About 15 years ago, a friend who was heading to New Orleans, where I was living at the time, asked for some recommendations of what to do and where to eat for her short visit. No stranger to excess or brazen disregard for propriety, I ended up sending her a pages-long deep dive into everything from transit to parks to sno-ball stands to fine dining that got passed around to the point where strangers were asking me to send them “my list.” Since I go back to visit fairly often, it’s been updated more or less constantly, which is fun. Digging through old e-mails to find the latest version to send someone is less fun, so at the suggestion of my wife, I’m posting it here.
Like any such list, it is, of course, subjective and not comprehensive and thus will be debated and denounced. Because it’s about New Orleans, a city that’s practically its own religion, the debates and denunciations will be far more intense, which is exactly how it should be. I’ll continue to update it regularly, and will add some maps, Open Table links, and photos eventually. I’ll also try to expand the number of recommendations by visiting some new places on future visits, but as you’ll see I have my favorites that already place serious demands on my time and waistline, so I promise nothing.
Forget public transit. Riding the streetcar is fun, but do not expect it to get you anywhere on time or arrive on any sort of schedule. Lyft and Uber work fine there, taking United Cab is better, but the best way to get around New Orleans is by renting a bike. First, it’s cheap. Second, you won’t break an axle on your rental car by hitting a pothole, which is unavoidable. Third, no parking hassles, and parking is a hassle. Finally, and best of all, getting around by bicycle allows you to hear and smell all the music and food that makes New Orleans what it is. It’ll also take you down the back streets you’ll never get routed through on your GPS. If not for your whole trip, do bikes for at least a day. There are plenty of bike rental places around the city, but the new and controversial Blue Bikes are the least expensive option and the most convenient, especially when you’ve been drinking too much to even bike back to your hotel.
Stuff to do:
Honestly, aside from eating and drinking and seeing live music, there’s not a lot, because that’s what New Orleanians do. There’s generally at least one music festival, usually several, and those can be good fun even if the music isn’t your particular thing.
City Park is gigantic, and you could walk around it all day. Ride a bike up along Bayou St. John on the way, stop and walk around the pond by the New Orleans Museum of Art (also worth a visit) and watch the turtles jump around, see some centuries-old live oaks, walk the Botanical Garden, and just generally relax in one of the most beautiful parts of the city. Ideal on a bike, especially if you stop and pick up a bottle of wine (or a Gingeroo; you’ll see) and a muffuletta or whatever for a picnic there (the newly reopened Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne and General Taylor is the best place to stop for picnic stuff; don’t go to the Whole Foods unless you want to get so angry you get sent up the river on a manslaughter rap), or grab a bite at the adjacent Ralph’s on the Park which is pretty good. There’s also a Café du Monde stand there, which replaced the superior Morning Call, but still serves better stuff than what they call beignets in any other part of the world.
Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo are Uptown right across from Tulane and Loyola, right on the streetcar line and at the end of Magazine Street. More of the old live oaks, and a little bayou that’s nice to walk along. The zoo is a good one, and well worth seeing for all the native Louisiana wildlife.
Take the Algiers Ferry to Algiers Point and walk around. It’s the only part of NOLA that’s not contiguous to the rest of the city, and it’s a cute little artists and workers neighborhood completely untouched by the influx of outsiders moving to the city. Great bars for both drinking and music at night, and acceptable cafés to grab a bite at during the day. Mostly it’s just worth doing for the sake of riding the ferry, which is fun as hell, and lets you take your bike on it.
The Ogden is a museum of Southern art that’s fairly new but compelling. Some folk art, but mostly a lot of photography, painting and sculpture that’s distinctly Southern, if not particularly New Orleanian (which makes some sense, because New Orleans is emphatically not the South, it is New Orleans).
People love the D-Day Museum, but I have unpopular views on the subject. I hear unanimously good things about it from those into such things. There are multiple excellent restaurants nearby if you happen to work up an appetite while taking a gander at image after image of violence and death.
