The Summer's Coolest Dishes in New Orleans

Johnny Sanchez New Orleans
(©Beau Ciolino) A sampling of ceviches and margaritas at Johnny Sánchez.

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.

Fruity Cool

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.

Coquette New Orleans

Seafood Cool

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.

Salad Cool

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.

Maypop New Orleans

Soup Cool

The gazpacho at the Standard changes on the chef’s whim, but you can bank on cool combos like watermelon, cucumber and tomatoCafé Degas is known for its heavenly potato and leek vichyssoise. Add some crusty French bread and good butter…magnifique.

Sweet Cool

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.

GW Fins New Orleans

Crescent City chefs play it cool during summer months.

New Orleans Dive Bars You've Got to Experience

BJ's Bar in New Orleans (©Shawn Fink)
(©Shawn Fink) Anchoring the corner of Burgundy and Lessups, BJ's is just two blocks from Vaughan's, another legendary dive.

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.


French Quarter

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.

Chart Room New Orleans

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.


Uptown

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.

Snake & Jakes Christmas Club Lounge

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.

The Saint Bar New Orleans


Marigny/Bywater

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.

Saturn Bar New Orleans

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.

BJ's Bar New Orleans

Where to Find New Orleans' Dive Bars

Forget glitz and polish. Many of the city's best-loved bars are downright dives.

New Orleans Brewery Tours For Every Type of Traveler

Urban South Brewery (©Shawn Fink)
(©Shawn Fink) Grin and beer it: Crafty tour companies are cashing in on the fast-expanding Crescent City craft brew movement.

New Orleans has a lot more breweries now than it did a year ago. To help visitors (and locals) get to several safely at one time, three beer-focused bus tours have popped up in recent months. They’re all high quality and priced about the same, but each company has its own specialty. Check their websites and reviews to find the best fit for you.


Best for Beer Nerds Who Like Shiny Equipment

When Urban South Brewery opened in March 2016, Premium Tours and Transportation founders Patrick Healey and Peter Van Dusen decided the time was right for a proper brewery bus tour in the Uptown area.

Their New Orleans Brewery Tour takes place every day at 4 pm, and always hits Courtyard Brewing, Urban South and NOLA Brewing. The tour includes two beers at each stop and an up-close look at the breweries’ inner workings—the only one of the three companies to do so.

Healey says friendships are often facilitated between tour attendees.

“We once had two recently married couples on the tour,” he recalls. “They loved craft beer, were staying at the same hotel, got married on the same day and didn't know each other until they got on the bus. Three hours later they had dinner plans together for the next two nights.”

Urban South Bewery New Orleans (©Shawn Fink)


Best for Any Kind of Party

Matt Marsiglia’s NOLA Brew Bus is a customized party mobile, on which he conducts three weekly brewery tours.

On Friday afternoons the Brew Bus crosses Lake Pontchartrain to tour the Abita Brewing Company; on Saturdays and Sundays, it hits three of the eight in-town breweries, switching routes every month. Participants get a tour at one of the three stops, two beers at each and some history about the city and its rich brewing history in between.

NOLA Brew Bus also offers a Saturday afternoon “To-Go Cup” walking beer tour, which focuses on one of the city’s newest breweries—Brieux Carré, just off of Frenchmen Street—along with a couple of French Quarter bars where guests can sample local brews. Private tours are also available for groups and parties.

“We promote not just craft beer in New Orleans, but our city in general,” Marsiglia says. “As a licensed tour guide company in the Big Easy, we really pride ourselves being the liaison between tourists, breweries, new locals finding their groove and small businesses.”

NOLA Brew Bus (©Shawn FInk)


Best for the Beer Explorer

New Orleans Brews Cruise is Amber and Brad Gunn’s tribute to Louisiana beer and the people who love it. New Orleans tours are offered three times a week— Fridays and Saturdays at 6 pm and Sundays at 2 pm—and include a rotating three out of 10 local breweries with samples at each stop and a tour of one.

The Brews Cruise also makes monthly brewery tours to the Northshore (to visit Abita, Old Rail and either Covington or Chafunkta), Baton Rouge (with stops at Gnarly Barley, Southern Craft and Tin Roof) and in Lafayette (home base for Bayou Teche, Cajun Brewing and Parish Brewing Co.).

“The majority of our customers seem to be craft beer fans who are interested in learning more about what New Orleans has to offer,” says Amber. “They are also looking for someone who is knowledgeable and can bring them to places the locals would go to.”

New Orleans Brews Cruise

 

How best to navigate the city's burgeoning beer scene? Let someone else do the driving.

Day of the Dads: A Father's Day Guide to New Orleans

Louisiana swamp bayou
(©Shutterstock) New Orleans' waterside location means quick access to fishing tours, kayaking and bayou excursions.

With school out and families on the go, summer travel is usually devoted to kid-friendly fun. But in celebration of Father's Day we’ve mapped out more-manly adventures for the big kid at heart. Yes, guys, there’s more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street.


