Travel Suggestions for New Orleans
December 15, 2011 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Going to New Orleans in January for business. Looking for some suggestions

I just found out that I need to go to New Orleans in mid January (14th) for business for 3 days. I have never been to New Orleans before and I am excited. Is there anything that I HAVE to do or see when I am there? My evenings will be free, but most of my days will be wrapped up in meetings, etc. I might get an afternoon or day to do something before or after. Looking for any suggestions of attractions, shows, bars, restaurants, etc, that I can get. Thanks!
posted by dbirchum to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I spent a few days in New Orleans this summer.

Go to the Praline Connection for at least one meal - excellent 'creole-cajun' food. Service and atmosphere are great, as well.

Praline Connection is located on Frenchman Street, not far from the French Quarter. You'll probably want to take a walk down Bourbon street one night, just to get a feel for it, but it's pretty wild - filled with lots of drunk college-aged kids out to party.

Frenchman Street, on the other hand, is apparently where all of the locals go to catch live music and have a few drinks. We walked down Bourbon Street exactly once, then spent the rest of our evenings on Frenchman Street.
posted by syzygy at 8:06 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tipitina's doesn't seem to have anything special on their calendar for those days, but it is a pretty sweet and authentic place to bend an elbow if you are so inclined.
posted by timsteil at 8:24 AM on December 15, 2011

Best answer: Where are you staying? Do you have any dietary restrictions? What kind of bars would you be seeking out, i.e. well-crafted cocktails, local hangouts, etc.? What kind of music?

I apologize for rejecting the previous suggestion, but don't waste a meal on such a short trip at Praline Connection. If you want to stay in the Quarter mostly, here are my standard recommendations:

Mena's Palace, K-Paul's, or Johnny's for poboys at lunch
Central Grocery if you feel compelled to get a muffaletta
Napoleon House for atmosphere and drinks at the bar, avoid the food
Galatoire's is the best of the 'old-line' places, the food is better than Antoine's or Arnaud's
However, Arnaud's has an outstanding bar
Tujague's bar (not restaurant) for classic, well-made drinks and good atmosphere
G.W. Fin's for excellent but pricey seafood
Camellia Grill for breakfast if you should need something more than whatever your hotel offers

It's difficult to address restaurant recs without knowing more of what you're looking for. Maybe visit the New Orleans Chowhound board if you have further food questions. I'm on there too and it's an active and helpful place if I do say so.

Do check out Frenchmen St. if you're into music and bars. You can't go far wrong there, there's always good music at several of the bars. For orientation, the part of Frenchmen that people are talking about when they say "Frenchmen St." is the couple blocks right off Esplanade, just on the other side of the French Quarter. Looking at a map will help you get an idea of the locations. There are 8-10 bars in that stretch, many that are well-known for great music. Offbeat Magazine has comprehensive daily listings.

Attractions: The museum-type attractions probably won't be open in the evenings, so you might have to skip that kind of stuff this time. Walk along the riverfront if you have time. Walk down Bourbon Street - it's pretty crazy at any time of year. The Saints will be playing on the 15th if I'm reading the playoff schedule correctly, so everyone will be watching the game that day.

Search previous threads on New Orleans for more. There have been a couple good ones in the past 12 months.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Excellent meals had at: JaquesImo's (weekends it will be hard to get in, though the food is worth a 1 hr wait), Brightson's (make reservations), Commander's Palace, and Palace Cafe (brunch was great). The first two are near the far end of the St Charles streetcar line from the French Quarter, and that's often a nice experience as well, riding the old streetcar with its wooden fold down seats through the Garden District. If you do get out to the far end of St Charles for dinner, there's often very good music at the Maple Leaf bar, which is next to JaquesImo's.

Good poboys at Johnny's in the French Quarter, Mothers in the Business district (short walk from French Quarter, might be busy at lunch hour with people who work nearby). Sadly the best poboy I had was at Ugleseich's, which has since closed its restaurant. Getting a muffaletta sandwich from Central Grocery in the French Q is an iconic thing for visitors.

