What cool things should I buy in New Orleans?
April 8, 2008 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Going to be in New Orleans for the next 36 hours. Please recommend to me unique NOLA gifts I can bring back home to my friends and colleagues!

I'm staying right across the street from the Morial Convention Center, and don't have my own transportation, so any recommendations that I can get to easily on foot (walking to the French Quarter is no problem) would be appreciated.

Any "must have" NOLA specific non-perishable foodstuffs, tchotchkes etc that I should take home to my friends back in Hawaii? I'm not too concerned about "authenticity"...even cheesy touristy crap is fair game.
posted by melorama to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just came back from there-- the pralines from Southern Candymakers are delicious and they keep fairly well. And, of course, beaded necklaces. Check out the Voodoo Shop on St. Peter street (I think it's St. Peter... lots of fascinating stuff in there)
posted by perpetualstroll at 5:57 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee and beignet mix are easy purchases. You can also walk all the way to the back of the French market, where vendors sell handmade crafts.

There are lots of stores on Decatur and Bourbon that specialize in cheesy tourist crap: Mardi Gras beads, prints of drawings of St. Louis Cathedral, etc. Some of the stuff is funny enough to merit bringing home.

My highest recommendation is that you get yourself to a grocery store and buy a few six packs of Abita beers -- Amber is the best and my personal favorite, but some of the others are good too. When I was in college, I used to wrap the beer bottles very carefully in t-shirts inside my luggage to take home, I loved it so much.
posted by brina at 5:58 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crawfish flavored cat treats / cat food. (Cajun Crawkitty. No idea if it's still around.)
posted by coffeefilter at 5:59 AM on April 8, 2008

The best things I brought back from NOLA were recipe books. There's a lovely cookbook shop in the French quarter, called the Kitchen Witch, on 631 Toulouse St. (phone number 504-528-8382). That shop is run by two chefs. Inquire in there for some great recommendations for books that highlight the best of New Orleans cooking - that way, you can "visit" NOLA whenever you like!
posted by LN at 6:02 AM on April 8, 2008

Blue Dog prints or postcards. Rodrigue used to sell a print and gave all the profits to a Katrina relief agency, but I can't find anything on his site about it anymore. He might still sell them at his studio though.

On preview - seconding the Kitchen Witch for fun stuff, and the French market craft booths.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:04 AM on April 8, 2008

There are lots of street artists in the French Quarter. If you take photos of your friends with you, the artists can do caricatures or portraits. Cost can be as little or as much as you like depending upon size and quality.
posted by netbros at 6:18 AM on April 8, 2008

Seconding pralines. And the silly tourist stuff is pretty awesome, actually. Voudoo keepsakes, beads, masks, cheap art. I'm sure there's some wickedly funny Katrina humor going on, too.
posted by desuetude at 6:22 AM on April 8, 2008

mmm pralines, I always request those when people offer up NOLA gifts. Also, shot glasses with the Bourbon street could be popular, depending on your friends. And hot sauce too, or creole seasoning.
posted by ml98tu at 6:33 AM on April 8, 2008

And hot sauce too, or creole seasoning.

Yes, keep in mind that Tabasco is from Louisiana, so if you have friends who are Tabasco fans you can find t-shirts and gift packs. Also, Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning is good. You can find it all around the country, actually, but I remember it being really cheap when I stopped in a Walgreen's in New Orleans. I use it on fish and stuff.

I also like the rice and beans mixes, and jambalaya mixes, that usually come in a clear cellophane bag in most gift shops.
posted by cabingirl at 6:44 AM on April 8, 2008

The above recommendations are great. I'd be on the lookout for small replicas of street signs - either the black-and-white signs you see in the Quarter, or the blue-lettered tiles that are embedded in damn near every streetcorner. Those should be easy to find.

For someone that grew up in the city, you can give them a rubbing of a water meter cover. Costs nothing, and will be well-received.

For foodies : muffalettas travel surprisingly well. Buy them from Central Grocery on Decatur just before you head back to the airport and let the people behind the counter know that you'll be taking it on a plane. You can also get 'em jars of olive salad.
posted by suckerpunch at 6:50 AM on April 8, 2008

Yes, muffalettas, yes! Unlike most sandwiches, they actually benefit from sitting a day (the oil draws all the olive and cured meat deliciousness into the bread, which will hold its shape just fine).

Oh god, now I want a muffaletta so badly.
posted by mkultra at 7:22 AM on April 8, 2008

Oh, and the French Market will definitely have all sorts of stuff that's right up your alley- cookbooks, sauces, tchotchkes, pickled this-and-that, various meats (which, I'm pretty sure, they'll pack for travel). It's a fun stroll, and it's in the French Quarter.
posted by mkultra at 7:25 AM on April 8, 2008

Zapp's potato chips are delicious and come in a variety of fun flavors like Crawtator.
posted by krikany at 7:26 AM on April 8, 2008

Nthing pralines, but get them from Aunt Sally's, which is just down the street from Cafe Du Monde.

