Christmas may be all about children ... but won’t somebody please think of the adults?! These big-kid events celebrate the season outside the traditional holiday box.
The Fleur de Tease burlesque troupe puts a sexy spin on the classic ballet Dec. 2 and 3 at One Eyed Jacks, incorporating aerialists, magicians and scantily clad performers to help flesh things out.
Running of the Santas
Thousands of studly St. Nicks, risqué reindeer and inebriated elves take to the streets of the Central Business District Dec. 9 for “the world’s naughtiest pub crawl.” The nog gets flowing at 3 pm at Manning’s, where the booze-fueled run kicks off at 6 pm. The post-party includes a costume contest and live music.
Very Bad Santa Crawl & Krewe of Kringle Parade
A Drag Queen Christmas
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, but what about Latrice and Eureka and Sasha and Chi Chi? Contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” hit the Civic Theater with full-on holiday fierceness Dec. 13.
Big Freedia’s Holiday Bounce Around the Block Party
New Orleans' Queen of Bounce leads a booty-popping procession along St. Claude Avenue Dec. 16, with stops the Art Garage, AllWays Lounge, Siberia and more. Live performances at each venue.
Air Sex Championships Holiday Special
This isn’t your grandma’s pantomime. Think you’ve seen it all? Think again Dec. 22 at One Eyed Jacks.
Snow in New Orleans? Yes, Virginia, and there’s ice-skating, too, and Santa sightings at just about every turn. The magic of the season is on full display this month with a variety of holiday events designed to bring out the inner child in even the scroogiest of Scrooges.
Restaurants citywide serve up special holiday offerings during December. Harking back to the 1800s French tradition of multicourse dinners following Christmas Eve midnight Mass, Reveillon menus are found at eateries all over town, from Antoine’s to Vacherie.
Celebration in the Oaks
This dazzling display draws thousands to scenic City Park each year with dozens of illuminated holiday vignettes spread over 25 acres. Highlights include the “Dripping Snow Tree,” a massive live oak covered with 42,000 twinkling lights.
St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church Concerts
Historic St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church offer free holiday concerts throughout the month. St. Augustine—Dec. 2: Robin Barnes; Dec. 9: Betty Winn and One A-Chord; Dec. 16: Don Vappie presents a Very Vappie Christmas. St. Louis—Dec. 4: Ellis Marsalis; Dec. 5: Javier Olondo presents a Celebration of Latino Christmas Traditions; Dec. 6: BeauSoleil Trio avec Michael Doucet; Dec. 7: Opera Creole; Dec. 10: The Boutté Family; Dec. 11: Wendell Brunious; Dec. 12: The Zion Harmonizers; Dec. 13: Panorama Jazz Band; Dec. 14: Christmas Organ Spectacular featuring Davide Mariano; Dec. 17: St. Louis Basilica Annual Christmas Concert.
A bit of liquid cheer? Check cocktail menus for toast-worthy Toddy Season creations. What started out a decade ago as a one-night, local affair is now a monthlong event, spanning coast to coast.
Hotel Monteleone Choral Concerts
The Monteleone’s marble lobby provides pitch-perfect acoustics for the joyful noise of local school choirs that perform Dec. 4-8 and 11-15.
Caroling in Jackson Square
For seven decades locals and visitors have joined together and joined voices during this candle-lit sing-along, whichtakes places Dec. 17 at 6:30 pm in Jackson Square.
Miracle on Fulton Street
Simulated snowfalls, caroling and Santa sightings take place throughout the month along the Fulton Street pedestrian corridor, adjacent to Harrah’s Hotel.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Gingerbread acrobats, tightrope-walking toy soldiers and singing ornaments: The ho-hum holiday pageant gets ramped way up in this high-energy extravaganza at the Saenger Theatre.
This state-of-the-art spectacle uses video-mapping technology to transform Lafayette Square’s circa-1853 Gallier Hall into a modern masterpiece. Free viewings take place Dec. 6-9 on the hour, from 6 to 10 pm. Additional interactive intallations line Lafayette Street.
Holiday Movies on the Mississippi
Grab a fleece throw and go-cups of cocoa then cuddle up in the New Orleans Convention Center Plaza for free screenings of “The Polar Express” Dec. 8 and “Elf” Dec. 15, starting at 6:30 pm.
Reindeer Run & Romp and Holiday Scavenger Hunt
Antler-adorned small fries have big fun dashing around the Shops at Canal Place and gathering holiday goodies along the way. The run kicks off Dec. 9 at 9 am.
Krewe of Jingle Parade
Mr. Bingle—a New Orleans holiday icon—returns to Canal Street, where he once graced Christmas window displays, Dec. 2. The procession begins at 1 pm and culminates with Santa’s arrival.