There’s shopping and antiques on Magazine and Royal streets, and you’ll see some incredible things, even if the prices would make the Sultan of Brunei cluck his tongue. People talk about it a lot, but antique shopping in NOLA is a rich person’s game. Looking is a good time, though.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest bridge in the world. That’s reason enough to drive it, but it’s also something to be out in the middle of it, about ten feet above the water, and not be able to see either shore. I find it hypnotic and relaxing. Others find it terrifying. Once on the other side, the North Shore is not lacking for cool places to eat and drink, or you can just go sit on the lake shore and relax and think about how you can tell people you drove over the longest bridge in the world and that their lives are, comparatively, empty.
If an even longer road trip is something you’re up for, head to Cajun country for a day or two. It’s close, and another world completely. Stay in Breaux Bridge or New Iberia and see some music, dance, eat and hang out with the friendliest people around.
But really, the best thing to do in NOLA is to just walk/bike/drive around and look at and listen to and smell things. The architecture in just about every part of the city never fails to charm and quite often amazes. Riding the St. Charles streetcar from Canal and Carondelet to the Riverbend stop is an experience in itself, looking at all those houses and buildings and people. Go walk through a cemetery (but don’t take a cemetery tour; fuck those guys). Walk around the Treme and listen to the brass bands practice. Walk around any old neighborhood and think about how the houses and places and people don’t look like anyplace else in the world. Go out to West End Park and talk to the old guys fishing and see the lighthouse and make fun of the poor dumb assholes who came all the way to New Orleans just to eat at a Joe’s Crab Shack. Without even trying, you will never run out of things to look at just wandering around New Orleans. I never did.
Now, the eating and drinking:
This is annoying and dangerous, but unavoidable: Carry cash and carry plenty. A surprising number of places are still cash only, and there’s not always an ATM close by. There’s a reason you’ll see a lot of cars with bumper stickers that say “New Orleans: Third World And Proud Of It.”
These places best capture the essence of New Orleans, and I’d consider them mandatory for any visit:
Brigtsen’s, 743 Dante St., 504/861-7610, http://www.brigtsens.com. Located way Uptown, in the Riverbend. Best way to get there is to Lyft or cab it (and if you do, only use United Cab, (504) 522-9771), but they are at the Carrollton stop on the St. Charles streetcar line. To me, and to many others, this is the best restaurant in New Orleans. It’s also the most New Orleans of restaurants. Do not miss it. The traditional meal is the butternut shrimp bisque, followed by a seafood entrée (they get the best seafood of anyone in town, hands down; if there’s a seafood special, get it), followed by either the bread pudding (sounds ordinary but it’s not) or the ice creams. Great people, great food. If you do one high-end meal in NOLA, do it here. Reservations strongly recommended. Dress is dressy casual.
Mandina’s, 3800 Canal St. In Mid-City, right on the Canal streetcar line. The definitive New Orleans neighborhood restaurant, despite a serious post-Katrina remodel (although nearby Katie’s is giving it a run for its money these days). The best red beans and rice in town (though only on Mondays, of course) and worth every effort to get there on a Monday. Other standouts are the turtle soup and any grilled or fried trout dish on the daily specials menu. The fried seafood is surprisingly ordinary. You’ll likely be the only non-locals in the place, and most will be neighborhood residents and high-powered lawyers and judges talking about things that really shouldn’t be talked about in public. There are more than a few people who absolutely hate this place, comparing it to fancy cafeteria food and saying it’s not what it once was. They’re not entirely wrong, but that’s beside the main point that this is as true classic neighborhood NOLA as it gets.
