MARTIE ON THE ROAD: NEW ORLEANS
Because I travel all the time, I get as many questions about where to stay and where to eat as I do about anything else so I decided to write about them for you. Here are some of my favorite spots from my trips to New Orleans.
Ask folks to say the first thing that pops into their mind when you say New Orleans and their answer, 99.5% of the time is Mardi Gras. While I love the carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras and all of the parades and celebration of tradition it brings, there is a totally different New Orleans. Plan your next visit when it is not Mardi Gras... perhaps around Christmas. It is my favorite time of year to be there. The streets, hotels, and homes are so beautifully decorated and the cooler temperatures and humidity-free days make it easy to really get out and explore one of America's most interesting and exciting food cities. The architecture and buildings- even the ones in disrepair, are fascinating. Make sure to look up as you wander the streets and alleyways. You might miss something spectacular if you don't!
WHERE TO STAY
Because I'm always on the road, a good bed with nice linens is important to me. And in New Orleans, I don't want to drive because parking isn't easy so I stay in hotels where I am close (walking distance or quick cab ride) to my favorite spots.
The Hotel Monteleone: Is my favorite place to stay in New Orleans. A 4-star hotel right in the French Quarter, most rooms overlook the Mississippi or the Quarter. It has been owned by the same family for five generations. It feels like Paris- but the rooms are larger. The beds have luxury brocade linens which have a rich, old world feel. The hotel's famous Carousel Lounge-a revolving bar off the lobby- has become a bit touristy and crowded but still fun to sit and chat with people from all over the world over a Sazerac.
Hotel Monteleone: 214 Royal Street New Orleans, Louisiana 70130 • Phone: 504.523.3341
JW Marriott on Canal: I'm a Marriott rewards member so Marriott hotels are usually my home away from home. The rooms are extremely nice with big, fluffy beds dressed in crisp, white linens. Important to me, a large bathroom with a marble vanity where I can actually put something more than a toothbrush. There's a rooftop pool (small, but still a pool) where I occasionally will relax and read a book, and it is walking distance to everything.
JW Marriott New Orleans • 614 Canal Street New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.525.6500
WHERE TO EAT
There are an unlimited number of wonderful places to eat in New Orleans. Here are a few I never miss:
COFFEE I BREAKFAST
RUBY SLIPPER: Breakfast with a Milk Punch is one of my favorite treats and Ruby Slipper is one of my favorite places to have it. They use all locally produced or house-made ingredients and have been named one of New Orleans' best breakfast spots for the past few years. I like the corned beef hash and the Eggs Cochon. They have several locations. I always go to the one in the Quarter. RUBY SLIPPER • 1005 Canal Street New Orleans, LA 70112 • Phone: 504.525.9355
CAFE DU MONDE: Do I really need to tell you about Cafe du Monde? It is a New Orleans tradition. Beignets. Chickory coffee. Enough said. (Take some cash. I don't think they take cards.) Get an order of beignets. People watch. Tip the street performers. Don't wear a black shirt. Plan on doing a lot of walking because you most certainly will not eat just one! I like the location at the French Market best. CAFE DU MONDE 800 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116 Phone: 504.525.4544
CAFE BEIGNET: Alton Brown says these are the best beignets in New Orleans. So good, he featured them on an episode of Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. I believe him. CAFE BEIGNET • 334-B Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.524.5530
And Morning Call certainly gets a mention for their beignets. If you pass one, stop in. There was one in Metairie but it may have moved since I was there last. They don't have a website so I'm not sure.
CENTRAL GROCERY: My first stop in New Orleans is always Central Grocery. Their muffuletta sets the standard for all muffulettas the world over. It is the bread that really makes the difference. Be sure to get one to go. You'll have a craving about midnight. Make sure to get a bag of made-in-New Orleans Zapp's kettle chips to go with it. I like the regular and the Voodoo flavor best. Central Grocery • 923 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116 • Phone: 504.523.1620
LUKE: Chef John Besh is well known to television foodies and his restaurants are all very, very good. August has won a Beard award and is one of the city's best. Dominica is popular with locals and tourists but I prefer its French cousin, Luke. A French Bistro with a New Orleans soul, Luke is a daily stop for me whether it is breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, or just a carefully crafted cocktail at the bar. In fact, it is my New Orleans office. Weekday specials are always excellent. Shrimp and Grits, Crab Bisque, and the Croque Monsieur or any of the fish dishes are hard to beat. I would be remiss not to mention the Vanilla Gateau Basque Cake with fresh berries. Always on the menu and always something I must have when I'm in New Orleans. LUKE • 333 Charles Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.378.2840
Top left: Vanilla Gateau Basque Cake with Louisiana Berries. Top right: Luke Shrimp and Grits. Bottom left: Chef John Besh. Bottom right: Selfie with John in Miami.