Partying with Papa Noël
A little one-on-one time with the Big Guy? You'll find him at the Royal Sonesta Dec. 10, 17 and 21-23 during its charming Teddy Bear Tea. Mr. and Mrs. Clause take to the Mississippi Dec. 23 for the Creole Queen’s Cajun Holiday Tea and the following evening for the Steamboat Natchez’s Christmas Eve Cruise. You’ll also find the jolly old elf downing holiday Hurricanes every Friday and Saturday throughout December when Santa Visits Pat O’Brien’s.
Algiers Bonfire & Concert
Hop the ferry at the foot of Canal Street Dec. 2 to take in this blaze of glory along the Mississippi River. Designed to help guide the way for Papa Noël, the family-friendly affair features live entertainment beginning at 5:30 pm, before the big burn at 8:30 pm.
Holiday Home Tours
’Tis the season to go a-wassailing. Pay a visit to decked-out Uptown homes Dec. 9-10 during the Preservation Resource Center’s annual holiday home tour. The Patio Planters provide peeks into festive French Quarter digs Dec. 17, while the historic Gallier and Hermann-Grima houses offer insight on Christmas past throughout the month.
Craving something offbeat? A little bugnog and fruit-fly cake Dec. 9 at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium should hit the spot.
The Convention Center morphs into a winter wonderland Dec. 22-31. The syncopated light/music show outside hints at the festive fun and 70-plus decorated trees found within. Among the highlights is an indoor ice rink, ice slides, gingerbread displays and Carnival rides.
Great Russian Nutcracker
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a staging of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, and it doesn’t get much more classic than a performance by the Moscow Ballet Dec. 26 at the Saenger Theatre.
Orpheum Holiday Spectacular
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra joins forces with the 610 Stompers dance troupe (“ordinary men with extraordinary moves”) Dec. 9-10 at the Orpheum Theater, backed by special guest local artists.
Preservation Hall's Creole Christmas
It doesn’t get much more joyful—or New Orleans-y—than this jazzed-up holiday hoedown at the venerable Hall. Matinee performances are held Dec. 17 and on Christmas Eve.
This group, known for its laser-light shows, has had fans rocking around the Christmas tree for more than two decades. This year’s production, an update of 1999’s “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” lights up the Smoothie King Center Dec. 20.
Home for the Holidays
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, John Boutté: The all-star lineup for this annual benefit concert for the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts is hard to beat. Slide on some dancing shoes and head to the House of Blues Dec. 22
Home for the Holidays With the Victory Belles
Christmas past is present at the National WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen, where the Victory Belles (think the Andrews Sisters morphed with the Rockettes) salute the season with a full month of performances.
Christmas Eve Bonfires
Missed the Algiers bonfire at the beginning of the month? Head Head 40 miles upriver Dec. 24 to St. James parish, and you’ll spot more than 100 additional pyres in all shapes and sizes lining the riverfront between Gramercy and Paulina. Gray Line offers rountrip transportation.
Irving Berlin’s 1950s musical comedy has established itself as one of the most popular holiday movies of all time. Catch the traveling Broadway production at the Saenger Theater Dec. 19-24.
For a full list of Yuletide activities, visit followyourjoy.com.
It may seem too obvious, but old-school sliced bread sandwiches are having a serious moment, especially if there’s an interesting twist or unique filling. Check out what’s between the “toast bread”—as locals say—and more than worth the carbs.
Killer PoBoys’ two locations, 'Big Killer' on Dauphine and 'Lil Killer' inside the Erin Rose bar on Conti, means two menus. At 'Big' there’s the "Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich" with romesco sauce, avocado, radish and crispy kale on whole-grain bread. At 'Lil' there’s a "Jameson Grilled Cheese" with aged English cheddar and Jameson Irish whiskey on whole-grain.
Aglio, a South Market neighborhood deli with house-cured meats, condiments and fresh veg, has a fine list of sandwiches, among which is the "Uncle B.B. Sammy"—a hot ham and cheese with garlic gremolata, lettuce and tomato on loaf slices of the shop’s signature black brioche.
Within walking distance of the New Orleans Museum of Art, petite 1000 Figs is well known for its falafel, fries and scorched Brussels sprouts. But the sleeper is a cozy chicken salad sandwich on fat slices from a Leo’s Bread loaf.
The buttery white bread at Turkey and the Wolf forms the foundation for "Leighann’s Fried Bologna." But the current star is a triple-decker "Collard Green Melt:" slow-cooked collards, Swiss cheese, pickled cherry, pepper dressing and coleslaw on rye.
New Orleans Cake Café, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in the Marigny neighborhood, has legions of fans for its messy-good Reuben with thick slices of corned beef, homemade kraut and Russian dressing on house rye.
Oak Street’s specialty grocery store, Simone’s Market, offers Louisiana-made, -grown and -raised products, a prepared-food case and an easy menu of salads and sandwiches. Get the "Pimento Grilled Cheese with Bacon Jam" and house pickles on sourdough.
In addition to its gorgeous new décor, The Country Club features a lovely menu from chef Chris Barbato that includes his ramped-up BLT called the "BEAT"—bacon, sunny-side up egg, avocado and tomato on brioche pan bread.
