125. Giving props to Pops while strolling Armstrong Park
124. Giving in to Mother Nature and dancing during downpours at Jazzfest
123. Carriage tour drivers who dress to match their colorful coaches
122. The white-tiled walls and overstuffed oyster loaf sandwiches at Casamento’s
121. Discovering unsung talent in one of the city’s many music clubs
120. Tracking a trail of powdered sugar down North Peters Street to its point of origin, Café Du Monde
119. The Mississippi-meets-Mekong mural at Maypop, a nod to the city’s cross-cultural cuisine
118. Suiting up in seersucker at Perlis
117. Getting hopped up on Grasshopper cocktails at Tujague’s, where the minty cocktail originated
116. Creating French Quarter ambiance in our own backyards with gas lamps from Bevolo
115. City Park’s Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden, a salute to the city’s most prolific public artist
114. The Holy Cross neighborhood’s twin “steamboat houses”
113. The undulating oaks lining St. Charles Avenue
112. The Audubon Zoo’s annual Mother’s Day concert, featuring “the Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Grammy winner Irma Thomas
111. Revisiting Bourbon Street’s 1950s heyday with the naughty-but-nice Burlesque Ballroom revue at the Jazz Playhouse
110. The Abita Mystery House—the mad, mad, mad, mad world of artist John Preble
109. The Historic New Orleans Collection’s “New Orleans, the Founding Era” exhibit
108. Artist and educator Richard Thomas, celebrating 40 years of exhibiting at Jazzfest
107. Shrimp in remoulade sauce at Arnaud’s, currently celebrating a century of Creole fine dining
106. Sunday jazz Mass at historic St. Augustine Church
104. Bellying up to the oyster bar at Bourbon House
103. Getting hands-on with history during the National WWII Museum’s White Glove Wednesday tours
102. Getting splashed by the Creole Queen’s massive, churning paddlewheel
101. Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau’s XXX-marked tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the second-most visited grave site in the U.S. (after Elvis, of course)
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In a city where slavery, racism and brothels helped give rise to jazz and incubated other genres, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to get the full story of New Orleans’ musical history. The city’s winding, thorny past has tendrils that connect its musical heritage to West Africa, Paris, Sicily and Chicago.
Luckily there are a variety of lenses through which to view the city’s 300 years of music history. They’re found in the numerous guided music walking tours offered around town, which I recently sampled a variety of.
French Quarter Phantoms’ “Music of New Orleans Tour” starts on North Rampart Street, just across from Armstrong Park. My guide was Stella Salmen, a local musician who took us through the park where we discussed Congo Square and music pioneers.
Dipping into Tremé, the nation’s oldest African-American neighborhood, we passed the home of drummer Shannon “King of Tremé” Powell, and learned about Ernie “Emperor of the Universe” K-Doe’s hit single “Mother-in-Law” (written by the prolific Allen Toussaint) and his music club of the same name (now owned by trumpeter Kermit Ruffins). Salmen discussed Mardi Gras Indians and second-line traditions, before moving on to the soon-to-reopen New Orleans African American Museum, historic St. Augustine Church and the Backstreet Cultural Museum.
The tour ended back at Armstrong Park, across from the legendary J&M Studio, where everyone from Ray Charles and Fats Domino to Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard recorded. It’s now a laundromat with a little exhibit in the back by the dryers.
New Orleans Music Tours’ “Music Gumbo” excursion kicked off in the French Quarter and ended at Armstrong Park. It also included a stop at the Basin Street Visitor Center, where the infamous Storyville red-light district (where many jazz greats, including Satchmo, performed) stood in the early 1900s.
Guide Jeremy Habeggar went into detail regarding the local tradition of plaçage, which were common law marriages between European men and free women of color. Sons born from such unions would often be classically trained overseas then return home to become part of the fabric of the developing local music scene. Habeggar also talked about of the musical contributions of Sicilian immigrants and their descendants, such as “King of Swing” Louis Prima, Cosimo Matassa (of J&M fame) and Nick Larocca, leader of the Original Dixieland Jass Band.