Speaking of Cafe Du Monde, as coffeefilter said, pick up some Coffee & Chicory to bring home. It's hard to reproduce beignets at home, but you can buy some of the mix and give it a whirl.

Seconding Abita beer as well - their Amber is delicious. There's also the Purple Haze flavor, which is good as well.

While you're getting Abita beer, get some of their Abita Rootbeer - made with pure cane sugar, it's better, and different, than any other root beer you'll try.

If you're looking for kitschy type stuff, take a look in Jax Brewery, and indoor-type mall with lots of little shops. Also, the River Walk mall wouldn't be a bad place to pick up some decent stuff to take home either.
posted by mrhaydel at 7:38 AM on April 8, 2008

Nthing Crawtator Zapp's and ZOMG ABITA ROOT BEER!!! i am totally totally totally craving this right now and only the blink tag can fully express my love
posted by suckerpunch at 7:48 AM on April 8, 2008

Nthing Aunt Sally's. Also, if your friends are somewhat, um, lowbrow, there are some amusing bottled hot sauces with X rated labels. Some great Katrina tshirts (FEMA = Fix Everything My Ass, etc). Stuffed croc heads. Beads. Masks. Shot glasses. You know what? The whole French Quarter is geared for people to buy crap to take home. You'll find tons of fun stuff. The best variety of kitsch appears to be on Canal and also on Decatur near the French Market.
The danger, I find, is buying art. The combination of galleries and bloody marys invariably gets me in trouble.

Am I the only person ever to be disappointed by Central Grocery muffaletas? Too much damn bread.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:13 AM on April 8, 2008

yo the french quarter has some of the most insane thrift shops you'll ever find.
posted by swbarrett at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2008

Jeez, no-one said a 'Hand Grenade' glass yet? (Or even better, the dried mix?) :)

House of blues stuff might be good too...


I *miss* New Orleans.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2008

If you have anybody really special on your list, you could go to the Mignon Faget store at Canal Place. Some of her stuff is a little weird, but some is very pretty. Her Fleur de Lis collection is nice.
posted by radioamy at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2008

I was there last year, and I heartily regret not buying one of the t-shirts emblazoned with the lyrics "I DROVE MY CHEVY TO THE LEVY AND THE LEVY WAS GONE."
posted by bicyclefish at 10:40 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I drive a cab in New Orleans and chaperoning vacationing MeFites around is the closest I get to a meet-up...send me some MeFi Mail and I'll give you my digits. We'll go shopping!

(That's true for anyone else reading this thread, too...if you're coming to New Orleans, drop me a line.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:37 AM on April 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

There's a voodoo store somewhere in the French Quarter, I forget exactly where. (Ian A.T. probably knows it.) You won't find freaky shit like that just anywhere.
posted by Camofrog at 1:10 PM on April 8, 2008

These guys make some funny t-shirts. "C Ray? Not Lately". Or maybe you have to live here. I don't know.

These guys too.
posted by gordie at 2:18 PM on April 8, 2008

NB: I don't work for either. But I bought all my Christmas gifts at the latter this year. Because they are witty, but not over the top French Quarter hilarity, and plus I am kind of lazy.
posted by gordie at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2008

FYI: Our coffee was stolen from our luggage (this winter). We have had other friends with the same report. Others have said it was taken due to the possibility of hiding drugs in the coffee. YMMV.

We stopped in a handcraft store down on the street near the flea market - a nice one - and brought home very inexpensive wrought-iron fixtures and a stoneware plate that is a moulding of the lovely water-meter covers.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:51 PM on April 8, 2008

There's a jazz-themed souveneir store a couple of doors down from Aunt Sally's pralines that sells the most kitschy Christmas decorations you will ever find anywhere. That's where I got my black Santa riding an antler-wearing alligator ornament.
posted by madforplaid at 7:31 PM on April 9, 2008

Thanks everyone for the great ideas! Time, travel plans (I'm headed to Vegas for another week before I head home to Hawaii) and luggage space only allowed me to get the cliche'd Cafe Du Monde giftset, shotglasses and Central Grocery jarred Muffaletta olive salad.

I vow to revisit this city again, but next time, purely for pleasure's sake! It's kind of a drag to work 14 hour days and not have enough time or energy to really enjoy the city.
posted by melorama at 4:24 AM on April 10, 2008

One last thing, probably much too late, but just in case: If you pass by the gas station/butcher shop with the sign "You Can't Beat Wagner's Meat," go in and buy a T-shirt. Nothing says New Orleans better.

Also, seriously, while you're in NOLA you must at least try some Abita, even if you can't bring any home. Any decent bar will have it on tap.
posted by brina at 8:16 AM on April 13, 2008

Very late to the party, but must gets in New Orleans are Herbsaint and Peychaud bitters for a traditional Sazerac.
posted by turbodog at 12:28 PM on May 17, 2008

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