Labor Day may have passed, but there are still two full weeks before autumn’s arrival to get out and play. You’ll find plenty of fun games around town, both outdoors and in, year-round.
Dave & Buster’s
With summer came the long-awaited opening of the local link in the popular Texas-based video arcade/sports bar chain. Strategically located near the Superdome, the sprawling good-times emporium features more than 165 video games, along with bowling, billiards and numerous HD TVs for sports watching.
A side of history with your golf game? This two-course miniature golf park, located within City Park, tests your swing skills and your knowledge of local lore at each hole. The Louisiana Course spotlights points of interest around the state, while the New Orleans course is more city-centric.
“Eat. Drink. Play.” That’s the motto at this adult fun house. Life-size Jenga, giant Connect Four boards, skee ball, air hockey, retro arcade games, fried PB&J sandwiches, 20-plus draft beers—what’s not to like?
This isn’t your grandpa’s bowling alley. Sleek and contemporary, this industrial-chic space offers 12 boutique lanes, along with craft cocktails and incredible edibles. Bowling not your game? Roll over to the adjacent game room for bocce ball, chess, darts, shuffleboard, Scrabble and more.
Rock ’n’ Bowl
Slip off your bowling shoes and hit the dance floor. Since the 1990s, this locally loved Mid-City must-do has coupled bowling with live music by some of the area’s top acts. Zydeco, blues, brass, Cajun, swamp pop, swing—you name it, you’ll hear it.
What do you get when you have three mystery-room venues in one city? Triple the fun. Mardi Gras and jazz are the overarching themes at Escape My Room, while Clue Carré offers its own Carnival-themed take, in addition to “Vampire Hunter,” “Voodoo” and “Haunted Swamp” rooms. To really ramp up the fear factor, check into the Mystere Mansion, housed in a former funeral home.
Established in 1719 and largely unchanged for 100 years, the Point—the neighborhood near the ferry—is a network of small streets lined with charming houses in an array of architectural styles. A fire destroyed much of the area in 1895, and in the 1970s it was named to the National Registry of Historic Places. Streets reflect the family names of 18th-century New Orleans gentry along with the first names of their daughters—Eliza, Alix, etc.
Landmarks and points of interest include the Jazz Walk of Fame—directly to the right of the ferry landing—featuring light poles dedicated to many of the city’s jazz greats; the circa-1896 Algiers courthouse, with its combination of Moorish and Romanesque architectural elements; Holy Name of Mary Church, an enormous Gothic cathedral with a clock tower and stunning stained glass; and Rosetree Blown Glass Studio & Gallery, located in a restored 1930s art deco theater. Two blocks past the Point at the levee and Leboeuf Street, you’ll discover the Algiers Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum, home to self-taught artist Charles Gillam.
Grab a bite at one of the neighborhood cafés, tip a pint at the British-themed Crown & Anchor Pub or catch a band at the Old Point Bar, one of the city’s best-kept live music secrets. Music lovers should also check out the free Wednesdays on the Point concert series, which takes place along the levee each fall.
Other annual events include Friendship Day, a neighborhood block party held on the Sunday prior to St. Patrick’s Day in front of the Old Point Bar, an October tour of homes and a holiday bonfire along the Mississippi riverfront in early December.
There is something magical about taking the Algiers ferry across the mighty Mississippi: the feel of the wind, the scent of the air, views of the shore, bridge and city. Then there’s the destination: Algiers Point—historic, beautiful and with lots delicious dining options.
Steps from the ferry landing is the Dry Dock Café for classic local cuisine. Get messy with buttery barbecued shrimp or a gravy-drenched Cajun Roast Beef Po’ Boy. The Crawfish Maureenica (sautéed crawfish tails in garlic cream sauce over pasta) is sturdy and a clever twist on the popular Jazzfest staple. Don’t miss Dry Dock’s rum-passion fruit-and-club soda specialty coctail, Sex on the Levee.
Tavolino Pizza & Lounge is a relative newcomer to the Point. The thoughtful Italian menu includes fun starters like Ping (pork-and-beef-stuffed fried Castelvetrano olives), bread knots with a choice of spread (try the honey-truffle goat cheese) and thin-crusted Neapolitan-style pizzas (go meaty with the Carne—prosciutto, sausage and pepperoni). Definitely opt in for a cocktail, especially one of the ever-changing daiquiris called The Ferry Companion. Most recently sipped: strawberry-rose lemonade.
A short walk from the ferry is Congregation Coffee Roasters, recently recognized by Food & Wine magazine for its stamp on the booming local coffee scene. Well-sourced beans are roasted on-site for various blends spanning a variety of tastes. Baristas know their way around the fancy espresso machine, pulling fruity, bright shots to sip or tip into a cappuccino. The brief-but-mighty food menu is highlighted by homemade boudin with a side of cane syrup for dipping—served weekends only—toasts, yogurt and coconut rice pudding. Yum.