PARKWAY BAKERY & TAVERN: You certainly cannot talk about food in New Orleans without a discussion about Po'Boys. The Po'Boys at the Parkway are a local favorite and have won all kinds of awards and critical acclaim. The shrimp Po'Boy is my favorite- piled high with freshest fried shrimp on the freshest bread you can find. They have oyster Po'Boys- Monday and Wednesday only. Stacked about a dozen high, these give the shrimp a run for their money. Hard to choose. PARKWAY BAKERY & TAVERN • 538 Hagan Avenue New Orleans, LA 70119 • Phone: 504.482.3047
PECHE: Donald Link's Peche caught the attention of critics, the Beard Foundation, and the press when it opened in the Spring of 2013. Before it turned one, the restaurant earned its first James Beard awards for Best New Restaurant and Best Chef South for Chef/Owner Ryan Prewitt. I hate it because it is now super crowded and hard to squeeze in but worth the effort if you do. I always nab a seat at the seafood counter in the back so I can watch the chefs at work in the kitchen. If you have a friend with you, order the whole fish. If not, do what I do and graze over the small plates like tuna dip, the Shrimp and Fontina Croquettes, or a the cup of the Shrimp and Corn Bisque. Fried Bread? Don't be silly, A must. PECHE • 800 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.522.1744
RESTAURANT R'EVOLUTION: I'm not sure I can be objective when it comes to Restaurant Revolution. I happen to think Chef John Folse hung the moon and his partner Chef Rick Tramonto might have hung the sun. This restaurant wasn't named New Orleans restaurant of the year in 2013 for nothing. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you'll find me there for Eggs Sardou with Hollandaise and artichokes for brunch any Sunday. The Salumi is second to none and the traditions and heritage of Cajun and Creole cooking are found in dishes like Snapping Turtle Soup, Fire Roasted Oysters with Bienville Butter, and Creole Bouillabaisse. Expensive? Can be. But very worth it, especially for the jazz brunch, a big occasion, or holiday gathering. RESTAURANT R'EVOLUTION: Inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel • 777 Bienville Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.553.2277
OTHER FAVORITES YOU ABSOLUTELY WANT TO TRY
COMMANDER'S PALACE: Chef Tory McPhail walks in the shadow of legendary New Orleans chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme as Executive Chef of Commander's Palace and made the landmark his own with a James Beard award for Best Chef South 2013 to prove it. Located in the heart of the Garden District (a short walk from the St. Charles streetcar line) Commander's Palace is probably one of the best known restaurants in the world and one you do not want to miss. Go for brunch, lunch, or dinner... you can't miss with the Shrimp & Tasso Henican, a spicy Louisiana white shrimp dish or the Smoked Seafood Croquettes: crispy Gulf fish and Louisiana white shrimp with grilled Creole trinity, ripped herbs, pickled mirlitons and spicy crab boil aïoli. But if I didn't go for anything else, I would go for the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. COMMANDER'S PALACE • 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.899.8221
GALATOIRE'S: Where the locals go for lunch. My friends love this place for its old school tradition and classic favorites they've eaten since birth. Souffle Potatoes, Escargot, and their famous Oysters Rockefeller are standards. GALATOIRE'S • 209 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone. 504.525.2021
BON TON CAFE: For lunch or dinner. Highlights are the Turtle Soup, Bayou Jambalaya, and their other New Orleans signature dishes. The Rum Ramsey cocktail is a tradition! BON TON CAFE • 401 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 • Phone: 504.524.3386
THE GOOD STUFF
HANSEN'S SNO-BLIZ: No trip to New Orleans in the Spring or Summer would be complete without a trip to Hansen's Sno-Bliz. Hansen's is the original New Orleans snow ball and they patented the machine that makes that beautiful, smooth and silky ice necessary to achieve the ice cream like texture. The shop is virtually unchanged in decades... so not only is it simply wonderful, it is a cool experience as well. (haha- cool, get it?) I love the creamy ones. I love the fruity ones. Go early because if you don't, the line will be around the building. I dream of the Cream of Root Beer flavor called the Brown Pelican. AND yes. You have to have the condensed milk on the top. Divine. Simply divine. HANSEN'S SNO-BLIZ • 4801 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans, LA 70115 • Phone: 504.891.9788
NEW ORLEANS AT NIGHT
THE SPOTTED CAT MUSIC CLUB: I'm often working when I'm in New Orleans so it doesn't often leave me time to go out on the town at night. One place I do love to go is the Spotted Cat. It is like a throw back in time with live music from legendary local players and the dancing goes on until 2am, even on Sunday night. It is called a jazz club but you'll find almost every kind of spin-off, too, like blues and funk. It is located in Fauborg Marginy, a bit off of the French Quarter. Take a cab over and there are always cabs waiting outside. SPOTTED CAT 623 Frenchman Street New Orleans, LA 70116
If you have a favorite place I should visit, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or via email. I'd love to hear about it! Let the stars be your guide... safe travels. xo