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New Orleans Lagniappe: From a local's point of view
No need to avoid New Orleans to avoid an expensive trip. You can visit the city without busting a budget. You just need a little creative thinking and a local's point of view. There's lots to do in New Orleans -- what I call the same character at half the price. Good restaurants off the beaten path, some downtown but lots more off the streetcar line, gastro pubs, po-boy shops or gourmet hamburger and hot dog joints. Most places are my tried and true favorites with others come highly recommended.
Here's a little Lagniappe (something extra) in your visit to New Orleans compliments of our fine city.
French Quarter/DowntownWalk around Jackson Square and study the artwork and talk to the artists. Sip a cocktail and roam the French Quarter and admire/photograph the European architecture. Sit at the Woldenberg Riverfront Park and watch the tug boats, cruise ships and international tankers float down the Mississippi. Visit the Historic New Orleans Collection for wonderful historical exhibits, many with vintage photography. Attend free Wednesday afternoon concerts in Lafayette Square during spring and fall months. Take a tour of St. Louis Cathedral or Arnauds Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum. Window shop along Royal Street's art galleries and listen to the street musicians. On Decatur Street Southern Candymakers offer free samples of homemade pralines dipped straight from the copper kettle. See New Orleans skyline from the Mississippi River with a free round-trip ferry ride. Stroll around Algiers Point filled with historic homes and churches. Walk through Roosevelt Hotel with antique chandeliers and vintage tile flooring in the lobby along with Paul Nina Murals along the walls in the Sazerac Bar. Watch looming at Louisiana Loom Works on Chartres and say hello to the owners and their feline mascots. Make a wish in the fountain at Spanish Plaza in front of the Riverwalk Shopping Center and stroll along the riverfront park. Here are some of my favorite haunts which average between $10 to $20 for lunch. Café Beignet brings three locations to the Quarter serving beignets without the long lines and breakfast items all day along with sandwiches and Creole fare. A great place for people watching and views of Jackson Square, Stanley's offers premium burgers, sliders, omelettes and old fashioned soda fountain desserts. Popular among locals and tourists, enjoy Creole cuisine at the Gumbo Shop in a historic 18th century building with garden patio and full bar. Nothing better than a po-boy at Johnny's Po-Boys or a muffaletta at Central Grocery. On Charters Street Rotollo's has great prices on pitchers of beer featuring the NOLA micro-brews and of course good pizza and calzones. About a block from the river along Fulton Street, Grand Isle Restaurant offers patio dining with award winning po-boys including my favorite the duck debris po-boy. Nearby Ernst Café cooks up fried seafood with great views from a huge second floor balcony. Choose from a huge Italian menu at Mona Lisa, the perfect family restaurant on the lower end of Royal Street. Felipe's is a family favorite for Mexican food in the Quarter and Uptown with an awesome super burrito. Champions Square adjacent to the Superdome welcomes fans with and without tickets before every Saints home game with live music and a lineup of food ($8-$9 plates) from big-name restaurants.
Faubourg Marigny (across from the Quarter bordering Esplanade Avenue)Frenchman Street hosts a dozen music clubs featuring rock, jazz, blues, reggae with no covers and decent drink prices. For those late night munchies hit restaurants 13 Monaghan and La Peniche. Cake Café serves incredible baked breads, bagels and heavenly cinnamon rolls along with savory breakfast/lunch menu with Andouille sausage & gravy biscuit or herb roasted chicken salad with grapes and almonds. Have a bicycle delivered to your hotel and tour the colorful Faubourg Marigny and adjoining Bywater neighborhoods set with pastel shotguns and Creole cottages.
Uptown (Along the Streetcar line)Romantics and bargain hunters will love the St. Charles street car line ($1.25 ride) past the palatial homes. Stop and sip a mint julep on the Columns Hotel porch. Hop off in front of Tulane University and have a picnic lunch at Audubon Park. Further down at St. Charles and Carrollton there's world famous Camellia's Grill, and nearby Cooter Brown's Tavern & Oyster Bar keeps patrons entertained with wall-to-wall television and more than 40 beers on tap. Take the red street car down Canal Blvd. to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art (very reasonable) with awesome (free) sculpture garden. My all-time favorite restaurant is Boucherie restaurant on Jeannette Street right off the Carrollton streetcar line featuring Chef Nathanial Zimet's contemporary southern cuisine. A couple blocks over, Tru Burger on Oak St. is a traditional diner that grinds its own beef served on house-made buns with loads of toppings for burgers and hot dogs.
Uptown (Magazine Street)Magazine Street is five blocks off of St. Charles for those who don't mind a little walk from the streetcar line. Get your chocolate fix along with coffee and pastries at the Sucre Sweet Shop. For true New Orleans character Tracey's (owners of Parasols moved there) serves vintage po-boys with long bar, pool tables and sidewalk tables. St. Joes is another great neighborhood bar, especially the back patio. Tattooed servers add to the Bohemian décor of Juan's Flying Burrito with pork-n-slaw taco, the fish taco with mango salsa or my favorite the shrimp juaha roll packed with shrimp, spinach, avocado and cream cheese. A popular watering hole, The Bulldog has over 50 beers on tap with tasty pub-grub. Casamento's is famous for their oyster loaf but check out their hours before you go. A classic neighborhood restaurant, Frankie and Johnny's, serves old-style New Orleans seafood and Italian fare. Hungry for a little more swagger, Joey K's has entries starting at $12 with white-linen panache. MV serves gourmet burgers but only open on Sundays sharing the kitchen of the popular Slim Goodies Diner with an awesome breakfast and New Orleans cuisine (cash only). Freret Street is experiencing a foodie renaissance and Dat Dogs is top dog with Polish kielbasa, German bratwurst, Louisiana sausage and beef wieners served on steamed sourdough buns. If you prefer something lighter and different, Tartine Uptown on Perrier St. serves sumptuous pastries, quiche, tartine (open-face sandwich), salads and sandwiches with fresh baked bread.
Mid-CityHugely popular with locals Parkway Tavern has arguably one of the best po-boys in town with huge outdoor dining and long lively bar. Famous for their frosty mugs of beer and rootbeer, Liuzza’s is also known for their Frenchuletta and New Orleans comfort food like red beans & rice.
This is just a sample of my favorites. New Orleans is a real food city. Tom Fitzmorris' New Orleans Food Menu is a good resource for more information. Take the time to observe the magnificent architecture with self-guided tour brochures at the Preservation Resource Center at 923 Tchoupitoulas Street)or on their website. Check out Fifty Free Things to do in New Orleans Use common sense when touring the city, daytime walking and biking is fine, at night calling a cab is your best bet for long distances.
An award winning writer and photographer, Deborah Burst enjoys traveling and stocks her travel log with trips across the gulf coast, eastern seaboard and recently back to her childhood home in Bermuda. She scouts the backroads and waterways working as Louisiana Bureau Chief for Southern Breeze magazine, primary writer for the Louisiana Culinary Trails, travel columnist and photographer for St. Tammany News and Louisiana Road Trips magazine, and a frequent contributor to many other publications. Deb recently served as moderator for a Tennessee Williams Festival travel panel and keeps busy with local publications as a frequent contributor to the Northshore Report and a columnist with Covington Magazine. Deb is working on a book about historic trails through south Louisiana.