Chef Peter Vazquez operates the Appetite Repair Shop, where the wildly varied menu crosses many cultures and cuisine styles of entrées, snacks, terrines, salads, sandwiches, sweets and other edibles based on whim. Check his Facebook page for current offerings. Take note: Vazquez keeps later hours—generally after 5 pm—and his food sells out fast, but it’s a definite must.
Hop on the ferry to Algiers Point for an eating adventure across the river. Fear not, there’ll be plenty of time to relax and recover on the return trip before continuing French Quarter-side.
Put down the smartphone, shut out the work noise and don’t even think about making that bed. You’re on vacation. The idea is to elevate your stay from the everyday. That’s not hard to do in New Orleans, where out-of-the-ordinary is the norm. No worries, no responsibilities and no penny-pinching. Just let go and indulge.
M.S. Rau Antiques: One of the city’s oldest antiques galleries is also one of the nation’s largest. For more than a century, Rau has ruled Royal Street with a stellar high-end selection of 18th- and 19th-century art and collectibles. Searching for Napoleon’s bronze death mask? Pope Paul VI’s diamond-and-emerald-encrusted cross? You'll find them among the 25,000 square feet of jaw-dropping treasures.
Avery Fine Perfumery: Step into this “smell gallery” and set off on a world tour of luxe fragrances. Scent stylists help you build a customized “fragrance wardrobe” with art perfume brands from around the globe. More a fan of home than body fragrance? The shop’s chic ceramic sculptures double as diffusers.
Waldorf Astoria Spa: This elegant escape inside the equally elegant Roosevelt Hotel provides a full line of spa services, from facials to massages, in addition to specialty treatments and lavish luxuries. Take the decadent Diamond Body therapy, which incorporates precious stones and gold-enriched creams. A complimentary glass of champagne? Yes, please.
Fellow Suits: Where do sharp-dressed New Orleans Saints like Roman Harper and Brandon Coleman turn for expert fashion advice? Fellow Suits, where tailors take up to 30 measurements to ensure the perfect fit and guide guys through the process of selecting the right fabrics, styles and personal touches for a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind look.
The Shops at Canal Place: Tiffany & Co., Coach, Saks Fifth Avenue, lululemon: That’s just a small sampling of the many high-end retailers found at this upscale mall. On the third floor is a nine-screen theater where moviegoers can order gourmet snacks and cocktails straight from their seats.
Windsor Court Tea: With paintings of British royal life adorning its lobby, hallways and Polo Club Lounge, the Windsor Court Hotel emits a decidedly English air, which makes its traditional afternoon tea all the more authentic. Sip from 26 different varieties and nibble on scones with lemon curd, while Rachael Van Vorrhees, principal harpist for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, strums in the background.
Effervescence: Champagne is the order at this French Quarter bubbles bar, where a spirited crowd toasts the 90 different bottles—and 18 by-the-glass—on offer. Settle in for an international flight of French, Italian, Spanish or American varieties, while noshing on caviar and sophisticated small plates.
Commander’s Chef’s Table: A place at Commander’s Palace’s Chef’s Table, located smack in the middle of the kitchen, is an exciting, upscale experience, full of people, bustle, energy and, of course, amazing food. Chef Tory McPhail chats with diners ahead of time, so he and his team can create a pitch-perfect, specialized and thoughtful menu.
Behind the Lines Tour: You could easily spend two full days taking in all of the National WWII Museum’s holdings, and its exclusive behind-the-scenes experience lets you do just that. Climb inside a Sherman tank, get hands-on with historic artifacts, grab lunch with a curator and receive a pass for a second day to explore on your own.
The Jazz Playhouse: Walk-ins are welcome at the Royal Sonesta’s swanky jazz club, where visiting musicians, such as Stevie Wonder, have been known to stop by for an impromptu set. But why take your chances on finding a seat when you can secure a front row spot for just $20?
Half the fun of home games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is seeing New Orleans Saints superfans decked out in all of their black-and-gold glory.
For the past decade, photographer Ron Calamia has stood on the sidelines of the Dome, focusing on Whistle Monsta, Da Pope and dozens of other hardcore Who Dats who not only live for football, but dress the part. The result is FANtastic Saints, a photo-heavy coffee-table tome chronicling 50 costumed characters and the inspiration behind their game-day getups.
“One of the truly amazing things about living in New Orleans is the joie de vivre of the people who reside here,” said Calamia, who counts Marriott and Wyndham hotels, the Palace Casino and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse among his clients. “Take football, for instance. Over the years I began to notice how amazing the costumes were of Saints fans who dress up for every home game and how many there were. The variety and creativity is like no other city in the league.
“The thousands of fans who watch the games at home—and even many who are in the stadium—have no idea that there are so many fans who have spent hundreds of dollars and hours of their time to make these crazy costumes,” he said. “This book is a tribute to them.