Bacchanal, 600 Poland Ave. In the Bywater but not terribly far from the Quarter. This is the greatest place on earth. Go in, pick out a bottle, put together a little cheese plate and head to the backyard, where every night (but especially Sunday) turns into a neighborhood party with great food (so don’t load up on cheese), contagious gregariousness, local color and music. There’s plenty of very affordable and good, well-chosen wine, of which you will drink too much. The upstairs bar portion is new and fine, but forget about it and sit in the backyard, even if it’s raining. You’ll never forget it. It fills up fast, so I advise getting there no later than about 5:30 if you want to get a table of your own, but you’ll make friends fast enough and be invited to sit with them anyway. I must emphasize: This is the best place in the world.
Other good places:
Coop’s Place, 1109 Decatur St., right in the French Quarter. Next to Molly’s (addressed later), and you’ll need to come over here for a bite to eat if you’ve spent much time at Molly’s. Shockingly good food, even more shocking considering the location and that this is a not-at-all-fancy bar. Features the only edible restaurant jambalaya in the city. More than edible, actually, and it’s one of the best things on the menu, although any of the traditional New Orleans dishes are done very well.
Johnny’s Po-Boys, 511 St. Louis. One of the very few genuinely good inexpensive food options in the Quarter, and among the best po-boys in town. They excel at a roast beef, dressed, although some prefer the Johnny’s Special, which is weird because it has cheese on it, but is no less good for it. I’ve also had very good grilled ham po-boys here, also dressed.
Felix’s, 739 Iberville. Acme Oyster House gets a bad rap because it’s a tourist magnet, but the food is good. Those lines do not, however, correspond to the quality. For a dozen raw and a beer, head across the street to the less-trafficked but much better Felix’s. If you can, eat at the bar, but if you must accept a table or the back bar, you’ll still be fine. Beautiful oysters, not nearly as cheap as they once were (thanks BP), but still worth it. The cooked oyster dishes are good as well, as is the whole menu, really.
Napoleon House, 500 Chartres St., http://www.napoleonhouse.com. There’s nothing wrong Central Grocery besides the insane lines, but if you want one in a restaurant environment, this is where to get an equally perfect muffuletta although you must tell them you don’t want it heated. A heated muffuletta is wasted potential; wrong textures, wrong flavors, wrong ideas. A whole one is plenty for two reasonable people, although I’ve been known to eat a whole one. Good enough bar. Wait can be very long, but probably less during the summer. Famous for their Pimm’s Cup, which, while non-traditional, is good. Legend has it this was a house built for Napoleon to live in in exile before Elba made him a better offer. The atmosphere is hard to beat. Just Google some pictures and tell me you don’t want to drink there, especially in the courtyard.
Mr. B’s Bistro, 201 Royal St., 504/523-2078. Reservations essential, although the bar is not only the longest in the city but not at all unpleasant (and not at all cheap, either, but you do get what you pay for). Paul Prudhomme started here, and his Gumbo Ya-Ya is still the best the city has to offer by a fair piece; if gumbo moves you at all, trying it here in all its dark, nutty, sausage and seafood packed glory is essential. Mr. B’s can also boast the best Barbecue Shrimp in town, improving on the dish invented at Pascal’s Manale far Uptown. Barbecue Shrimp is not barbecued at all, but rather cooked in a sea of butter, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, beer and other basic nutrients. It is the messiest thing you’ll ever eat and it could very well kill you (when I say sea of butter I mean it, and they give you piles of bread with which you can sop it up, and you will), but you have to try it.
Compère Lapin, 535 Tchoupitoulas. Newer and very much fawned over, which makes it all the more surprising that it exceeds the hype. A very comfortable room serves food that emphasizes New Orleans food’s Caribbean roots in a thoroughly modern way. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but this is a place to trust your server; ask what’s good that night and take their advice. And always, always start with the rum cocktail from their menu. They also do one of the few really great breakfasts near the middle of town.
Palace Café, 605 Canal St. A big place and often full of tourists, but plenty of locals eat here too because it’s very good. Mainly recommended as a breakfast option, and reservations don’t hurt at all. The whole menu is solid, the room is fun and there’s something for everyone here. Focus, as usual, on seafood.