Discussing the origins of jazz, birthed in the brothels of Storyville, can be tricky business when traveling with kids. French Quartour Kids’ music tour two-steps around some of the more unsavory aspects of New Orleans music (and regular) history. Run by two retired teachers, the tours delve into the city’s sounds in a family friendly manner.
“We’re going to be hauling ass across time, space and genre,” said guide Keith Abel of Abel Tours. “In New Orleans, jazz is both a culture and a 100-year overnight success.”
A born storyteller, Abel started his “Music & Heritage Tour” by recounting the story of the city’s founding while standing outside of the Louisiana Music Factory. Sharing the larger-than-life tales of local legends like early composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, rhythm guitarist Danny Barker, clarinetist Pete Fountain and pianist Roy Byrd (aka Professor Longhair), Abel guided us through Jackson Square, past Preservation Hall and onto Bourbon Street. He even offered recommendations on what acts to catch and clubs to hit later on.
“Three hundred years of music history in New Orleans is like an onion,” added Abel. “The more you peel back, the sweeter it is...but the more you cry.”
Roam Alone: Self-Guided Jazz Jaunts
While a professional tour guide is a valuable resource for learning about a city, sometimes you just want to go at your own pace. These days free, self-guided tours are easier than ever to access with a smartphone.
The National Park Service’s New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park tour route and stop info can be found here. In addition to spots in and around the French Quarter, the tour includes the Jazz Walk of Fame along the Algiers Point levee, just off the ferry landing. Cross the Mississippi River from the French Quarter and check it out, while enjoying killer views of the city.
The Algiers Historical Society offers two self-guided walking tours that really delve into the local jazz scene. “Over Da River” and “Brooklyn of the South” both highlight a number of obscure spots in the city’s second-oldest neighborhood with step-by-step text and in-depth information about each of the 20-plus stops along the way.
The New Orleans Historical Project’s The Birthplace of Jazz: A Walking Tour Through New Orleans’ Musical Past features an interactive map highlighting 10 historically significant spots throughout the French Quarter and the Central Business District, including the Eagle Saloon, the Lyric Theater and the Tango Belt. In addition to detailed background info on each stop are clips of thematically appropriate music.
We saw it coming, but didn’t yet have a name for what food halls like St. Roch Market would do for dining when it opened in 2015. The verdict and verbiage is now in: a big thumbs-up for all-day cafés, go-to places where you can grab a meal any time of day.
Today St. Roch Market has only a few of its original food operators (Elysian Seafood, Coast Roast Coffee). For the diner that's a boon, an opportunity to try different cooking styles, dishes and drinks. From pastries and fresh-pressed juices to chicken sandwiches and crawfish mac-and-cheese to cocktails and a bevy of bivalves, St. Roch is busier and more popular than ever—or than anyone ever predicted.
Auction House Market, a new food hall by the St. Roch folks in the Warehouse District, adds to this all-day dining environment with several second locations of existing vendors and new flavors like Indian, Egyptian and Hawaiian-inspired cuisines. Not far away, Pythian Market will soon open for breakfast through late-night cocktails. Among the 19 food and retail vendors, you’ll find Central City BBQ, Ancora’s beloved pizza and salumi and Jamaican dishes from 14 Parishes.
All-day cafés outside the food-hall frame are also growing in number. Cleo’s, a popular Middle Eastern eatery, recently moved to a new location on Canal Street where falafel, baba ganoush, lamb kabobs and more are served 24/7. A second spot is slated for the French Quarter.
Recently adding breakfast (bowls, toasts, smoothies) to its tropical menu lunch and dinner offerings, Café Carmo now satisfies hungry appetites from 8 am to 10 pm. In Bywater, Paloma Café serves Latin-inspired food from 8 am to 11 pm. In the South Market District, The Daily Beet puts out excellent wild rice bowls, juices and lush-topped toasts from 8 am to 8 pm.
Hungry? You’re in the right town…at the right time.
