Nirvana for food and music connoisseurs
The food of New Orleans could be the subject of a doctoral dissertation. And, in fact, it is. A lot of them, actually. Like the architecture, the city's cuisine is layered and complicated. You can still find dishes that a traveler transported from 1870 would have found familiar. For haute-traditional, try one of the old-line establishments such as Galatoire's (founded 1905) or Arnaud's (founded 1918).
For a more modern take on New Orleans cooking, plenty of options await. SoBou on Chartres Street is among the latest entrants (it opened in 2011) and run by the talented folks behind legendary Commander's Palace. Or head to Cochon, a short cab ride away in the Warehouse District, which takes every bit of a hog and inflects it with a modern Cajun sensibility. The result: sublime culinary moments.
Dining done, music awaits. The city is home to dozens of music clubs, and every night there's something to top what you saw last night. Fair warning: Famous Bourbon Street is a canyon of sonic cover-band cacophony, although a couple of clubs keep traditional sounds alive (try Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse or Fritzel's Pub).
You're better off making for Frenchmen Street, which starts where the French Quarter ends (near Esplanade and Decatur). Small, no-frills venues line both sides of the street, and few charge a cover. (Most ask you to buy one drink per set, and to generously tip the band when the bucket comes around.) Live music typically starts late afternoons on weekends, and around 9 p.m. the action starts to ramp up. Places to test the waters include d.b.a., which showcases high-energy local talent; Spotted Cat, whose traditional jazz bands often lure swing dancers; and Three Muses, a tiny, often-packed restaurant serving up delicious small plates and some of the most talented musicians in the city.
There's an old New Orleans term for getting something you don't expect: lagniappe (pronounced "lan-yap"). It means, more or less, "something extra," and it started when bakers gave their customers a 13th bun when they ordered a dozen.
More often than not, today's lagniappe is given out in memories. In short: Expect the unexpected. Because moments are what New Orleans makes best.
Wayne Curtis is a New Orleans-based writer. His app, the New Orleans Explorer's Guide, is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
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