After Ireland, I told myself that I would stay put within Florida until my annual Christmas trip home to Chicago. Well, my father told me that he’s attending a seminar for work in New Orleans, and airfare from Tampa were within reason, so I booked a plane ticket too. My brother was tagging along with my dad too, so I thought it’d be nice to see them. No plans, no itinerary, all I know was that I’ve never been there and always wanted to check it out. But I did know one thing…my main objective in NOLA: Eat!
Every one I’ve talked to who have been to New Orleans said the food was good. And they weren’t lying. New Orleans sure knows how to cook and make this girl happy. I welcome weight gain when it involves delicious food. Here are the restaurants I indulged in while I was there:
Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar
We ate here our first night, as recommended by my Airport Shuttle driver. My dad and brother wanted to try new things, particularly my dad as he’s never really been exposed to Southern cuisine. We tried turtle soup…which I was very hesitant at first because, turtle. It was actually good, but I did not care to eat anymore. I’ve only had fried oysters before, so this is where I tried raw oysters for the first time. I was not disappointed! I ordered a soft shell crab platter, another wonderful thing my father has not experienced. My brother and I had to explain to him the natural process of crabs molting their old exoskeleton, hence why we are able to eat the shell. This was a delicious platter, it came with fries, cole slaw, and the best hush puppies I’ve ever had. My dad and brother also ordered gumbo and jambalaya, which both were excellent!
Of note: Some reviews did not like the ambiance as sometimes, people equate “popular” with “nice ambiance.” To me, Felix’s looks like a large mom and pop restaurant. That is usually an indication of good eats for me!
The Ruby Slipper Cafe
One of my friends recommended this for brunch. I’m from the Midwest so I’m not a grits girl, at all. In fact, I don’t think I still understand what it is and what’s in it. But when I tasted the grits here, it was the first time I said “mmm.” It had this buttery, salty taste that I think other grits I’ve tried are missing. I had their Southern breakfast, which in addition to grits consists of a giant biscuit, fried green tomatoes, two eggs and bacon. I opted to have their pig candy bacon instead, and I have no regrets. Perfect amount of sweetness without compromising the texture and taste of bacon that most of us love!
Cafe du Monde
Ohhh the oh-so-famous beignet is everything that is cracked up to be. I tried to not have such high expectations prior to going here, as some reviews stated that customers would get bad batches of these fried sugary goodness (i.e. flat beignets). Our beignets were perfect pillows of dough, hot and fresh. I think I would have preferred them with hot coffee, but we ordered iced coffees because NOLA in August mirrors Tampa Bay in August as far as the weather is concerned. I loved that our iced coffees were not sweet, it perfectly complimented our fluffy treats.
“Is this the Oceana Grill that Gordon Ramsey visited?” my brother asked our waiter. She confirmed yes. My brother has been obsessed with visiting this restaurant since we got there because of their appearance on Kitchen Nightmares. We only ordered oysters – my brother ordered half a dozen on the half shell and I ordered a dozen of the Rockefeller. I must say, I think I prefer the charbroiled flavor of the oysters rather than raw. I also ordered a Hurricane…double. I could smell the liquor as soon as my drink hit the table.
Willie’s Chicken Shack
If you need to fuel up with food before or after downing some hand grenades from Tropical Isle, I’d say this is the place to do it. Small menu, but big flavors. It’s probably up there with my list of favorite chicken restaurants. The batter was not overly done, spiced just right, and perfectly juicy. Fries and honey biscuits were good too!
Clearly not a restaurant, this two-hour steamboat tour near Jackson Square has the option for you to do a brunch, lunch, sunset, or dinner buffet, accompanied with lovely jazz music. I’m mentioning this because buffets usually get a bad rap, particularly those that involve massive amounts of tourists. My family and I did the lunch cruise, and their menu includes chicken, fried catfish, rice, red beans, candied yams, apple pie, and bread pudding. Seems like a limited selection right? But I was surprised by how much flavor each item had, particularly the red beans and fried catfish. I will write about the rest of my experience at the steamboat on my next entry!