100. Dining alfresco in French Quarter restaurant courtyards
99. Jazzfest-goer’s over-the-top head wear
97. Carrying open umbrellas on sunny days
96. Setting a nightly table for the resident ghost at Muriel’s
95. Listening to modern-day jazz in a century-old jazz landmark at the Little Gem Saloon
94. Chilling out between sets at Jazzfest with a walk through the misting tents
93. The Newcomb Art Museum’s signature Arts and Crafts pottery and Tiffany glass windows
92. Dancing in the middle of the street during French Quarter Fest
91. Floating options at Queork, where the goods are all fashioned from cork
90. Long lines snaking out of Hansen’s, signaling the onset of snoball season
89. Seeing how many types of hot sauce we can burn through on a Tabasco factory tour
88. The statue of Ignatius Riley, the lead character in “A Confederacy of Dunces,” under the old D.H. Holmes clock (819 Canal St.)
87. Touro Synagogue’s annual Jazzfest Shabbat
86. Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba’s initials woven into the ironwork of the twin buildings she commissioned surrounding Jackson Square
85. Setting off on NOLA Gondola glides around scenic City Park
84. Eating to the beat during the World’s Largest Jazz Brunch at French Quarter Fest
83. The “Tricentennial Moments” QR-code markers on local landmarks 82. Looking for the next big thing—and finding it—among the art and craft booths at Jazzfest 81. Visiting France without ever leaving the city with a trip to Wirthmore Antiques
80. Camellia Grill’s pecan waffles, greasy burgers and bow-tied waiters
79. Watching the streetcar pass while sipping mint juleps on the front porch of the Columns Hotel
78. Roaming the Garden District when it’s in full springtime bloom
77. Getting lost amid M.S. Rau’s 28,000 square feet for rare antiquities
76. Dancing Man 504 jump-starting the annual French Quarter Festival kickoff parade
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26. Taking a Vieux Carré cocktail for a spin at the Hotel Monteleone’s revolving Carousel Bar
27. Stealing tricks of the trade—then eating the evidence—at the New Orleans School of Cooking
28. The Skull & Bones Gang raising the dead on Mardi Gras morning
30. Actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation making good on its promise to rebuild the Lower 9th Ward
31. The open-hearth cooking demos at the historic Hermann-Grima House
32. The Dueling Oak in City Park, where affairs d’honneur were conducted during the early 1800s
33. Bead-strung balconies along Bourbon Street
34. “Queen of Creole cuisine” chef Leah Chase, still cookin’ at age 95
35. Artist Terrance Osborne’s vibrant depictions of local life
36. The Royal Sonesta Hotel’s annual Greasing of the Poles ceremony
37. “Makin’ groceries” at the French Market, the nation’s oldest public produce mart
38. Downing brandy milk punch during breakfast at Brennan’s, where the term “eye-opener” originated
39. Dancing in the lanes at Rock ’n’ Bowl
40. Stumbling upon amazing amazing bands performing in the streets (be sure to tip!)
41. Seeing how many king cake babies you can collect during Carnival season
42. Clamoring for coconuts at the Zulu parade
43. Repenting for Saturday night sins during the Sunday morning gospel brunch at the House of Blues
44. T-Boy the Nutria, the Audubon Zoo’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil, who emerges from his swamp hole on Groundhog Day
45. The New Orleans Museum of Art’s outdoor sculpture garden
46. Derby Pottery’s reproductions of 19th-century Crescent City street tiles
47. Peering into the wine cavern at Antoine’s through its rear window (between 519 and 520 Royal Street)
48. Tipping our chapeaux to Southern gentility at Meyer the Hatter
49. Guessing at the price of that Blue Dog in the window at Rodrigue Studio
50. The warm muffulettas and peeling walls at the Napoleon House
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51. The Court of Two Sisters’ century-old wisteria vine canopy and daily jazz brunch
52. Retracing 300 years of history on French Quarter walking tours
53. Watching the culinary magic unfold while dining at the kitchen table at Commander’s Palace
54. Picking up French accents, such as olive jars and anduze pots, at Antiques de Provence
55. Nottoway Plantation’s period-perfect, all-white ballroom
56. Watching the pros hand-roll Vieux Carré stogies at Cigar Factory New Orleans
57. Confederacy of Cruisers’ two-wheeled, three-sheets cocktail tour
58. Edible St. Joseph Day altars
59. GW Fins’ sizzling oysters and fresh-made biscuits
60. The Tennessee Williams Festival’s annual Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest in Jackson Square
61. Catching cabbages—and kisses—during the Irish Chanel St. Patrick’s Day Parade
