I FINALLY WENT TO NEW ORLEANS!!!!! What an amazing town. Lifelong dream status: Achieved. Myself, Dan, and two wonderful friends of ours went to the opposite end of the country for my 28th birthday this year. We stayed in the Bywater neighborhood, in a shot gun style house, which was interesting and new all on it's own.
Now when I saw I went to New Orleans, I really mean I ate my way through New Orleans. I ate, and ate, and ate. It was so worth it. The food there is absolutely unbelievable. Having grown up for the most part on the west coast (8 year stint in Orlando when I was a kid), the flavors are completely different than I'm used to tasting. The seasonings? I can't even begin to describe them. Everything was different. You have to go. For when you visit, here's a handy dandy list of things you just have to try when you're there!
So. Eight things you have to do in New Orleans:
- Introduce yourself to New Orleans with a Food Tour - We booked a food tour through Tastebuds on the first day of our vacation. Absolutely worth it. Other than the jazz music floating in the air, this tour was my favorite part of the trip. And I had a stomach bug the first day I was there so that's saying something! I was able to take a small bite of everything, great way to get introduced to the food in New Orleans and to the city itself. The tour gave us our first taste of po boys, seafood gumbo, jambalaya, muffalatta, beignets, cafe au lait, and pralines. We had an absolutely amazing tour guide named Libby. While tasting all these different foods at different restaurants, she gave us the history behind the foods, the buildings, everything. I cannot praise her enough. If you book through Tastebuds, ask for Libby!
- Speaking of food, eat as many Beignets as you can - Yup. As many as you can. The wait at the famous Cafe du Mond goes quite quickly and you just have to go. One order of beignets results in three gorgeous puffed up New Orleans style doughnuts with an enormous pile of powdered sugar on top. While you're at it, order a Cafe au Lait to sip along with your beignet: about ¼ cup chicory coffee filled with steamed milk. I'm so not a coffee drinker and I had this numerous times. Once you've finished up your beignets, head on over to Cafe Beignet at the famous Musical Legends Park and repeat, all while listening to more fantastic live music. I thought the beignets were better at Cafe Beignet than Cafe du Mond, but that the Cafe au Lait was better at Cafe du Mond (basically what Libby from Tastebuds said 🙂 )
- Live music on Frenchman Street - Stay off Bourbon street and check this place out instead. AMAZING music. Our favorites were Maison, Bamboula's, and the Blue Nile. Basically you sit down to have a Sazerac or a bite to eat and then the most talented people start belting out the music of New Orleans onstage like it's nobody's business. Easily one of my favorite parts of the trip.
- Go on a Ghost Tour - There's a reason New Orleans is known as the most haunted city in America! We booked through Phantom Ghost Tours and learned all about the dark truth behind Jackson Square, the vampires skulking in the shadows at the old convent, and the infamous LaLaurie Mansion featured on American Horror Story. The mansion was a particularly grotesque TRUE STORY (what??!?) so I won't go into detail but it's safe to say, the tour is not for kids! LOVED it. Creepy, great to take at night if you really want some atmosphere.
- Walk Bourbon Street - I know I know. You can smell it a block away. But you have to do it! We didn't ever go out there (no thanks), but we did enjoy a "Hand Grenade" from Tropical Isle - "New Orleans Most Powerful Drink". We split it because hangover? Another no thank you. I'm sorry to report it was quite delicious. It's no wonder people get in to so much trouble with those things!
- Take a stroll in the Garden District - Gorgeous shops, beautiful homes, and the location of the Lafayette Cemetery #1 right across the street from the Commander's Palace. There are various tours throughout the area, but we opted to just have brunch at Atchafalaya (the chicken and biscuits were to die for) and stroll through the cemetery. A nice way to get a bit off the beaten path.
- Eat at a Chef John Besh Restaurant - "Besh grew up in southern Louisiana and has set the benchmark for fine dining in New Orleans – a town whose identity is bound to its food. His twelve acclaimed restaurants...celebrate the bounty and traditions of the region." That's for true. We ate at August for my birthday dinner, SO GOOD; contemporary french cuisine that uses local ingredients from New Orleans markets. It was a-MAZ-ing. And gorgeous. Whichever of his restaurants you decide to go to, just make sure to try one!
- EAT EVERYTHING!!! - My final piece of advice. Eat everything you can. Check out the Old Coffeepot restaurant for some Chicken and Andouille Gumbo and a delicious Corn and Blue Crab Bisque. Get in line early at Coop's Place and order the sampler to test out their Seafood Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Rabbit and Andouille Jambalaya, and Shrimp Creole. Walk through the French Marketplace and order a quick Alligator Sausage on a Stick (I found it tasted like pork but with a slightly different texture). As I said in #2, make sure to try some Beignets numerous times and at different places. Grab some fresh Pralines from Laura's Candies (making Pralines since 1913). Other foods you just have to try: Cochon Po Boys, Shrimp or Crawfish Etouffe, Boudin, Hushpuppies, Fried Green Tomatoes in Remoulade, true southern Fried Chicken, and Bread Pudding, the dessert of New Orleans. There are SO many things that aren't on this list, you'll keep yourself plenty busy (and full!). The only thing I'm sad we didn't get to eat was a Crawfish Boil. 'Twas not the season. Guess we'll just have to go back!!