Traveler's Tip: New Orleans offers something for everyone
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
There are so many options it seems like you can't make a bad one. But you can. New Orleans is a lot of things to a lot of people. I have made a mini-career out of trying to learn the things to do and things to not do. And I've just scratched the surface with a lot of trial and error — well, a couple of trials and more than a few errors. There is plenty of great food though.
For a nice dinner where you can still wear jeans, go to Emeril's on Tchoupitoulas Street. Everything is good; the BBQ shrimp and banana cream pie are the finest on the planet. Or try Cochon right down the block for NOLA-style Publican, with a Donald Link spin and plenty of the other white meats (pork and gator) in ways you just don't get at home.
For a local great, try Le Petite Grocery on Magazine Street, just past Napoleon Avenue. The inner foodie should skip pretentious August in favor of Susan Spicer's Bayona on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. Go early and have a drink at May Bailey's across the street — a real Storyville throwback. Just up St. Charles Avenue is Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant — a little more casual but every bit as spectacular as Bayona. The Pelican Club on Exchange Place is a funky, little, artsy joint that you will want to like and maybe you will. I don't.
Italian influence is everywhere in this great town from Central Grocery's muffalettas — which travel very well — to Irene's Cuisine on St. Philip Street, which is as good Creole/Italian as it gets.
Never waste any stomach space on ubiquitous Lucky Dogs or Daiquiri stand pizza. Never. Have a Ralph po'boy at Mother's Restaurant — still the best — with Johnny's Po-Boys or the Commerce tied for close seconds.
Have raw oysters at Felix's stand-up bar and laugh at all the rookies standing in line across the street at the Acme Oyster House for oysters that aren't near as good. Have broiled oysters at Deanie's Seafood on Dauphine Street, kitty corner from the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. Save room for garlicky, buttery, crab fingers at Bourbon House. Anytime is the right time for a Café du Monde beignet. Take the free ferry by the aquarium across the river to Old Algiers and have gumbo and a cold Abita at Dry Dock Cafe.
Oh, and listen to some music. Sure, take the obligatory stroll down Bourbon Street to watch the aging frat boys — fueled with iridescent, blue and green booze drank out of things that look like bongs. Ogle shamelessly, hopefully, but then get the hell off of Bourbon Street. Go down to the 600 Block of Frenchmen Street and see who is at the Spotted Cat Music Club, Apple Barrel, d.b.a. or Blue Nile — it will be somebody amazing that you never heard of but won't ever forget. See Chip Wilson at the Kerry Irish Pub and Kermit Ruffins at Vaughan's Lounge. There's lots more, but the fun is finding it yourself. I keep finding my New Orleans. Start to find yours.
Reprinted with permission from Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.