Wet and Wild

You’ll see lots of wet T-shirts—and tons of redfish, sheepshead, black drum and jacks—just an hour outside the city on a guided fishing excursion. Marsh & Bayou Outfitters and Jean Lafitte offer chartered trips with seasoned captains. Fishermen can also reel ’em in at City Park, where Wheel Fun Rentals provides fishing boat, kayak and pedal boat rentals, making it easy to explore more than 11 miles of lagoons.

Kayaking in New Orleans

Kayak-iti-yat conducts daily kayak excursions, from easygoing cruises along historic Bayou St. John to strenuous, three-hour tours of Bayou Bienvenue, where adventurous nature lovers will spot alligators and a wide variety of birds. This one isn’t for the faint of heart; there are no bathrooms, no breaks and paddling experience is required. Canoe & Trail Advenutres' eco-conscious tours navigate small groups through swamp, bayou and marshlands then dip into Lake Pontchartrain.

Choot 'em! Premium Tours and Transportation brings “Swamp People” fantasies to life with its Gators and Guns outing. Practice your aim at the area’s leading shooting range before heading out on a high-speed airboat ride through the Jean Lafitte Swamp. Hunting for gators? Don’t worry, they’ll find you.

NOLA Motorsports Park

Bump up the pace even more at NOLA Motorsports Park, the stop for full-throttle fun (without losing your license in the process). The sprawling racetrack, just 25 minutes southwest of the city, offers “Arrive & Drive” karting, which allows guests to hit 50 miles per hour on the winding, seven-acre track. Satisfy the ultimate need for speed behind the wheel of a 500-horsepower, full-bore racecar with the “Xtreme Experience.” Aspiring Andrettis receive coaching from a professional driver and a crash course on car control before being let loose on a 1.8-mile track.


Shops for Pops

The custom-designed ties at the Wild Life Reserve are a perfect fit for dapper dads, while Italy Direct caters to sharp-dressed men with wooden bow ties and Queork provides clothing and accessories fashioned from cork. Top things off at the century-old Meyer the Hatter or Goorin Bros., the city’s go-tos for bespoke head wear. From handmade straw fedoras to classic truckers, there’s a style suitable to every taste and man. 

Goorin Bros. hat shop New Orleans

Ranked the No. 1 barbershop in America by Playboy, Aidan Gill for Men has been keeping locals fit and trimmed for the past 25 years. In addition to its signature hot-towel shaves, the shop also features top-of-the-line grooming products and accessories, ranging from pocket knives to pocket squares.

The Art of Shaving likewise elevates male grooming from necessity to indulgence. The two-tiered space offers retail below and a Barber Spa above. Let one of the master barbers take you through the “Royal Shave” before heading next door to Rubenstein’s, which has been outfitting New Orleanians in designer wear and summery seersucker suits for nine decades.


Booze and Brews

Explore the ins and outs of mash-making, column-still distillation and barrel-aging at Celebration Distillation, home to Old New Orleans Rum. Tours start with a cocktail and end with a tasting of each of the distillery’s award-winning spirits. Facility tours and tastings are also offered at Atelier Vie, Cajun Spirits, NOLA Distilling and Lula Restaurant Distillery.

Celebration Distillation in New Orleans

Beer-loving dads will find what they are after at NOLA Brewing, Crescent City Brewhouse, Urban South and Courtyard Brewing, all of which offer popular taprooms and tours. For a taste of what's new on the local craft-beer scene, check out Port Orleans Brewing, Brieux Carré and Parleaux Beer Lab. Or hop on the NOLA Brew Bus, New Orleans Brews Cruise or Premium Tours and Transportation's New Orleans Brewery Tour.


Beef It Up

10 top spots for steaks and burgers

Burgers: Balise, Camellia GrillCompany BurgerCowbell and Port of Call.

Company Burger restaurant in New Orleans

Steaks: Chophouse New OrleansDickie Brennan’s SteakhouseDoris MetropolitanMorton’s and Ruth’s Chris.

Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse

 

 

Man-minded adventures in the Crescent City, from muscle cars to swamp tours.

The Hot and Cool Guide to Summer in New Orleans

Voodoo ritual in New Orleans
(©Shawn Fink) The annual St. John's Eve voodoo ceremony is just one of summer's cool to-dos.

How can you beat the heat in “the northernmost Caribbean city”? With our summertime roundup of hot properties and seriously cool venues.

Music Box Village New Orleans

Cool Scenes

Effervescence: The bubbly crowd at this chic Champagne bar gets even more spirited as the evening progresses.

Music Box Village: Make your own kind of music at this whimsical wonderland, where ramshackle huts double as instruments.

St. John’s Eve: It’s not every day you get to witness a real-deal voodoo ritual. Mark the calendar for June 23, when this annual head-washing ceremony takes place along Bayou St. John. 

Bayou Oaks-South Golf Course New Orleans

Hot Games

Bayou Oaks-South Course: City Park's new 205-acre golf course features 46 bunkers, 300 oak trees and water hazards at nearly every hole.