Drago’s, 2 Poydras St. (in the Hilton Riverside; yeah, I know) Drago’s invented the char-grilled oyster that’s now a staple on any seafood place’s menu around town. Nobody has come close to their rendition, which is smoky and briny and ferociously garlicky. I once ate 108 in one sitting, but just stopping in for a half dozen and a beer gives you enough of an idea, and is probably going to result in a more enjoyable rest of your day. Unfortunately, it is not as good as the original location out in Metairie, but that’s a significant cab ride away and near nothing else of interest, so take time for this very worthwhile substitute.
Cochon, 930 Tchoupitoulas St. Overrun since the James Beard awards, but still a place I’d probably visit daily if I lived in NOLA. They’re nominally Cajun, but that’s short-selling the place. They love their pork, make their own charcuterie and pay very close attention to every last bit of food or drink that comes out. Sit at the bar and order every one of the appetizers, especially the chicken livers (deep fried, with pepper jelly, wow) and you will have had a good night. Worth going out of your way to get here. If they’re packed, see if the even less formal Cochon Butcher, adjacent, has some room.
Herbsaint, 701 St. Charles Ave. Cochon chef Donald Link’s original restaurant (opened with Susan Spicer), and like Cochon it sports killer bar food. Spicy frog’s legs are not to be missed if they’re on the menu, and the wines by the glass are very well-chosen. Lunch is among the best in town as well and very reasonably priced.
Stein’s Market & Deli, 2207 Magazine St., http://www.steinsdeli.com. Easily reachable by the Magazine St. bus, one of the few that runs with any regularity these days. Owned and run by one of my old friends, Dan Stein. Excellent, real-deal Jewish deli in a cool neighborhood, plus Dan’s a riot if a little abrasive at times.
Coquette, 2800 Magazine St., http://www.coquettenola.com. The best new restaurant I’ve been to anywhere in a long time, and a mandatory stop for me in town. Entrées are excellent, but it’s more fun to order a few small plates and match them to the excellent, imaginative, and fairly priced wine list. Their Louisiana rice with turnips and bottarga is something I think about weekly. Look for the most vegetable intensive menu items and get those. Kristen and Michael have a way with vegetables unmatched in the city.
Parasol’s, 2533 Constance St. Also readily accessible via the Magazine bus. Best roast beef po-boys in the city, and also very worth going out of your way to visit, especially since it’s in a great neighborhood to walk around and see the sights. Sort of an Irish bar, although the bar is completely separate from the restaurant part of the place. A legendary joint which hosts an annual St. Patrick’s Day party that shuts down six city blocks. Their frozen Irish coffee would be something ordinarily too embarrassing to order, but from here, taken to go while you walk around the Garden District, makes it OK somehow.
Clancy’s, 6100 Annunciation St. In the heart of deepest, darkest Uptown; take a cab, because even the best directions couldn’t get you here otherwise. Best meal: Sweetbreads appetizer (different everyday), followed by whatever duck dish they’re doing or (my recommendation) whatever smoked soft-shell crab dish they’re doing, followed by ice cream or lemon ice-box pie for dessert. The best bar in Uptown. Home to a lot of NOLA landed gentry but don’t let that put you off. A very good wine list, too, and fairly priced.
Gautreau’s, 1728 Soniat St. Congratulations, you’ve found the loudest restaurant in the world. This tin-ceilinged shoebox at the corner of nowhere and nothing in an Uptown neighborhood has long turns out the best duck confit that shames every other one I’ve had. Formal food, informal atmosphere, and a way to have a memorable meal without a hassle.
Domilise’s, 5240 Annunciation St. Like Clancy’s, you’ll probably want to cab this one. All in all, probably the best po-boy place in the city. Looks like nothing from the outside, but what else is new in New Orleans? The only place where I’d even consider getting a fried seafood po-boy of any kind; very good here. One could make a case for spending a day Uptown at Domilise’s for lunch, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz (addressed later) for mid-day snack, and Clancy’s for dinner.