62. The blue-ribbon fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House
63. The “Paris green” ironwork and copper-plated bathtub at Gallier House
64. Swinging back in time at the National WWII Museum’s Stage Door Canteen
65. Getting a whiff of springtime backyard crawfish boils
66. Posing for pictures with Fats Domino, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and others at New Orleans Musical Legends Park
67. The mule-drawn Roman Chewing Candy cart distributing its trademark taffy along St. Charles Avenue as it has since 1915
68. Galatoire’s puffy soufflé potatoes and spirited Friday lunch crowd
69. The Napoleon-topped water fountain and business card-covered walls at the Old Absinthe House
70. Seeing fine-feathered Mardi Gras Indians strut through the streets on Super Sunday
71. Catching the Carnival spirit long after the parades have passed with a visit to Mardi Gras World
72. The Steamboat Natchez’s calliope piping out “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” during afternoon downpours
74. Aligning our chakras amid “Two Centuries of Louisiana History” at during Yoga at the Cabildo
75. Eyeing alligators—and getting eyed back—on an Airboat Adventures tour
For the first 50 things we love click here.
Dressed in all black with yellow-rimmed glasses, Terence Blanchard looks every bit the jazz great he is, speaking to an intimate crowd gathered at the Loews New Orleans hotel. The multiple Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer, who graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts before touring with such legends as Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, is perhaps best known for his many movie scores (from 1991’s “Jungle Fever” to 2016’s “The Comedian”). But it’s the National Opera Conference he’s returned to his hometown to address.
A jazz musician at an opera conference? An opera conference in the birthplace of jazz?
“New Orleans has had a tradition in the music world that people don’t really get,” says the 2018 USA Fellows awardee, who currently teaches at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “Jazz is what people talk about, but opera has been a big part of this community for decades. My family didn’t listen to jazz; I was the one who brought that into the house. They listened to spiritual music and to opera. My father, mother, uncle and aunt—and a lot of our church members—were all fans of opera. And I thought they were the strangest people on earth.”
Even stranger was when the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis commissioned him to write an opera of his own in 2010. “At first I thought they were drunk,” Blanchard chuckles. “Jazz was my passion. But I kept thinking about life cycles and how things come back. When I look back on it, I never strayed far from opera because of my family; I heard that music all the time.”
What audience members will hear when the New Orleans Opera Association mounts Blanchard’s Champion: An Opera in Jazz March 9 and 11 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater is what the Huffington Post called “a unanimous winner” when it was performed at the SFJazz Center in 2016, prior to last year’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts staging. Based on the tragic, true-life story of boxer Emile Griffith and his legendary 1962 Madison Square Garden bout against Benny “The Kid” Paret, the plot line touches on everything from homosexuality to dementia.
“Most people in the sports world knew Griffith was gay,” Blanchard explains, “but he never put that out in public. At a press conference [before the fight], in an attempt to gain a psychological edge over Emile, Paret called him a very derogatory term and it upset Emile to no end.” So much so that Griffith pummeled his opponent with 17 punches in seven seconds, resulting in Paret’s subsequent coma and eventual death. Griffith would himself nearly die a few years later from a beating he received after leaving a gay bar.
“There was one line from his autobiography, ‘Nine…Ten…and Out!,’ that just floored me,” adds Blanchard. “He said, ‘I kill a man and the world forgives me. I love a man and the world wants to kill me.’ To me that was a very, very powerful line; being champion of the world and not being able to share that with someone you love.”
Not your conventional opera…or is it?
“Opera goes well beyond what people think it is,” says Blanchard, who is now at work on a new opera based on “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” by journalist Charles Blow. “Opera is about telling stories, it’s about life and things that are real. It’s about varied issues, societal issues, societal ills. To me, opera is great when you forget you are listening to opera.”