“What I didn’t realize,” Calamia added, “was how amazing their stories of love and devotion to their Saints would be. Their stories are as unique as their costumes, and their universal involvement in local charitable work is an inspiration.”
Calamia was so inspired he’s dedicated a portion of "FANtastic Saints" net proceeds to fan charities. Who dat say there aren’t any team players left in the world?
Gallery: "FANtastic Saints"
All images ©Ron Calamia
Since New Orleans’ food truck-friendly laws went into effect in 2014, there’s been a boom in the number of food trucks found at bars, breweries, events and on downtown street corners. The increase in the number of city breweries over the last year has provided opportunities for these trucks to feed hungry beer drinkers—which are plentiful—and a for a new surge in mobile pop-ups—preparing and providing food without a truck—that have sprung up to ensure everyone gets fed.
The food truck, pop-up and local brewing industry have had to overcome onerous city regulations to thrive in recent years, and the minds behind both are passionate, creative and entrepreneurial.
Saigon Slim’s creates Vietnamese food with a global twist, and can be found at Courtyard Brewery and Parleaux Beer Lab every week. Co-owner and manager Maria Senger notes that the tap room/tasting room culture at area breweries is different than at bars or other locations.
“It’s more leisurely,” Senger said. “If the food takes 10 to 15 minutes to prepare, that’s fine, they’ll just go have a beer while they wait. Customers at breweries don’t want to leave right away.”
Jacob Landry, founder of Urban South Brewing, feels that goes both ways.
“There are huge benefits to having food on-premise,” he said, “as it gives folks a reason to stay longer and helps round out their experience.”
Second Line Brewing co-owner Mark Logan points to another benefit.
“As a brewery owner,” he added, “having someone else handle the food end of things is one less issue I have to deal with, like staffing, inventory, equipment and regulations.”
The symbiotic relationship benefits both the brewer and food truck/pop-up owner. Tracey Armitage runs the food pop-up La Monita Colombian, which is found at Urban South, 40 Arpent, Parleaux Beer Lab, Courtyard Brewery, Wayward Owl and Second Line.
“Brewery clientele enjoys craft beer and will hang out for a couple hours over a few beers, and they need food,” Armitage said.
Scott Wood, founder and brewer at Courtyard, says food trucks and pop-ups have been essential to his business model from the very beginning. And they can bring new customers to the brewery.
“People love Saigon Slim's and Taceaux Loceaux with a passion, but each of our trucks has a cult following," Wood said. "There's a group that shows up like clockwork every Thursday for Taylor Made Wings, and people stalk our social media for the Frencheeze menu every week.”
While La Monita is just a year old, Saigon Slim’s has been around for almost three years, and Senger has seen significant growth on both sides of the equation.
“As the number of food trucks increased breweries became an outlet for new trucks to go and get their feet wet,” Sanger said. At this point though, with all the new breweries that have opened, there aren’t enough to go around. “Pop-ups have started filling in where food trucks aren’t going.”
Armitage says she has seen her business grow alongside the New Orleans brewing scene with the increased demand and pop-up business model.
“With pop-ups, barriers to enter the market are less significant,” she said. “Working with breweries is great because I get to meet entrepreneurs who are doing interesting things that they’re passionate about—like I am.”
The Truck Stops Here
Food truck and pop-up schedules shift constantly; check for changes on brewery locations.
Bonafried: Fried chicken sandwiches; Second Line
Foodies Destination: Korean fare; Courtyard, Parleaux and Second Line
Frencheeze: Grilled cheese on steroids; Courtyard, Parleaux and Second Line
La Cocinita: Latin American street food; Wayward Owl
La Monita: Colombian cuisine; found at 40 Arpent, Courtyard, Parleaux, Second Line, Urban South and Wayward Owl
Lucille’s Roti Shop: Trinidadian cuisine; found at 40 Arpent, Courtyard and Parleaux
The Red Stove: Middle Eastern food; found at 40 Arpent, Parleaux and Second Line
Saigon Slim’s: Vietnamese; found at Courtyard and Parleaux
Taceaux Loceaux: Tacos; found at Courtyard
Taylor Made Wings on the Geaux: Chicken wings; found at 40 Arpent and Courtyard
We've Got Big Bowls: Hearty soups and pasta bowls; found at 40 Arpent and Brieux Carré
New Orleans’ affair with fried chicken is historic. Popeye’s was founded here, and the late, legendary chef Austin Leslie—purportedly the inspiration for a long-ago television character—left a fried chicken legacy still cooking at Jacques-Imo’s.
Fanatics hold a dry-battered Dooky Chase chicken leg in one hand and a wet-battered thigh from Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the other. Never mind the small independent chicken joint Jim McHardy’s Chicken & Fixin’ gas station and convenience store birds and the myriad Creole soul and plate-lunch restaurants “famous” for their fried chicken like Lil’ Dizzy’s, Coop’s, Franky & Johnny’s.