Dave & Buster’s: The Texas-based entertainment emporium has finally landed in Louisiana, bringing with it 40,000 square feet of fun.

New Orleans Boulder Lounge: Soon to open a second location, this colorful indoor climbing facility is taking Crescent City fitness to new heights.

Windsor Court Hotel New Orleans

Cool Quaffs

Brews Cruise New Orleans: How best to navigate the city’s burgeoning beer scene? By letting someone else do the driving. This group provides tours of local breweries with multiple samples at each stop.

Pisco Bar: Pisco is the pour of choice at this Catahoula Hotel hot spot. A taste for tiki? Head to the rooftop.

Windsor Court Hotel: Channel your inner Audrey Hepburn while lounging around the lobby bar, sipping “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-inspired cocktails.

Seaworthy New Orleans

Hot Plates 

Killer Po’Boys: The name says it all. The humble po’boy gets gussied up with rum-glazed pork belly, smoked salmon and chicken confit.

Seaworthy: Oysters—from the Gulf, East and West coasts—are the big love at this offshoot of Manhattan’s floating Grand Banks bivalve bar. But burger fans will fall just as hard for the brisket/chuck version with roasted ham and fontal cheese.

Turkey and the Wolf: A sandwich shop nominated for a James Beard Award? Yep, it’s that good and deserving. Try the fried bologna topped with chips.

Audubon Zoo New Orleans

Cool for Kids

Cool Zoo: At this animal-themed splash park live elephants look on as kids tube around Gator Run, a 750-foot lazy river ride.

The French Library: School may be out, but there’s always time to learn something new… like another language.

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz: Shaved ice soaked in flavored syrup; it doesn’t get much simpler or more summery.

Frank Relle Photography New Orleans

Hot Art

Frank Relle Photography: Night owl Frank Relle has gained a strong national following with his haunting images of nocturnal New Orleans.

Red Truck Gallery: Circus sideshow meets outsider art at this edgy, oddball gallery, where the works are at once weird and wonderful.

Sarah Ashley Longshore Studio: Oversize Champagne bottles, ottomans filled with shredded cash, bedazzled Abe Lincolns: The wacky works here are as colorful as their creator.

Art & Eyes New Orleans

Cool Shades

Art & Eyes: This shop’s eye-catching eyewear is sourced from artisans and independent brands around the globe.

Krewe: Local designer Stirling Barrett’s fab frames are a hit in Hollywood, spotted on everyone from Kendall Jenner to Gigi Hadid.

Vintage 329: Retro designer sunglasses—Chanel, Dior, Gautier, Ginet, Gucci, Versace—never go out of style.

Johnny Sanchez New Orleans

Hot Happy Hours

Broussard’s: No, you’re not hallucinating: the daily L’Heure Verte service features $5-$7 absinthes from 5 to 7 pm.

Palace Café: Duck into the upstairs Duck Bar, Monday to Friday, from 4 to 7 pm, for half-priced small plates—fried duck wings, duck confit poutine)—tap wine and draft beer.

Johnny Sánchez: Celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez helps get the party started with $2 tacos and half-off house margaritas, beer, wine and mixed drinks, weekdays from 3 to 6 pm.

What's new, now and not to be missed this season.

Rooftop Dining in New Orleans

Hot Tin Bar in New Orleans
(©Pontchartrain Hotel) A room with a killer view: the Pontchartrain Hotel's Hot Tin bar.

Forget staying grounded; what’s happening in food and drinks is up on the roof. The views are stunning and Instagramable, the dining and drinking is divine and, at this time of year, the weather is perfect for lovely days and sultry evenings under bright blue skies that fade to dark blue-black dappled with city lights.

Atop the beautifully restored Pontchartrain Hotel is Hot Tin, a rooftop bar with a name that alludes to playwright Tennessee Williams, who once resided at the property. The stunning 270-degree view of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi River makes a great backdrop for cocktailing. The interior design has notable (and naughty) flourishes to discover while sipping a couple of fingers of bourbon, a bit of bubbly or a frivolous and fantastic “Pineapple Upside-Down Daiq.”

Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans

The Troubadour Hotel’s 17th floor is home to Monkey Board, a rooftop hangout with modern, street-graphics style. The full renovation of the historic Rault Building is dramatic, as are the views. There’s a full bar and food truck-style eats. Order a gin-and-lime “Alpine Slush” to slurp, and carb-load with a “Big Ass Pretzel” (beer cheese fondue for dunking) and the crunchy fried chicken sandwich with tart house pickles and mayo. At brunch, add a slow-cooked egg to the “Mojo Pork,” black beans and rice, then seal the deal with a fat slice of rainbow sprinkles-covered confetti cake.

Troubadour Hotel New Orleans

A dipping pool, rooftop garden, 10-seat full bar and deck, all with a pretty view best describes Alto at the Ace Hotel. Recently appointed chef Nathan Adams cycles dishes on his menu, depending on the season. As summer approaches the food offerings trend lighter, and include grilled shrimp with a green garlic vinaigrette, avocado, cucumber and radish. Obvious poolside bites, such as burgers, hot dogs and wings, sit alongside Gulf fish tacos and a bright, herbaceous “Lemongrass Pie” with graham cracker crust and spiced whipped cream.