Other Voices, Other Rooms
Opera is nothing new to New Orleans. Since the late 1700s the city as laid claim to the first opera company in U.S. In 1859 architect James Gallier, Jr. erected the massive French Opera House on the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse streets, helping establish the city as “the Opera Capital of North America.” A mix of Greek Revival and Italianate influences, the ornate building held up to 2,600 patrons from all walks of life.
Destroyed by fire in 1919, the French Opera House was replaced by a hotel during the 1960s. Now a Four Points by Sheraton, you can still hear live opera on the site every second Wednesday of the month when Bon Operatit!, an ensemble of classical singers, performs for free in the hotel’s Puccini Bar. Also performing monthly at the Sheraton is Opera on Tap, an offshoot of the New Orleans Opera Association (which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year) that takes opera out of theaters and into area bars.
Named among Southern Living’s 2017 Southerners of the Year, mezzo-soprano Giovanni Joseph and daughter Aria Mason founded OperaCréole in 2011, breathing new life into the circa-1853 Marigny Opera House and providing an much-welcome vehicle for rarely staged works by early African-American composers. The Marigny Opera House is also home to the Marigny Opera Ballet.
There truly is nothing like Carnival season in New Orleans; it’s something everyone should experience at least once. Don’t arrive in town until after Fat Tuesday? The parades may have passed, but you can still catch the Mardi Gras spirit at area museums, which feature a variety of exhibits exploring Crescent City costuming. Grab a mask and check out:
Backstreet Cultural Museum
This former funeral parlor (where the North Side Skulls & Bones Gang kicks of their Mardi Gras morning romp) is the perfect place to study up on Mardi Gras Indian traditions, the Baby Dolls and other African-American Carnival celebrations.
Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum
Wells, the daughter of Arnaud’s restaurant founder Arnaud Cazenave, reigned over more Mardi Gras balls than anyone else in New Orleans Carnival history. Numerous queens’ gowns and other costumes are displayed on the second floor of the century-old eatery. Free during regular restaurant hours.
Louisiana State Museums
The permanent “Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana” exhibit at the Presbytère features scepters, tiaras and a wide array of Fat Tuesday finery, from royalty regalia to patchworked Courir du Mardi Gras outfits.
Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture
The name says it all. Culled from the private collection of costumer Carl Mack, this fun space overflows with feather-and-beaded Mardi Gras Indian suits, ornate ball attire and over-the-top homemade get-ups.
New Orleans Museum of Art
“Bror Anders Wikstrom: Bring Fantasy to Carnival” spotlights the Swedish-born illustrator and early Mardi Gras influencer through his elaborate float and costume designs for Rex and the Krewe of Proteus. More runway-focused than costume-centric, “A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes,” NOMA’s first major fashion exhibition, showcases such boundary-pushing designers as Alexander McQueen, Pam Hogg, Comme des Garçons and Iris van Hepen. Opening Feb. 21 the exhibit, explores feminine archetypes through more than 100 gowns, jewelry and shoes.
There is a connection between pancakes and Mardi Gras. No, really. In commonwealth countries, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (which we call Fat Tuesday) is known as Shrove Tuesday or “Pancake Day.” Shrove is a form of shrive, which means to seek absolution. In short, the Christian practice of gorging and excess on Fat Tuesday is a last hurrah before Lent. Believe it or not, pancakes are considered decadent because they are made with extravagant ingredients—eggs, butter, milk, sugar—to be used up before the food austerity of the Lenten season.
New Orleans, lately a very serious breakfast town, with a substantial amount of breakfast restaurants and traditions, has a fine list of places for great stacks. Those looking for a basic pancake, will find loads of casual and fancy places.
Pull into the Trolley Stop Café, a 24/7 Uptown place that gilds the lily with a divinely sweet Bavarian cream-topped pancake. Or check out Coulis in the Garden District, where the oversized, single pancake is called “precious.” Ask why; there’s a cute story there.
On the more fancy side there’s the insanely delicious, butter-bomb pancakes at Carrollton Market that come with top-quality Vermont maple syrup and smoky slices of crisp Benton’s bacon. “For our batter we make a kind of loose emulsion, Hollandaise-style,” says chef Jason Goodenough, “with the eggs and melted butter, to mix with the milk before adding the dry ingredients. It makes an insane pancake.”