Having chicory coffee and beignets (small very sugary donuts) at Cafe du Monde in the French Market is also a pretty iconic thing to do. I guess everyone has to take that disappointing stroll up Bourbon St, but I often tell people to skip it, especially if you disliked frat parties in college or the stink of stale beer. There's a run-down shack of a bar at the far end of Bourbon St called Lafitte's that claims to date back to the 1700's where we had a cheap beer and watched the world walk by for a while (the day we were there is was all opened up to the street). If you have time to wait in line for a little while, it's fun to get in to see whoever's at Preservation Hall play old-time jazz (you pay, get in a big line, and they move people through the tiny auditorium in shifts). If you're actually knowledgeable about or into jazz, I imagine there are more hip or authentic places to go.

One visit I found a surprising number of used book stores in and near the quarter, but I think several of those (like Kaboom Books) have closed in the years since Katrina, unfortunately.
posted by aught at 8:56 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Frenchman Street is far superior to Bourbon Street, and just a few blocks away.

Cafe du Monde is overrated and not worth the wait, but there are about a thousand restaurants within spitting distance that are great and have no lines.

The great thing about the French Quarter is that it's so compact. Everything is in walking distance, and there's amazing opportunity to discover hidden gems. Just explore, and if you don't like where you are, walk down the block.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:06 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kaboom is gone but I can't think of any others that closed post-Katrina. There are still six or seven used shops, plus Falukner House for new book and poetry, and Kitchen Witch for new and used cookbooks. My favorite is Arcadian Books (Orleans St. behind the cathedral), which has a lovely proprietor and a large French-language section in case OP might be interested in that.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:07 AM on December 15, 2011

Where are you staying and what kind of things are you interested in? Have you looked at any of the other recent AskMe's?
posted by radioamy at 9:23 AM on December 15, 2011

Green Goddess is a fantastic little restaurant that comes up often in prior posts.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:23 AM on December 15, 2011

Cafe du Monde is overrated and not worth the wait, but there are about a thousand restaurants within spitting distance that are great and have no lines.

I have to disagree with this. We took some out-of-town friends there this summer, and they actually asked to go back there the next day. I guess it depends on what time you are there, but I've never ever had to wait. There is a debate among us locals as to who has the best beignets, Cafe du Monde or Morning Call, but I like them both.

There are alot of great restaurant recommendations already. As for attractions, there is alot to see, but it really depends on what you are interested in. If you are a history buff, I highly recommend the WW II Museum. A ride on the St Charles Ave streetcar will give a look at some of the local architecture, and is fun.
posted by lawhound at 12:52 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to the bar at The Columns hotel on St. Charles Street and have a drink.

It's not in the Quarter, so you'll need a cab depending on where you're staying, but it probably won't be nearly as touristy as some other places. Great, relaxed vibe and nice people.
posted by mccxxiii at 1:57 PM on December 15, 2011

CheeseLouise: I apologize for rejecting the previous suggestion, but don't waste a meal on such a short trip at Praline Connection.

I won't argue with you, since you're a New Orleans resident, and we all know that de gustibus non est disputandum, but I'd like to offer a more thorough review of my experience at the Praline Connection (PC) this August for posterity.

Before I start, I'd like to mention that I've eaten at K-Paul's, Pascal Manale's, Antoine's and a number of other New Oreans fixtures in the past. I've also eaten at a variety of restaurants in 25 countries on five different continents, and I grew up in Houston, which city, when I moved away almost a dozen years ago, had more 4-star restaurants per capita than any other US city. Additionally, a quick and unscientific survey of online review scores shows that PC compares favorably to some of the more well-known and highbrow restaurants in New Orleans - I even perused the New Orleans Chowhound board quickly and only found positive comments about the restaurant there (I didn't check the board thoroughly, so I may have missed something negative).

Having grown up in Houston, with grandparents who lived in Corpus Christi and East Texas, I have soft spots for fresh gulf seafood, down home soul food and cajun food.

My party stayed in the Mardis Gras suite at the Rathbone Mansions - a pair of converted, somewhat dilapidated 1850s mansions on Esplanade, about a 10 minute walk from Frenchman Street. We needed something close to the hotel for lunch, since we had a two-hour window between two tours we were taking that day. Our first tour bus driver, a friendly African American who I struck up a conversation with, recommended the PC. He agreed to drop us off there at the end of the first tour and arrange for the second tour bus driver to pick us up after lunch.