Alto at the New Orleans Ace Hotel

The Catahoula Hotel has a super-cool rooftop terrace, where chilling out to live music, catching a movie (yes, they screen films up there!), sipping smart cocktails or wines and eating contemporary Peruvian-inspired snacks is the thing. Causas (chilled whipped potatoes stacked with shiitake mushrooms) and salchipapas (fries with wild boar sausage) are listed, along with chilled salads, hefty sandwiches and raw seafood. Also on site are a Peruvian café, a coffee shop serving New Zealand’s Acme coffee and a hip cocktail space called the Pisco Bar, where the pisco sours are frothy, tart and divine.

Catahoula Hotel New Orleans

Head upstairs for dinner and a show.

Saying 'I Do,' New Orleans-Style

New Orleans wedding (©Beebe Tran/NOCVB)
(©Beebe Tran/NOCVB) Classic or unconventional, New Orleans has a venue to fulfill your wedding day fantasy.

Why would anyone not have their wedding in New Orleans?

It’s a question many couples ponder when planning their big day, and one that, in recent years, has helped position the Crescent City—with its timeless architecture, one-of-a-kind cuisine and cherished traditions—among the nation’s top wedding destinations.

While each wedding is different and unique, there is one constant: The special je ne sais quoi the city can bring to the joyous day.

Jackson Square New Orleans

The first location most couples consider is the French Quarter and its most iconic attraction, St. Louis Cathedral. Since 1727, the cathedral, with its picturesque spires and iconic altar, has served as the setting for countless nuptials, and continues to today. According to the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the local landmark plays host to an average of 100 ceremonies annually.

It’s not uncommon while walking through Jackson Square (which the cathedral faces) to suddenly find yourself a member of the wedding, tossing birdseed at a twosome you’ve never before laid eyes on. Or getting drawn into a brass band-led second-line procession en route to a reception at one of the many restaurants where dozens of multi-tiered cakes are sliced into each month.

Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans (©Audubon Nature Institute)

But not all New Orleans nuptials need be so formal. Not Catholic? The cathedral can still serve as the backdrop to a ceremony along adjacent Pirate’s Alley, the cobblestone passage that runs aside of the church. Others have been known to celebrate the depths of their love at the nearby Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, or to say their “I dos” along the Mississippi riverfront at Woldenberg Park or Crescent Park.

The great outdoors can make a great New Orleans wedding venue, especially from March to April and October to November, when temperatures are mild and days are sunny. The city’s legendary heat and humidity usually starts in May and continues through September, and December and February can be surprisingly cold. But what glorious places you can celebrate in during those four picture-perfect months!

New Orleans City Park

The centuries-old oaks in City Park and Audubon Park not only make an ideal backdrop for wedding photos, but for the wedding itself. City Park is home to the Peristyle, a neo-classical open-air pavilion overlooking Bayou Metairie, that can work either for a ceremony or a reception—or both. 

For those on a budget or seeking something out of the norm, New Orleans offers all manner of romantic and imaginative alternatives, from jazz clubs to racetracks. One young couple recently wed at a historic courthouse on the Westbank then took the ferry across the river to meet friends and made a second-line parade to a small restaurant in the French Quarter.

Race + Religious New Orleans

The city also has no shortage of historic homes and spaces oozing 19th-century atmosphere in which to construct the wedding of your dreams. From the French Quarter and Garden District to the Lower Garden District and Marigny (where singer Solange Knowles and music video director Alan Ferguson famously bicycled to their wedding in a former church that’s been converted into an opera house), the options are near limitless.

It’s your day to make your own. Why not make it in New Orleans?

New Orleans wedding (©Shawn Fink)

A toast to Crescent City weddings.

Spirited Dining in New Orleans

Effervescence New Orleans
(©Shawn Fink) Champagne sabayon tops a frozen grapefruit half at Effervescence.

There is nothing new about restaurants with big bar/cocktail/beer programs or bars with serious food. But New Orleans’ newest restaurant iteration is found tucked into distilleries and breweries, places where booze is the front man—sometimes the raison d’etre—though the food is no slacker. Sound intriguing? It is.

The new Lula Restaurant Distillery produces vodka, rum and gin made from 100 percent Louisiana sugarcane products, and offer retail bottles for purchase on-site. To dine, Lula co-owner and chef Jess Bourgeois created a menu that could easily be dubbed “Contemporary Louisiana.” Kick off with salty-sweet boudin eggrolls and a sticky fig-molasses dipping sauce, then try the tender braised rabbit with pickled pork-flecked white beans and green onion popcorn rice or Gulf shrimp lacquered and spiked with Lula Rum, tempered by an earthy soybean succotash.