But that’s barely, dare it be said, scratching the surface. So deep is the city’s fried chicken love, there’s now a festival dedicated to the matter. Meanwhile, there are some long-standing restaurants with worthy wings—and other parts—as well as new spots hatching fine fried chicken; even one place with some skin in the game.
Old-school plate-lunch places like Praline Connection in the Marigny and Neyow’s in Mid-City serve crackly, deeply seasoned fried chicken to go with creamy slow-cooked beans, tender stewed greens and Louisiana rice. Note to liver lovers: Praline Connection’s deep-fried chicken livers come with gravy and pepper jelly—yes, do both—and are not only available in the restaurant, but also at their Louis Armstrong Airport location on Concourse B.
K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen continues to honor late chef Paul Prudhomme’s delicious heritage with popular local dishes. Yes, there is blackened fish and étouffée, but one of the best-kept secrets is the fried chicken. At lunch, the andouille-studded red beans and rice comes with a juicy fried breast, but keep eyes peeled for the random fried chicken special.
Beloved Fiorella’s Café may have recently been revamped, but its fried chicken has not changed a bit. Black pepper-shot dry batter evenly coats chicken pieces that stay juicy, crispy and the stuff of fried chicken dreams, offered by the box (10 pieces) or platter.
Coquette chef-owners Mike Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig occasionally hold all-you-can-eat “Fried Chicken and Champagne” dinners. The events are so popular, fried chicken is now a regular brunch/lunch menu item, served with flaky biscuits, pickles and deviled eggs.
Speaking of deviled eggs, Turkey and the Wolf, Food & Wine's “Best New Restaurant 2017,” makes house hot sauce-topped deviled eggs garnished with fried chicken skin, and every now and then there is an upmarket version of a fast-food favorite, “Fried Chicken Salad.”
Some may think of New Orleans as the Deep South; but when it comes to playing chicken, it's more like the deep-fried South.
The galleries of Royal Street and the Warehouse Arts District have long drawn culture vultures to the New Orleans art scene. Having one of the nation’s oldest active art colonies doesn’t hurt the city’s credibility either. But museums and private collections aren’t the only places to find great works of art; it also spills out into public parks. Step away from the velvet ropes and take a stroll through the Crescent City’s many green-space galleries.
By far the city’s most famous and most visited park is Jackson Square, located in the very heart of the French Quarter. The four-acre plot, laid out so that the corners align with the four compass points, houses five separate statues with the most prominent being the one in the center of President Andrew Jackson, for whom the park is named (one of four such bronzes cast by Clark Mills in 1856). The four others are frequently noticed by visitors, but their connection to one another is often missed. Installed during the early 1850s, the white marble statues are located in each corner of the square and represent the four seasons. In the south section is Autumn, a woman holding a sickle; in the north is bearded old man Winter bundled against the cold. Spring, represented by a woman with a bouquet of fresh picked flowers, is in the east corner of the park, while the west corner holds young man Summer eating grapes and leaning against a tree. Visitors should take a page from his book: Good food and shade are key to exploring New Orleans.
Each August music lovers from around the world gather in the Tremé neighborhood to celebrate the life and lasting musical legacy of the late New Orleans jazz great Louis Armstrong in the park that bears his name. The recently revamped public space is the perfect setting in which to honor Pops and other jazz pioneers. Situated on the outskirts of the French Quarter, Armstrong Park is home to Congo Square, a Sunday meeting place for people of color during colonial times. Known as “the birthplace of jazz,” it was here that traditional African dances and song styles met with European instruments and influences, eventually giving rise to jazz music and second-line parades. Fittingly the park includes a number of music-themed works, from Elizabeth Catlett’s iconic sculpture of Armstrong to depictions of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, ragtime cornetist Buddy Bolden and jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet, among others.
Once lined with crumbling warehouses, Woldenberg Park now fills the space at the “bottom” of the French Quarter between Decatur Street and the Mississippi River, attracting tourists and locals alike with its scenic views of the river, great people-watching and a steady supply of street musicians. Opened for the 1984 World’s Fair, the riverfront promenade gets its name from philanthropist Malcolm Woldenberg, whose life-size bronze is one of many sculptures dotting the riverfront promenade. Perhaps the most powerful is Franco Allesandrini’s 1995 “Monument to the Immigrant,” honoring the influence that the early European settlers had on the city’s development. Just in front of the Natchez paddlewheeler’s dock is Robert Schoen’s 18-foot “Old Man River,” whose thick and rounded arms symbolize both the power and the beauty of the mighty Mississippi.