The exterior is painted bright red. Between the name (which suggests a cookie/candy shop) and the unassuming appearance from the outside, it's unlikely that I would have chosen to eat a main meal at the PC had someone not recommended it to me.

The small interior dining area is nearly 100% black and white. The walls are painted white with black trim. The floor is covered with black and white tiles. The furniture is black, the table clothes white. The wait staff are all African Americans, smartly dressed in starched white shirts with black fedoras, black pants, shined black and white dress shoes and colorful ties. The interior had a magical feel, as if we were being transported back in time, and were about to enjoy something unexpectedly special.

We arrived after the main lunch hour rush, so the place wasn't very full. The few diners who were there (evenly mixed ethnicity) looked like locals who knew what they were in for. The waitstaff was exceedingly attentive and friendly. Not the saccharine chain restaurant "So can I get you gentlemen something more to drink, or maybe something to nibble on - some pizza shooters, shrimp poppers or extreme fajitas?" sort of friendly, rather the kind of friendly that seemed to say, "I like working here, and it's gratifying to know that you're about to have a delicious meal and pleasing dining experience." Our waiter took time to go over the menu with us and make detailed recommendations - he seemed to be genuinely interested in making sure we enjoyed our time in the restaurant.

The other two members of my party were two ladies from Southern Austria, where the saying goes, "Was der Bauer nicht kennt, frisst er nicht" - "What the farmer doesn't know, he won't eat." Needless to say, they don't know much seafood or soul food, so most of what was on the menu was new for them.

We split two entrees between the three of us - the Seafood Combination Platter for $17.95 and the "A Taste of Soul" Platter for $23.95. This was an excellent combination - it was plenty of food for the three of us, and it allowed everyone to sample a wide range of different flavors. The portions were generous and everything was delicious - the seafood, the meats, the sides, the dessert. All three of us left full and genuinely delighted - happy that we'd been lucky enough to have a meal at PC before we left New Orleans.

We left in a bit of a rush, trying to finish up in time to catch the next tour bus. It was a hurry up and wait sort of situation - we rushed out of the restaurant, taking the bread pudding with us, then waited for about 15 minutes outside of the restaurant. The waiter seemed sad that we had to rush such a delicious meal, and frankly, we agreed. You should never rush a good meal, and this one was excellent, but time wasn't on our side. While we stood on the sidewalk, waiting for our bus, the waiter came out to chat with us. He noticed that we'd hastily taken the bread pudding with us, and went back inside to grab a sack, napkins and plasticware for us to carry the delicious dessert in. We chatted with the waiter for 5 or 10 minutes until our bus arrived, and headed out for our second tour of the day.

Having read a few online reviews on PC, it seems they may suffer from some inconsistency. All I can say is that they brought their "A" game when we ate there - there's not a single thing I would change about our dining experience, except that I wish we had had more time to enjoy it, maybe drink a few more beers, have some coffee with dessert, and chat a little longer with our waiter.

In short, the food, the waitstaff and the ambiance were perfect, and based on our single experience, I recommend the Praline Connection highly.
posted by syzygy at 11:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

One last note on PC, and a word about Cafe du Monde:

New Orleans was one stop for us on a three week road trip from Florida to Central Texas. We had a great time there, spent one more day than we'd originally planned, and could have easily spent a few more days there. We ate most of our meals out at restaurants along the way. We were lucky and had mostly pleasant dining experiences along the way, but the Praline Connection was a highlight for all three of us.

Cafe du Monde - it's a fixture, and I'd recommend going at least once for cafe au lait and beignets. It's a cafe, not a restaurant, so don't expect to eat a main meal there. Do expect local flair, lots of tourists, good coffee and yummy donuts. The original location, at the French Market, is open 24 hours a day, except for 36 hours between 6PM on Christmas Eve and 6AM on December 26. There was no wait when we went, later in the evening. We spent no more than half an hour there - enough time to get the experience, then move on to other exciting things.
posted by syzygy at 11:53 PM on December 15, 2011

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