Lula Restaurant Distillery (©Lula Restaurant Distillery)

Effervescence Bubbles & Bites, which opened mid-March, features Champagnes and sparkling wines—by the bottle, glass and on tap—from France, Italy and Spain. The menu of modern American small plates includes fried chicken, grilled octopus and caviar with crème fraîche and fresh-fried potato chips. Dessert is a hollowed-out grapefruit half filled with frozen grapefruit spheres, a drape of Champagne sabayon and a wisp of edible gold leaf.

Effervescence (©Effervescence)

The recent swell in local breweries is just short of shocking—currently hovering at around 17—with a growing number now adding dedicated restaurant spaces. The taproom at NOLA Brewing features pit man Neil McClure's big barbecue menu of smoky, tender barbecue and a few surprises—pho, banh mi, poutine and tacos made with smoked meats—that are a great match for the house-made beers. Joining in the trend, the recently opened Port Orleans Brewing Company houses Stokehold, chefs Jeremy Wolgamott, Phillip Mariano and Tim Bordes’ new venture serving elevated dishes with a modern American, Southern and Italian vibe, built around the beer brewed on site.

McClure's Barbecue  plate and tasting flight

At these restaurants food and booze get equal billing.

New Orleans' Collectible Music Festival Poster Art

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival posters (©art4now.com/Shawn Fink)
(©art4now.com/Shawn Fink) Four to score: R. Gregory Christie's 2013 Buckwheat Zydeco poster, Terrance Osborne's 2014 take on the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Randy Frechette's 2015 salute to Big Chief Bo Dollis and Raul Rogers' 2016 homage to the Marsalis family.

Music festival season is here, and with it comes vibrant collectible art. Anticipation is high each year for posters from the French Quarter Fest and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The posters exist because of the festivals, but how key is music itself to their creators? We asked four notables to weigh in.


Tony Green

This year’s French Quarter Festival poster artist, who splits his time between New Orleans and Venice, Italy, may be the first artist to also perform at the fest; catch Green and his Gypsy Jazz band on the Rouses Stage (700 Royal St.) April 9 at noon.

“I’ve always considered myself to be a painter who plays music as opposed to a musician who paints,” said Green. “I feel that I have a deeper understanding of the musician’s hands, facial expressions and general aura of divine creativity that’s being shared with the audience. I try to inject a sense of rhythm into my compositions, while creating visual crescendos through the use of color dynamics.” 

Tony Green's 2017 French Quarter Festival (©FQFI)


Francis X. Pavy

Born on Mardi Gras Day in Lafayette, Louisiana, it’s little surprise Pavy’s vibrant paintings, including this year’s Jazzfest poster of The Meters, are infused with regional motifs.

“I’ve always had music as a muse,” said Pavy. “I think in pictures; generally there’s a narrative. That’s a foundation of my basic technique. It boils through; it shows. The Meters used to come to Lafayette and play back when I was in college. I was blown away. I pictured them as I remembered them from the early 1970s.”

Francis X. Pavy's 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster (art4now.com)


Isabelle Jacopin

Sometimes it takes an outside eye to notice what’s hidden in the open. French native and 2016 French Quarter Festival artist Jacopin sees the street parade from a unique vantage point. 

“Music absolutely inspires me,” said Jacopin, “every aspect of New Orleans, too. For me, the brass band—the second line—is a big subject. In a brass band, the tuba is the heart, the life. You see things in the reflection of the tuba. You see the sky, the people. Sometimes I’m in the reflection. The instruments are very personal, so unique. Some shiny; some rusty.”

2016 French Quarter Festival poster (©FQFI)


James Michalopoulos

The signature swaying buildings in Michalopoulos’ paintings are immediately identifiable. He’s also created six Jazzfest posters over the years, from Dr. John to Aaron Neville.

“Music permeates the culture in New Orleans,” said Michalopoulos. “Whatever I’m doing, the beat isn’t far away. When I make a poster that’s concerned with an artist, I listen only to their music. I want it to marinate and influence the work. Part of the reason I’m in New Orleans is rhythm and movement. There is an effect by being surrounded with so much live music. The groove is what makes the buildings move.” 

Michalopoulos New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival posters

Four artists sound off on how music influences their work.

A New Orleans Jazzfest Food Favorite: The Pork Chop Sandwich

French Quarter Festival Pork Chop
(©Shawn Fink) Miss Linda Green's pork chop sandwich, a handful of deep-fried heaven.

For many, Miss Linda Green’s bone-in pork chop sandwich is a Jazzfest food must-have. Served from her booth alongside her immensely popular “ya-ka-mein” (beef broth soup with spaghetti, beef, spices and half of a hard-boiled egg), the simple sandwich is nothing more than a lightly seasoned flour-dunked chop, quickly deep fried and placed between two slices of soft, unassuming, totally delectable white bread swiped lightly with mayonnaise. A perfect snack to fortify dancing/festing feet.

Miss Linda Green's yakamein in New Orleans

Though it may not sound like much, there is some history to the pork chop sandwich, which is growing in popularity and even featured in up-market renditions.