Canal Street Bistro plates up an incredible list of pancake options, both regular and gluten-free. Ask them to add some house granola to the basic batter for an incredible combination of tender pancake and crunchy bits. Do not miss the butter-drenched, souffléed German pancakes.
Basic pancake batter is also an easy flavor playground. Red Gravy uses browned butter to bolster its blend. There are also powdered sugar-dusted, cannoli-filled pancakes topped with cream. Satsuma has a daily pancake depending on whim and season; recently there was a tart-sweet ginger-cranberry version. The Ruby Slipper Café, known for its over-the-top pancakes like Cinnamon Swirl and Bacon Praline, also does a “Pancake of the Day,” which has in the past included Red Velvet. At Slim Goodies there are six different choices. Go for the earthy sweet potato or an egg-in-the-middle Todd Joy.
Diners with specialty diets can also find pancakes. In the French Market, Meals from the Heart griddles lofty vegan/gluten-free blueberry pancakes, while on Freret Street Bearcat cooks up superior banana-packed paleo pancakes to partner with its homemade bison sausage patties.
Partake in tradition. There are many ways to flip for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday—or any day.
In honor of the city’s tricentennial, each month during 2018 we are highlighting a few of our favorite things (25 things x 12 months = 300 things we love!).
1. Taking a spin on City Park’s century-old carousel
2. The cornstalk fence at 915 Royal Street—one of the city’s most photographed sites
3. Grown men wearing bibs while devouring barbecue shrimp at Pascal’s Manale
4. Serene St. Anthony’s Garden, the city’s oldest green space, tucked behind St. Louis Cathedral, the nation’s oldest active Catholic cathedral
5. The gilded Joan of Arc statue, (Decatur and Dumaine streets), glinting in the afternoon sun
6. Locals’ obsession with king cake
7. Listening to live opera at Four Points by Sheraton on the second Saturday of the month, where the nation’s first opera house once stood
8. The Vieux Carré’s Spanish street tiles
11. The 2000-year-old cypress-log table and indigo-stained bar at Restaurant R’evolution
12. Warming up with a flaming café brûlot (coffee, brandy and spices) at Antoine’s, were the drink originated during the 1890s
13. The nightly light shows on the exterior of the Superdome
14. Letting little hands take the reins on mule-led carriage rides
15. The boudin tamales at Meril
16. The scent of vetiver, a Creole ladies’ dressing table staple, wafting out of Hové
17. Time-traveling via a visit to the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Louisiana History Gallery
18. The French Quarter’s horse-head hitching posts and fish-mouth downspouts
19. The circa-1750 staircase at the Old Ursuline Convent
20. Louis Armstrong’s first cornet, on view at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint
21. Sneaking peeks into cloistered French Quarter courtyards
22. The clickety clack of the St. Charles streetcar rumbling along the avenue
23. Catching an in-store performance while rummaging the racks at the Louisiana Music Factory
24. Spying a Civil War submarine while roaming the grounds at Houmas House Plantation
25. Imbibing in history with a Sazerac cocktail at the Sazerac Bar
New Orleans is a city where the line between night and day often blurs, and managing the delicate balance between booze and food is crucial. Fortunately, a number of pubs, restaurants and take-out joints provide food yin to the cocktail yang.
Need a burger? At Clover Grill they’re griddled on the flat-top—under a hubcap—and often come with a side of late-night, adult entertainment. Buffa’s, near Frenchmen Street, weighs in with the Gotham Knight, an all-beef burger topped by a slab of deep-fried honey-praline ham, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms. Or go seriously old school—as in the oldest restaurant of its kind around the Southeast—at Krystal with a “Krystal Sackfull” of sliders.
Po’boy fans know that until midnight Killer PoBoys in the Erin Rose bar rolls out a stunning Seared Gulf Shrimp po’boy with marinated vegetables. Or hit Verti Marte for just about anything imaginable, any time, though it’s hard to move past the All That Jazz po’boy—a behemoth of grilled ham, turkey, shrimp, cheeses, mushrooms, tomatoes and “wow sauce.”