Anchoring the Eastern end of Magazine Street, Audubon Park contains fewer statuary than other parks in New Orleans, but is no less beautiful. Commissioned in 1871, Audubon was originally laid out by landscape architect John Olmstead (son of Frederick Olmstead, the designer of New York’s Central Park), and was the site of the 1884 World’s Fair. Divided into two sections by Magazine Street, the upper part of the park is home to the Audubon Golf Course and a 1.8-mile, walking/biking/running path. The trail, shaded by tall and twisted oaks, features several different sculptures. Just inside the park entrance in front of Loyola University is Jane DeDecker’s “Jean Pierre,” which depicts a boy and his grandfather going fishing. The Audubon Zoo, on the other side of Magazine, features even more great artwork, including the Odenheimer Fountain’s likeness of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, and Anna Hyatt Huntington’s 1922 sculpture of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and animal welfare. Greeting visitors to the zoo is Edward Virginius Valentine’s 1910 sculpture of the man who lent his name to the park, artist and naturalist John James Audubon.
Nearly double the size of New York’s Central Park, the 1,300-acre City Park is New Orleans’ biggest, as well as one of the largest urban parks in the country. Dating to 1854, the site grew out of what was once the Allard Plantation and became known for the infamous duels that were played out under its ancient live oaks. In 1938, a Works Progress Administration project developed the park’s infrastructure, creating shelter houses, pathways and bridges, and commissioned various sculptures and bas-reliefs by Mexican-born artist Enrique Alférez, whose lasting legacy is celebrated in the Helis Foundation Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden, located within the park’s Botanical Gardens. Also in the park, the New Orleans Museum of Art, widely regarded as one of the best fine-art museums in the South, houses works from Degas, Monet, Picasso and O’Keefe, to name a few. Just to the left of its main entrance is the museum’s outdoor Besthoff Sculpture Garden. More than 60 pieces line the lush footpath that meanders through the garden, with the oaks, pines and magnolias providing welcome shade. Highlights include statuary by Renoir, Henry Moore and Fernando Botero, as well pop artist Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture and abstract pieces by modern-day greats.
Food pundits tell us that the optimal way to cool down is to spice-up what we eat. But, to be honest, cold foods—soups, snoballs, fruits and salads—are more appealing and obvious. The trick is finding dishes with cool on several levels.
When ripe melons come in, High Hat Café rolls out a juicy watermelon-and-crab salad with shaved red onion and lime vinaigrette. Equally exquisite is the snapper crudo with watermelon, lime, gardenia and jalapeño at Coquette.
Maïs Arepas serves all kinds of cool Colombian food, and the ceviches—tarted up with lime, onion and chunks of ripe avocados—are divine.
At Johnny Sánchez chefs Aarón Sánchez and Miles Landrem are always innovating, creating and playing around with the architecture of Mexican food. Their ceviche pairs fresh-tasting cobia with sweet cucumbers and tomatoes, creamy avocado, the tartness of passion fruit and the heat of habanero, topped with crispy hominy for a slightly Southern spin.
Hit Haiku for its killer “King Cake” sushi roll—cream cheese and coconut shrimp inside, tuna, “eel sauce” and toasted almonds on top, or make it Maypop for chef Michael Gulotta’s crazy good “Chaat Salad” with coconut-cucumber ranch dressing.
The gazpacho at the Standard changes on the chef’s whim, but you can bank on cool combos like watermelon, cucumber and tomato. Café Degas is known for its heavenly potato and leek vichyssoise. Add some crusty French bread and good butter…magnifique.
The flavors at Creole Creamery are both simple (chocolate, vanilla, etc.) and supremely cool; think honey-lavender, magnolia or jasmine flower.
At GW Fins, chef Mike Nelson’s “Salty Malty Ice Cream Pie” is so airy, a side view of a slice appears to have layers like a Napoleon. A pretzel crust provides the salt, and then there is the caramel whipped cream, the caramel drizzle and a couple of chocolate-covered pretzels for garnish. Dig in and chill out.
Short on amenities but long on lore, some of New Orleans’ most popular bars might be considered dives in other cities. But here, bars with storied pasts, the patina of good times had and the anything-goes vibe of a diverse clientele are regarded as hallowed ground for their regulars. They are found in old buildings that had previous lives as homes or corner stores which imbues them with the sort of authenticity you just don’t find in newer establishments.
While such institutions are the stomping grounds of locals, visitors are universally welcome, whether you show up for a late-night music performance or drop in for a drink during the middle of the day.
Aunt Tiki’s: Don’t let the name fool you; there are no umbrella drinks here. And don’t even think about ordering one, the bartender might toss you out. What you will find is a worn sofa, a well-stocked jukebox and extra-strong cocktails at hard-to-beat prices. Who needs mai tais?
Chart Room: When this local landmark changed ownership after 40 years in 2015, loyalists lamented the end of an era. But, thankfully, little has changed at the corner of Chartres and Bienville: the atmosphere is still easygoing, the bartenders unpretentious and the shots just keep on coming.
Golden Lantern: It’s from this 24/7 watering hole in the wall that the annual Southern Decadence parade—a booze-fueled, flesh-filled celebration of debauchery—kicks off each Labor Day weekend. Gay but straight-friendly, the Lantern keeps patrons lit with strong pours and a daily happy hour that runs from 8 am to 8 pm. Great drag shows on weekends.