The pork chop sandwich came to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival via fest food director Michelle Nugent, who first encountered the sandwich at a zydeco festival in southwest Louisiana. She brought the idea for the sandwich to a former vendor, and when they stopped participating in Jazzfest, Nugent suggested Miss Linda add it to her menu. She did, giving it her spin on seasoning and that slick of mayo on the bread. Longtime New Orleans residents claim that thin, quick-fried chops were a common after-school snack because they were inexpensive and filling. Putting a chop on a slice of white bread made it easier to grab and go.

While this simple sandwich is getting some culinary world attention, it is not new, nor is it unique to the Southern food canon. Several cities in the U.S. lay claim to inventing it. In Mount Airy, North Carolina, it’s all about Snappy Lunch; in Chicago, there’s Maxwell Street Depot’s; and in Butte, Montana, Pork Chop John’s version is said to have inspired a sandwich at New York’s late fine-dining restaurant Chanterelle. All these sandwiches differ from New Orleans’ though in one significant way: the bread. Virtually every other pork chop sandwich outside the South puts the chop and fixings on a hamburger bun.

Toups South New Orleans

Bone-in or boneless, the pork chop sandwich is a food of convenience for its portability, and some surmise the bread keeps hands virtually grease-free. Miss Linda’s sandwich is bone-in because “the bone has the flavor, baby!” The chops are deep fried, though for the annual Oak Street Po’ Boy Fest, she serves her slim, crisp chop on French bread.

But pork chop sandwiches aren’t just a festival food staple; you’ll spot them on the menu at Creole soul restaurants and corner stores citywide. Not far from the Fair Grounds, Dooky Chase serves its double-cut chop with bread on the side; ditto for Lil Dizzy’s pork chop special with garlic butter. And at Toups South, chef Isaac Toups, pays homage to Miss Linda with his “Fried Bone-In Pork Chop Stack” with pickled summer squash, coffee aioli and ... white bread.

Chef Isaac Toups (©Toups' South)

It doesn't get much more simple—or simply delicious—than fried chops and white bread.

A Jazzed-Up Day in New Orleans: An Itinerary

Louis Armstrong Park
(©Shawn Fink) Cornetist Buddy Bolden, one of many jazz pioneers honored in Armstrong Park.

From Jelly Roll Morton to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, New Orleans has a long and rich musical heritage. The rhythm of long-ago drumbeats rises up from Congo Square and echoes of the Al Hirt’s trumpet linger along Bourbon Street, while modern-day musicians seek to make their own marks on the local music scene.

Want to spend a music-inspired day in the Crescent City? Here’s a suggested itinerary from Where New Orleans Editor Doug Brantley:

9 am

A little music with your coffee? The Court of Two Sisters serves up omelets, etouffée and live jazz daily. Grab a table in the courtyard, shaded by a century-old wisteria vine. Or dust off a few beignets with Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino and more local greats at Musical Legends Park. Music is also on the morning menu weekends at Commander’s Palace, where the concept of jazz brunch originated.

Commander's Palace

10:30 am

You’ll hear legends in the making most any morning around Jackson Square, where brass bands start tuning up well before noon.

Noon

Grab a red beans-and-rice-topped “Satchmo Dog” from Dreamy Weenies and picnic in Armstrong Park, just across the street. Take a few selfies with Louis, Buddy Bolden and statues of other jazz giants. Armstrong also offers the free weekly Jazz in the Park concert series, Thursdays from 4 to 8 pm.

1 pm

Head to Frenchmen Street and rummage the racks at the Louisiana Music Factory, home to the world’s largest selection of New Orleans recordings. Though it may seem quiet during the day, at night Frenchmen makes big noise after sunset with a number of great live music clubs.

Louisiana Music Factory

2 pm

Need a little music right this very minute? Settle in at the Spotted Cat, where performances begin at 2 pm on weekends (4 pm on weekdays) and keep going well into the night.

6 pm

Take a spin at the Carousel Bar, which gets swinging at 5 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, or swing back to the 1940s at the Stage Door Canteen with “The Andrews Brothers” accompanied by throwback fare from the adjacent American Sector restaurant.

Stage Door Canteen

8 pm

Music history comes alive at the historic Little Gem Saloon, a beautifully restored jazz landmark where you can drink, dine and dance the night away all under one roof. The Jazz Playhouse keeps the beat on Bourbon Street, while the Preservation Hall provides the perfect end to a music-filled day, as it has since the early 1960s.

 

A music-minded guide to the Crescent City

Music Box Village: New Orleans' One-of-a-Kind Performance Space

Music Box Village New Orleans (©Josh Brasted)
(©Josh Brasted) It takes a village: More than 80 artists helped construct the 10,000-square-foot Music Box Village.

Equal parts sculpture garden, musical venue and avant-garde architecture experiment, the Music Box Village is a miniature town made of one-of-a-kind structures that can be played like instruments.