Not feeling burgers or po’boys? Pull into Coop’s Place for seafood gumbo or red beans and rice with fried chicken (Friday and Saturday ’til 1 am), Faubourg Bistro for PB, B&J Wings (the extra “b” stands for bacon) ’til 2 am or Cunada for Mexican foodstuffs, like melty queso, nachos, tacos and guac, ’til 4 am. Golden Chips turns out crisp, fluffy-centered yuca fries to drag through Tabasco-spiked mayo weekends ’til 1 am, while Sweet Things & Grill rolls 24/7 with mini burgers, chicken tenders and solid breakfast options that are trumped only by the divine donuts.
Uptown all-nighters dive into the St. Charles Tavern for a steak dinner or seafood plate and The Trolley Stop Café, where breakfast reigns supreme. Camellia Grill is the perfect place to crush a good burger or chili-cheese omelet and slurp an icy Mocha Freeze weekends ’til 2 am.
Though wee-hours menus tend to be burgers, omelets and po’boys, things are changing. New places, menu options and food choices constantly emerge with promises to fill a belly, soothe the soul and strike a booze-food balance, all night (and day) long.
New Orleans is always up for a party.
Come New Year's, Christmas garlands come down and Carnival season bunting goes up. Just six days into January, and we’re back in the streets, ready for Twelfth Night revelry. This year promises to be even more celebratory than usual, with the city commemorating its big 3-0-0 anniversary throughout 2018 and other local institutions joining in. Keep your party hats on and those noisemakers at the ready; the Big Easy has a bang-up, blowout year ahead.
300: New Orleans
Gold traditionally marks 50th celebrations and diamonds are synonymous with 75th, but what’s appropriate for a 300th anniversary? For New Orleans, the answer is obvious: a yearlong party. It started in November with fireworks at City Park. Early January brought more fireworks to kick off Carnival festivities, followed by a tricentennial Mass at St. Louis Cathedral, which unveiled a new Vatican-blessed statue of St. John Paul II, in honor of his visit 1987 visit to the city.
Visitors will also find a number of anniversary-related exhibits around town. At the Odgen Museum, “Solidary & Solitary” spotlights African-American artists from the 1940s through today, while “The Church and the Crescent” explores 300 years of Catholicism in the city at the Old Ursuline Convent. Foodies get their fill with “The Women Who Made the Food of New Orleans” at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Those bells ringing in the French Quarter? That’s artist Zarouhie Abdalian’s sound-based installation, “Recitations (…pour le triomphe de la liberté et de l’égalité…),” which can be heard daily at 3 pm through early June.
Elsewhere around the city you’ll spot black-and-gold markers at such iconic sites as the Old U.S. Mint, the Fair Grounds Race Course and the Hermann-Grima House. They’re part of local public television station WYES-TV’s Tricentennial Moments project, which encourages visitors to learn more of the city’s 300-year backstory via short videos accessed by scanning the plaques’ QR codes on their smartphones.
Additional highlights from the coming year include: The Historic New Orleans Collection’s New Orleans, the Founding Era exhibit opening in February, the “Up From the Streets” concert in March, April’s arrival of the Tall Ships and gathering of international dignitaries at historic Gallier Hall, new murals and illuminated NOLA300 installations at various locations around the city and, yes … even more fireworks from City Park to the riverfront. For a full schedule of events, visit 2018nola.com.
Also included in the NOLA300 celebration lineup is the Jan. 25-28 staging of Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera at Le Petit Theatre, which also serves as a salute to the famed Louisiana-based hot sauce company’s 150th anniversary. The rarely produced comedic work, which dates to 1894 and was recently resurrected by local conductor Paul Mauffray in 2012, recounts the tale of an Ottoman ruler bored with bland food and his desperate chef’s efforts to spice things up. Produced by the New Orleans Opera Association, in conjunction with its own 75th anniversary, the rollicking revival is backed by a full orchestra.