Vincent’s, corner of St. Charles Ave. and Fern St. Creole-Italian is a real, worthwhile cuisine and Vincent’s is a prime example. Get the crab and corn bisque and an oyster dish. Skip dessert. A lot of fun.
Franky & Johnny’s, 321 Arabella St. Easily reachable by the Tchoupitoulas bus. If you want to eat crawfish in NOLA, this is the place. An old shuffleboard-style bowling game and an old 45-playing jukebox dominate the dark front bar. Crawfish pie and fried bell pepper rings are also recommended. Another local dive that surprises with the food.
Lilette, 3637 Magazine St. If you’re with anybody who’s into food, the subject of Lilette will probably come up. It’s worth going, but it’s almost too perfect that it lacks much in the way of personality. That said, the food is absurdly good and if you have the opportunity to go you should.
Crescent City Steaks, 1001 North Broad St. Cab it here and cab it back, as the surrounding area is still not safe. The style of steak popularized by NOLA’s own Ruth’s Chris Steak House – broiled in butter – was invented here and “borrowed” by Ruth’s Chris, but Crescent City always did it better. I had a standing tradition of splitting a porterhouse for four (that’s how you order here) with a friend every Mardi Gras day, and those are the best steaks I ever had. All the meat is USDA Prime (unlike Ruth’s Chris) and it’s utterly unpretentious. The kicker: It’s downright cheap for a real steakhouse. You’d be hard-pressed to spend $50 here, before drinks; a porterhouse for two is $60, the price of an average rib eye in most serious steak places. Side dishes of choice are the brabant potatoes and the spinach au gratin, although you should inquire as to whether they’ve got any of their Croatian home-cooking around and not on the menu because that stuff is good.
Liuzza’s By The Track, 1518 N Lopez up near Bayou St. John. A barbecue shrimp po-boy is nothing anyone should be eating, but don’t let that stop you. A pound of shrimp, a pound of butter and a half pound of garlic poured into a hollowed out half loaf of Leidenheimer bread. They have a really distinctive and amazing gumbo that’s heavy on the herbs and brothy, and they’re great at fried seafood. Stick with that and the specials.
Fiorella’s, 5325 Franklin Ave. Relocated from the Quarter after a fire (there’s another Fiorella’s that opened in the space, totally unrelated), and while trekking to Gentilly isn’t as convenient, it’s worth it for some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever eat. More than one person has spontaneously called me from there during dinner to tell me how good the fried chicken is. The gumbo is also good, one of the city’s best outside of the high-end places, and it’s also known for Creole Italian classics and their daily specials. What I’m trying to say is that everything here is good and you should go.
Barrow’s Catfish, 8300 Earhart Blvd #103, in Gert Town, near the end of the St. Charles streetcar line. If you’re not making your way to the temple of catfish that is Middendorf’s (see below), this is hardly a compromise. Barrow’s was a regular stop for me when I lived in the neighborhood, and when they closed down after Katrina I don’t think anybody ever suspected they’d reopen. 13 years later, out of nowhere, they announced they were back and the opening day crowd was blocks long. That’s how people feel about Barrow’s, and rightfully so.
Wild catfish (the only kind worth eating), cut on the thinner side, perfectly seasoned and fried. I’ve taken people here who swore they were so full they couldn’t eat a thing, and watched them all devour a plate like they’d just been released from captivity. One of those places that even though they’re making what many would think of as an extremely humble food, they’re as good at what they do as the best restaurants in the world, so it’s transcendent. The only downside is that they changed their potato salad recipe, which was hands-down my favorite one anywhere, from an intensely mustardy, highly seasoned one to a very good but comparatively unexciting, more conventional one. They do, however, have more sides than the potato salad which was the only option at the old place, and the fries are unusual thin steak fry kind of things, and are excellent.