You’ll find the Music Box Village on the edge of the Bywater neighborhood, where N. Rampart Street dead-ends at the Industrial Canal. From outside, it doesn’t look like much: crumbling concrete barriers, a stretch of gravel that’s more a collection of potholes than a parking lot, a warehouse behind a kudzu-covered chain-link fence. But behind the wall of corrugated metal and repurposed ironwork, you’ll discover one of New Orleans’ most unique hidden treasures.

A raised one-room hut fashioned from reclaimed wood, sheet metal and pots and pans is like a treehouse drum set. A canopy covered in scraps of lace and old keys is a rope swing/bell hybrid. In an airy two-story pagoda with window panes for walls, you can play the creaky floorboards as you would piano keys, and the sliding doors’ tracks are rigged and amplified to function like an electric guitar string. Chimes hang from the metal roof of the Bower’s Nest building, and the Shake House’s walls are salvaged shutters that clash like symbols.

Music Box Village New Orleans (©Josh Brasted)

During public hours the village is a sonic playground, with kids and adults making friends and music together as they explore the grounds and houses. And that’s just what the Music Box Village’s creators had in mind. “It’s a platform for collaboration between artists from New Orleans and the outside world,” said Jay Pennington, a Bounce DJ and producer better known by his stage name, Rusty Lazer.

It makes sense that collaboration would be central to the Village, the newest evolution of a post-Katrina project by New Orleans Airlift (a nonprofit artist-driven initiative cofounded by Pennington and multimedia installation artist Delaney Martin). The original idea was to turn a blighted Creole cottage into a functioning music box. When the 250-year-old structure unexpectedly collapsed, the materials were salvaged and remade into smaller structures.

When “Music Box: A Shantytown Sound Library” proved so popular that it outgrew its home, Martin and Pennington took the aural architecture on the road, building connections with artists from Atlanta to Kiev, and hosting a diverse array of artists—including an Estonian performance troupe and Siberia’s top break dancer—in New Orleans. There have been collaborations with more mainstream artists too: Solange Knowles, Wilco, Cash Money Records' Mannie Fresh and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are just a handful of musicians who performed during a six-week Music Box installation in New Orleans City Park in 2015.

Collaboration is also key to the Music Box Village’s musical houses, each of which are made by at least two members of a diverse network of local, national and international artists, tinkerers and innovators. Every musical house is the product of partnership.

Sculptural artists Andrew Schronk of New Orleans and Klaas Hubner from Berlin had never met before Airlift asked them to build a Village house together. Their Chateau Poulet, or “chicken house,” looks like a post-apocalyptic re-imagining of Rapunzel’s tower. Partially concealed by slats of reclaimed wood is a network of fan blades and PVC tubing. Pull the hanging ropes to control the speed of the fans, and you make sounds that are weird and wondrous, harmonious and haunting.

The structures are designed so that even the most amateur visitors can make music with them, but it’s hard to appreciate just how genius they are until you see skilled musicians play them. Luckily, that’s not hard to do. Less than six months since its grand opening, the Village has already hosted an array of performers, including Norah Jones, indie favorites Gogol Bordello and OneBeat, the U.S. Department of State’s international orchestra program.

Music Box Village New Orleans (©Melissa Styker)

The Village is also a great place to see local musicians like “Queen of Bounce” Big Freedia, the Grammy-nominated Cajun band the Lost Bayou Ramblers, Tank and the Bangas (winners of NPR’s 2017 Tiny Desk Concert), swamp-pop legend Quintron—even the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. With such varied programming, the Village’s schedule changes often, so be sure to check its website for information on hours and performances.

No matter what’s going on there, one thing is for certain: Your visit to the Music Box Village will be a—if not the—highlight of your trip to New Orleans.

If these walls could talk, they'd sing.

New Players on the New Orleans Music Festival Scene

Brass Band at Jazzfest
(©Shawn Fink) Neighborhood brass bands create their own music fests as Jazzfest-goers exit the Fair Grounds.

The New Orleans Jazz  & Heritage Festival, which takes place each spring, is one of the most popular music festivals in the nation. For almost 50 years, hundreds of thousands—both locals and tourists—have flocked to the Fair Grounds to dance, eat and let the good times roll. There’s also French Quarter Fest, April 6-9, now in its 34th year. With more than 1,700 musicians and 760,000 attendees packing into the Vieux Carré, it rightfully bills itself as “the largest free festival in the United States.”

French Quarter Festival in New Orleans

These well-established annual fetes aren’t the only ones you’ll find in New Orleans this spring. Hometown hero Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his Orleans Avenue band bring their wildly popular Tremé Threauxdown back to the Saenger Theatre April 29, joined by Andra Day, Dumpstafunk and more special guests. But at three years old, the Tremé Threauxdown isn’t the newest annual show in town.

Trombone Shorty (©Shawn Fink)

Designed to celebrate the lasting legacies of legendary musicians, the inaugural Washington Square Park Music Festival kicks off March 21 with a tribute to Ray Charles featuring pianist Davell Crawford, from 3 to 7 pm, then continues April 4 with a salute to Al Jarreau featuring jazz vocalist Chris Walker. Both are backed by the NOLA Big Band, and joined by the Treme Brass Band, the Hot 8 Brass Band and others. 