Hot sauce fans should also schedule a tour of the Tabasco factory and its 170-acre Jungle Gardens and bird sanctuary. The two-hour Avery Island excursion makes a great day trip; to make it easy on visitors, Tabasco offers round-trip bus tours that include lunch at its 1868 restaurant.
100: Arnaud’s Restaurant
For a real taste of history, head to Arnaud’s, which pops the cork on a century of Creole fine dining this year. The legendary eatery, which has fed and feted numerous celebrities and U.S. presidents, touts a menu that has remained largely unchanged over the past 100 years, with such signature dishes as oysters Bienville and shrimp in remoulade sauce. But throughout 2018 the restaurant will roll out new items, such as Gulf Fish Gremobloise, in celebration of its next 100 years. Between courses, sneak upstairs to check out the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum, which houses Carnival finery worn by the daughter of founder Arnaud Cazenave.
50: Where New Orleans
This year also sees Where New Orleans reach the half-century mark; 50 years of bringing the best of the Big Easy to our readers. To mark the occasion, we jumped in the wayback machine and plied through archival issues, which we’ll be highlighting each month during 2018. Like Arnaud’s, we’re also looking ahead, with an eye on the early 2019 opening of the new Louis Armstrong International Airport terminal, which will feature its own WhereTraveler store. To infinity and beyond!
Breakout local artist Brandan Odums makes a big statement in a big way with "Ephemera Eternal," his ongoing solo exhibit at StudioBE. Housed in a massive Bywater warehouse, the sprawling space serves as the perfect setting for Odums’ giant, graffiti-style murals.
The evocative collection explores African-American life, from the Civil Rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement, through powerful portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and other pivotal players coupled with images of everyday individuals.
Odums is a graduate of the nearby New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and his StudioBE is just steps from the school's 5 Press Gallery, which spotlights works by other up-and-coming students. Stop by after viewing Odums' exhibit then grab a bite at the adjacent Press Street Station.
Slideshow: Brandan Odums' "Ephemera Eternal"
(All Images @Shawn Fink)
The Crescent City pulls out all the stops come Christmastime. From the blazing bonfire along the Algiers riverfront at the beginning of December (designed to help guide the way for Papa Noël and his gator-pulled pirogue) to the dueling fireworks display over the Mississippi on New Year’s Eve, you’ll find bright spots and festive fun all over town all month long.
Where to begin? We wrapped a few of our favorite things just for you.
Celebration in the Oaks
This massive holiday lights spectacular transforms City Park into a winter wonderland with wow-worthy displays like the Dripping Snow Tree with its 42,000 LED lights. Traditionalists find what they’re after in the towering Poinsettia Tree, created from 500 live plants.
The Windsor Court, Harrah’s, the Roosevelt: Step into just about any hotel lobby, and you’re greeted by the scent of the season and giant gingerbread houses (you can literally walk right through the Ritz-Carlton’s). Hungry for more? Get thee to NOLA Christmas Fest.
Not a gingerbread fan? What about king cake? Locals will tell you king cake season doesn’t start until Jan. 6 (Twelfth Night), but Haydel’s skirts the rules with its similar-looking holiday season must-have. Each year the beloved bakery turns out more than 20,000 of the buttery pastry rounds loaded with praline filling and topped with caramel icing and pecans.
The Roosevelt’s block-long lobby decorations have been enchanting guests since the 1930s. What was once a riot of angel hair and flocked trees (under the Fairmont’s then-ownership) is now an elegant alley lined with lacquered birch branches accented with hand-blown ornaments, Fraser firs and thousands of white lights.
From the French Quarter to the Garden District, the riverfront to the lakefront, Uptown to down, the local passion for pageantry is on full display during the holidays. Nobody does it better than homeowners along stately St. Charles Avenue, whose jaw-dropping, decked-out digs slow traffic to a crawl. Instead, grab a seat on the streetcar, and take in the show for just $1.25.
Crab-shell St. Nicks. Check. Red pepper string lights. Check. Glittered crawfish, oyster shells and hot sauce bottles. Check, check and check. Christmas New Orleans style is on display year-round at this well-stocked holiday shop. Scope out the Mardi Gras section...’tis almost the season.