Middendorf’s, Highway 51, Akers. It’s a short out-of-town trip, but if you want to experience ultimate catfish glory, it’s worth the price of a rental car. Thick or thin cut, it’s the best I’ve had. Plenty of visitors I’ve referred have been happy they made the trip, which is a beautiful drive as well.
Mosca’s, 4137 US Highway 90 West, Avondale. Similar to Middendorf’s in that it requires some brief travel (20 minutes or so), but there’s no place like this apex of Creole-Italian cooking. The founder recently passed away, and they took a long time to open after Katrina, but nothing at all has changed. Reputed to be a former mob house, everyone who comes here – and they all come in groups of at least four or else there’s no way you’ll eat even half of it – gets the same thing: Crab salad and spaghetti bordelaise to start, followed by Oysters Mosca and Chicken a la Grande. Lots of butter, garlic and olive oil. Drinks and wine are cheap and served in tumblers. Worth renting a car or taking an expensive cab ride to go here.
Elizabeth’s, corner of Chartres and Gallier in the Bywater. Breakfast worth seeking out for many reasons, especially the now-scarce traditional NOLA breakfast dish calas (deep fried spiced fermented rice balls), and their praline bacon, which is exactly what it sounds like other than it being much better than you think it’s going to be. Avoid the biscuits and gravy, but everything else is very good. Trout and eggs is a good go-to, but if there are soft shells or an enticing special, do it. If there are fried pies to be had, don’t miss them. Their Sunday brunch menu is impossible to narrow down to just one dish per person, so don’t limit yourself and order accordingly.
Molly’s At The Market, 1107 Decatur St. The French Quarter bar. Everyone goes here, and sometimes it seems like they’re all there at once. Even people who bag on the place, for reasons I can’t fathom, find themselves there. Still, a fun place with good drinks, even if it means you can’t get a seat sometimes. Get the window seat and people watch while getting shitty on five dollar boilermakers. It rules.
Harry’s Corner Bar, 900 Chartres St. The only quiet bar in the Quarter, and it’s somehow located close in. There’s nothing particularly special about Harry’s other than the fact that it is the only cheap place you can just sit and watch the Quarter weirdos walk around and scream and sing and dance without some sweaty bro letting out a siren scream in your ear.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, 941 Bourbon St. Don’t let the address scare you, this is far away from the hellscape death march part of Bourbon. Very dark and only lit by gaslight, there’s something about this place that never disappoints even if it never quite excels at anything other than being really cool and old. Best atmosphere of any bar in the city, which is partially due to the presence of a piano bar, a curiosity that’s reason enough to visit. Just don’t request “Saints” or “St. James Infirmary” if you don’t want to out yourself as a tourist.
BJ’s Lounge, 4301 Burgundy. If you don’t get a chance to pet Skillet, the enormous ancient mastiff who guards the door, on the way in, don’t worry, he’ll make his way around to your barstool eventually. A loveable dump of a place with no pretensions to anything other than serving you a cold, refreshing and simple drink in a plastic cup and keeping you company. These are good people, the kind who stand steadfast in the face of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Bathroom decor is NC-17, so be warned. On the plus side, if you go at night, don’t be surprised if famous musicians to wander in and join the music. Robert Plant and others of that caliber have been known to stop by whenever they’re in town to play a place that’s smaller than most living rooms. On the other hand, so has Lenny Kravitz, so caveat emptor.
Faubourg Wine, 2805 St. Claude Ave. You’ll want to take a car here if you’re going after dark; the neighborhood itself is totally safe, but the areas between it and the Quarter are not. Neighborhoody, low key, with a wine selection that couldn’t care less about what’s popular or what sells, but only with what is good and fun. The owner, Cat, is a genuinely fantastic person and consummate host, which explains why everybody here is somebody I want to hang out with.