Now in its second year, the New Orleans Ragtime Festival is the brainchild of Patrick Mackey, a banjoist for the Panorama Jazz Band, and Tonya Excho, a local event coordinator who’s got her finger on the pulse of NOLA’s underground art and music scenes. Free to the public, this year's fest, which salutes the centennial of Scott "King of Ragtime" Joplin's death, takes place March 30-April 3 at various venues around the city.

Ragtime isn’t generally associated with New Orleans, but many local musicians are very familiar with the genre. As Mackey explains, “it’s musicians’ music, but there’s no market for it.” That’s why he created the festival—to give musicians a chance to reintroduce the public to a body of music that informs jazz, blues and other well-loved American and Southern staples, but that they probably aren’t well acquainted with. But just because the festival is devoted to ragtime, a genre whose era of peak popularity was a century ago, doesn’t mean its “a historic presentation,” Mackey says. “This is live and living music; it’s happening in this city, and it’s happening right now.”

New Orleans Ragtime Festival founders Tonya Excho and Patrick Mackey (©Shawn Fink)

Not in town until May? Not to worry; the second annual NOLA Crawfish Festival takes place May 1-3 at Central City BBQ. Considering its name, it’s no surprise that the Crawfish Fest is built around food. Chris “Shaggy” Davis, who has decades of experience hosting crawfish boils, decided to start the festival after years of missing Jazzfest to throw crawfish boil after-parties for others. Why not just have the after-party be the party? Each day Davis and his team from NOLA Crawfish King will serve up more than 5,000 pounds of spicy mudbugs, for which NOLA Brewing has crafted a special beer.

Of course, no matter how delectable the food, no New Orleans festival is complete without toe-tappin’ tunes. This year's lineup includes such local standouts as Grammy winner Jon Cleary, Ivan Neville, Eric Lindell, George Porter Jr. and Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet.

One of the best things about New Orleans—which mounts more than 130 festivals annually—is that live music, food and fun are around every corner. This is a city where, with just a little exploring, you’re sure to find a fest fit for you.

 

Make way French Quarter Fest and Jazzfest for these new kids on the block.

A Taste of New Orleans' Italian Influence

Napoleon House Muffuletta
(@Napoleon House) At the Napoleon House, muffuletta sandwiches are served warm.

I was recently asked about Italian food in New Orleans: “When did Italians come here? What’s the story with the muffuletta sandwich? Why is the red sauce here so sweet? And where can I find 'traditional' red sauce?” By traditional, I understand that to mean sauce that's not sweet in the style of Italians from the northeast U.S. Time for a piccolo (little) primer on New Orleans Italian cuisine and St. Joseph’s Day, an Italian/Creole tradition that takes place each March.

A great number of Sicilians settled here during the 1800s, and by 1850 were believed to be the largest immigrant population, outnumbering the French and Germans. Many worked on the docks, sold produce at the French Market or opened corner-store markets and cafés citywide. In the early 1900s came businesses like Taormina’s, a family-operated pasta factory/grocery/restaurant in the building that is now Muriel'sCentral Grocery, Marcello's, Terranova's Supermarket and many, many more.

Central Grocery (©Shawn Fink)

The layered meats, cheeses and olive-salad muffuletta, born in New Orleans, has multiple origin stories and styles (round-seeded Italian bread or French loaf). The most logical explanation for the genesis of the muffuletta suggests Italian workers on break from the docks cobbled together bits of this (meats and cheeses) and that (olive salad and bread) to form a meal, of sorts. As for style, the ongoing debate is whether to eat a muffuletta hot or cold. Decide for yourself at Central Grocery (cold), Napoleon House (warm), Stein's (cold) and Cochcon Butcher (warm).

New Orleans’ red sauce—commonly called “red gravy”—is indeed sweet. The presumption is that as Sicilian people merged into New Orleans culture and society, so too did their food, and that meant starting dished with the food "holy trinity"—bell peppers, onions and celery—which adds sweetness and flavor. There are a large number of restaurants where sweet sauce is signature. To taste, check out the spinach-stuffed cannelloni at Vincent's or Mandina's Italian sausage and spaghetti. And when a yen for a brighter, more tart red sauce, there’s Italian Barrel for family-recipe lasagna, the handmade pasta and meatballs at Red Gravy or the “Ricotta Gnocchi Bolognese” at Altamura.

Altamura (©Altamura)

St. Joseph’s Day, an Italian and Creole Catholic food-centric tradition honoring the patron saint of famine, is celebrated March 19 with private and public altars adorned with pastas, vegetable casseroles, cakes and baked goods offered in exchange for monetary donation. Retail and travel-friendly, 100-plus year-old Angelo Brocato's has fresh-baked and packaged St. Joseph’s cookies.

New Orleans Italian cuisine is a unique feast all its own. Mangiamangia. Nothing could be sweeter.

St. Joseph's Day Altar (©Shawn Fink)

A slice of Sicily South, from muffulettas to St. Joseph altars.