Carousel Bar & Lounge
My family and I received coupons for free drinks here. And yes, the carousel does move, but oh-so-very slowly. I didn’t get dizzy, but for those with more alcohol in their system, that might be a different story. I ordered a drink called Chilcano, which you can find out what it’s made of by clicking the heading of this paragraph. My brother and I also ordered from their bar bites menu. I had a beef brisket sandwich which had some really good barbecue sauce!
Cafe Beignet – Royal Street
This is where we had our breakfast for our last day in New Orleans. It was also recommended by one of my friends, and it was only about a block and a half from our hotel (Monteleone). We got there about 11am (my dad and brother are not naturally early risers like me), and the line was already long. You order your food and then seat yourself. If you’re smart, you’ll leave one person to save a table and order their food for them. In addition to their regular beignet, breakfast, and Southern classics menu, they have an array of pastries available of the counter such as tarts, croissants, eclairs etc. I ordered a breakfast sandwich on a croissant and OF COURSE an order of beignets. My dad ordered a Southern breakfast and my brother ordered Cajun hash browns. I did not taste the hash browns but I did taste the grits – it tasted like rice to me. The breakfast sandwich was good, in a sense that it was just good, nothing different. Their beignet has the texture of a cake doughnut as opposed to the fluffy, pillow dough texture that Cafe du Monde has. Overall, it’s not a bad place to eat, but definitely a good convenience cafe to eat at if you’re near it.
The cup picture above contains frozen Irish coffee. Yup. While waiting for our breakfast at Cafe Beignet, I made a quick dash to this bar located on the corner of Conti and Bourbon Streets. Erin Rose was not on my radar until I saw the owner of Engine No. 9 (St. Petersburg, FL) post about it on his Facebook. So I checked out Erin Rose online and was excited to see that they have this specialty drink, along with something strange called Jameson grilled cheese. Unfortunately since I already ordered breakfast, I did not order the grilled cheese as I’m not sure I can stomach anymore dough at this point. The frozen Irish coffee was actually very pleasant and well-balanced, especially in the heat! Apparently this is also a bar where locals go to, and according to reviews they have awesome po boys. I didn’t get to take pictures inside but it’s a bar I would’ve loved to linger some more after a tiring day!
In the French Market:
Unfortunately, my family and I did not come across the French Market until our last night in New Orleans, right after we got off Steamboat Natchez. A storm was also coming our way and we were just tired in general, so we didn’t linger in the market too long. Below was a particular place I was after though, and I was excited to have come across it!
Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
When I’m traveling, I like to search beyond what’s famous and popular. Coming to New Orleans, I knew I obviously wanted to get my hands on Cafe du Monde’s beignets. But I know there are probably other businesses selling them, and a quick Google search revealed this gem. What’s different about it? Praline beignets. Hot, doughy goodness with melted praline dolloped on the middle, adding that sweet buttery flavor that I love about pralines. Here, just look at the picture and let it speak for itself!
Gator on a Stick
Not sure if there was a business name associated with it, but it’s located right by the entrance of the French Market. When I saw these at other stores and vendors, I was highly skeptical. My first gator experience in Florida was in a nugget form. It didn’t taste bad, but I wasn’t crazy about it either. What I didn’t know was that here in New Orleans, gator on a stick means gator SAUSAGE on a stick. My brother ordered it and I was so confused why it looked like a sausage, because I pictured it as gator nuggets on stick. I tasted the sausage and it was pretty darn good – you wouldn’t really know you’re eating anything different. The spices in it were great too!
My family and I definitely enjoyed the food up there and would go back just for the food. But New Orleans also has a vibe that I surprisingly liked, so I doubt I would just eat whenever I visit again. My next entry will be about some of the tourist sites we visited!