Emeril’s, 800 Tchoupitoulas St. Not that it’s not worth dining here – it most certainly is – but the reason to stop here is the bar. Jaw-dropping glass list, great liquors, great bartenders. Very casual, too.
Circle Bar, 1032 St. Charles Ave. Hip but not pretentious or obnoxious, just a good honest bar with strong, cheap drinks and a fantastic jukebox. The Turkish prison meets cozy living room atmosphere really can’t be beat for making you feel welcome, and you’ll likely strike up a conversation with a local. Not a tourist place at all. Live music is a common feature, and is always worth catching if you have the time.
Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, 7612 Oak St. I don’t really know how to explain or defend Snake & Jake’s. It’s dangerous, filthy and should probably be closed down. It’s a large garden shed strewn with what somebody was under the impression is furniture. I have a hard time believing that only a few people have died there and I’d rather soil myself than use what can only loosely be described as bathrooms. It’s Mick Jagger’s favorite bar in the world, for what that’s worth, and it’s not incredibly rare to see him there, along with any number of other famous miscreants. Happy Hour is from 9 p.m. to midnight since nobody ever shows up there before midnight, and they usually close sometime around noon the following day. They used to have Naked Night, where you drank free if you were naked, but they had to stop because they were losing too much money and probably going blind and crazy too. It’s also an unmitigated blast and should be on everyone’s list of places to visit before they die. For God’s sake take a cab, and a sidearm too if you can find one.
The Saint, 961 St. Mary St. Walkable from downtown/CBD, and pretty safe to do so even if the neighborhood looks sketchy. Only marginally more genteel than Snake & Jake’s, but the difference is crucial. There’s a breakfast special of a corndog, a beer and a cigarette for three bucks that should sum up the place’s, uh, unique appeal.
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, 4801 Tchoupitoulas St., and Williams Plum St. Snowballs, 1300 Burdette St., both way Uptown. It’s NOLA and you will have to stay cool. You also can not leave the city without having a sno-ball, one of the city’s best contributions to world cuisine. Impossibly fine, fluffy shaved ice with syrup poured over it, it’s much more than it sounds like it’ll be.
Hansen’s is a story in itself. Opened nearly 80 years ago, Ernest Hansen invented and built from scratch the machine that shaved the ice, and his wife Mary ran the place. Every morning she made the syrups from scratch, never using leftovers. They were both there every day until they got sick and died, one before the storm and one after. It’s a truly special place, now being run by their granddaughter and son, using the same machine Ernest built to make a much expanded menu. One of a kind. The line looks really long, but it moves fast, and I promise you it is worth it.
Williams is my neighborhood shop and second only to Hansen’s in quality. Friendly, tons of flavors, quintessential NOLA neighborhood life. No tourists here, ever.
Whichever place you go — and you really should make an effort to hit one of them – try a Nectar or Ice Cream flavor, with condensed milk.
Angelo Brocato’s, 214 N Carrollton Ave. Right around the corner from Mandina’s, this would be a fitting dessert. In business for over 100years, they make fantastic ice cream, especially their sweet cream and seasonal fruit flavors. The cannoli is legendary for a reason. Again, no tourists here and so representative of real NOLA life.
Cafe du Monde, right in the Quarter. Yes, it’s packed with tourists. Yes, the lines are forbiddingly long. But the tables and those lines are also packed with locals, because everyone goes to Café du Monde because Café du Monde is great. Café au Lait, beignets and a view of Jackson Square; what’s not to like? Also, that line? It moves really fast. Not fast enough? Hit the take-out window on the far side and take your stuff up to the levee and watch the Mississippi.
AVOID AT ALL COSTS:
Jacques-Imo’s: This will come up. Someone will want to go here. Happens every time. Don’t do it. The food is terrible and, if you can somehow choke it down, will probably cause internal bleeding. How this place is so popular is a mystery to me, but I can’t name a single local who’d be caught dead here. Then again, if the idea of alligator cheesecake appeals to you, you go right ahead.