Brothers Three: Despite its sunny yellow exterior, inside this Magazine Street lounge it’s dark, dank and divey 24/7. There’s country on the jukebox, a rotating cast of colorful characters at the bar…and the drink prices are almost as low as the ceilings.
Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge: A NOLA dive-hunter rite of passage; even Anthony Bourdain has boozed it up in this tumbledown shack. Gritty, grungy and lit mostly by Christmas lights, this legendary land of the lost is eternally cool and quintessentially New Orleans.
Rock Bottom Lounge: The name kinda says it all. But don’t be put off by the bars on the windows; this former apartment building-turned-"black cultural bar" is home to a friendly crowd of neighborhood regulars and a number of social aid and pleasure clubs. Strong drinks at rock-bottom prices.
Ms. Mae’s: Another Magazine Street must-stop. There are pool tables, air hockey, foosball and a small patio, but the real draw is the friendly patrons and crazy cheap drinks.
The Saint: A dive with a doorman? Yep, and a DJ and hopping dance floor. The party at this easy-to-overlook nightspot gets started long after the others, beginning around midnight and going until sunrise. When it gets too crowded inside take it to the back patio. Tiki-themed karaoke on Tuesdays; free jukebox on Sundays.
Checkpoint Charlie's: Dirty clothes? Perfect, you’ll fit right in with the grunge crowd. Or you can clean up at the on-site laundromat while getting down to live bands—no cover, though there is a drink requirement for bathroom use. Music runs the gamut from blues to rockabilly. 501 Esplanade Ave., 504.281.4847
The John: In a city filled with every type of bar imaginable, it takes a lot to stand out. Enter The John. Cheap drinks in Mason jars, ping-pong…and toilets. Pulling up a stool here means grabbing one of the many gold toilets that serve as seats. Who says you can’t sit on the toilet and drink in public? 2040 Burgundy St., 504.942.7159
Saturn Bar: In recent years the Bywater neighborhood has become hipster central. But the cool-kid crowd has been orbiting around the Saturn Bar for more than four decades and still lands there today. Catch King James and the Special Men Mondays at 10 pm.
J&J's Sports Lounge: With happy hour starting at 11 am, J&J’s morphs from sports bar by day to locals dive in the early evening hours. Deep in the Bywater, this spot is great for catching Saints or LSU games—and a really cheap tall boy. Keep an eye out for the neighborhood cat who has his own bar stool.
BJ's: Sure, it’s been featured in the New York Times and Robert Plant has been known to drop by for an impromptu jam session, but this low-key corner bar remains one of Bywater’s best and least affected. Live music on Fridays.
Where to Find New Orleans' Dive Bars
New Orleans is a fun place to eat and drink. In early May James Beard Awards were given to stellar chefs Rebecca Wilcomb (Herbsaint) and Zachary Engel (Shaya), and there was a long overdue nod to the city’s cocktail culture with a win for Arnaud’s French 75, helmed by star barman Chris Hannah. Continue to debate whether the cocktail was born here, but do so over a drink, please. The summer sipping scene is packed full of fizzy options, with and without booze.
On the soda side there’s Big Easy Bucha, a local business that bottles fermented tea in various flavors. You’ll find it tucked into drink cases at The Bulldog, Poke Loa, St. Roch Market, Green Fork and more. From the Vietnamese drinks canon comes “Soda Chanh,” a sparkly limeade made by mixing muddled fresh lime juice and sugar with a small bottle of club soda. Try one at Pho Cam Ly, Lily's Café or Magasin.
Restaurants are keen on creating their own sodas, which can be “corrected” with spirits, or not. Kebab has a sweet-tart beet-citrus soda to drink plain over ice or with a shot of vodka or gin. At Shaya there are seasonal sodas to drink as is, or order the “Birth of Athena,” a fizzy blend of sloe gin, cider beer and rosé.
Spritizers are back in a big way, with bars/restaurants taking effervescent drinks to the next level using locally distilled spirits, housemade shrubs, syrups and sodas. At Lula Restaurant Distillery they use their own vodka. Try the “Basil Smash” (lemon, basil, cane sugar and bubbles) or a “Cucumber Collins” (cucumber, lemon, cane sugar and soda).
Cocktail goddess Laura Bellucci’s “Iridescent Gods” at SoBou is a smoky-fruity composition that gets a smidge of heat from ginger and fizz from elderflower kombucha. Or go with a “Roffignac” (cognac, homemade raspberry shrub and soda) at Bakery Bar.
At Arnaud’s French 75, order the “Candelabra” (Singani 63, Sancerre, pomegranate syrup, lime and club soda). At Café Henri its all about the tart and intriguing “Venetian Spritz,” made with Cappelletti Aperitivo, soda, Champagne, olive, black pepper and lemon, while Cure quenches summertime thirsts with “The Love Below,” which features Louisiana strawberry shrub, thyme and sparkling wine.