved garden trail tracks the river. When a large walking bridge – locally called the “Rusty Rainbow” – comes into sight, cross over and across Chartres Street to Bywater favorites like Euclid Records, Pizza Delicious, Bratz Y’all, and just up Chartres Street is the home of Dr. Bob’s famous sign studio decrying “Be Nice or Leave.” Evenings are for live local music, wine, or other adult beverages in the yard at Bacchanal.
Shop/stroll boutiques, restaurants, and bars on Magazine Street, with shops concentrated between Race Street and Louisiana Avenue, but extending all the way to Audubon Park. Interesting shops include Aiden Gill For Men, Fleurty Girl, NOLA Boards. Buy cigars at Mayan Import Company, beauty products and supplementsat Vibrant Market, and get your paper/pen/stationery fix at Scriptura.
Ride the streetcar, see the world. If you want to get on the river, the Algiers’ Ferry is free. There is a great English pub, The Crown and Anchor (with a Doctor Who portal) near the ferry landing at Algiers Point, fantastic restaurants (Barracuda for tacos) and Congregation Coffee, to name a few. There’s also a great local grocery called Faubourg Fresh Market that focuses on stashing local products.
Beignets! Yes, everyone knows Cafe du Monde in the Quarter, but the coolest setting is their City Park location across from the Peristyle and NOMA’s Sculpture Garden. Maybe play some mini-golf at nearby City Putt. Historically speaking, Morning Call (a personal favorite) at City Park Ave and Canal Blvd, is believed by some to pre-date Cafe du Monde. They still pour cafe au lait from two pots – one with coffee, the other with steamed milk – and hand-roll their sourdough beignets.
If the day is warm, cool down with a sno-ball,New Orleans’ snow-cone, but with finer, shaved ice. Hansen’s on Tchoupitoulas (the gold-standard to many), Sno-La, serving a cheesecake stuffed sno-ball in the Riverbend, Plum Street Snoballs (originator of Orchid Vanilla!) in Carrollton near the Universities; Pandora in Mid-City; Bywater’s Chance in Hell; and a thousand other places.
Or again step back in time and visit Mid-City’s Angelo Brocato’s, 125 year-old New Orleans-Sicilian gelato shop. Great espresso, pastries, tiramisu, spumoni and hand-filled to order cannoli.
We are a proud sponsor of the National WWII Museum located in the Warehouse District. The Museum is the No. 2 tourist destination in the U.S. and an offers an immersive dose of World War II. The Museum features multimedia experiences, a remarkable collection of artifacts and war machinery, and touching first-person oral histories. Oh, and if you like planes and don’t mind heights, visit the George H.W. Bush Aviation Gallery where you can walk by and above six fully restored WWII warbirds.
Other cultural offerings include the nearby Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center, or an art stroll through the galleries in the Warehouse District. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are in City Park, and there are more esoteric offerings like the Confederate Civil War Museum, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum and Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. We have fish at Aquarium of the Americas (with an I-MAX theater), and bugs at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, both at the edge of the FQ.
Perhaps less cultural, but no less moving, you might take a Ghost Tour,both in the Quarter and in the Garden District. Haunted History Tours get high marks.