Strolling and eating in New Orleans

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New Orleans is known for its food – from Creole, Cajun, and French-inspired delicacies to sweet beignets and pecan pralines. I visited The Big Easy last month for work and didn’t have much free time to explore, but I did manage to find a lot of great food and to revisit some of my favorite places.

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I started with lunch at Café Beignet (334 Royal St.) in the French Quarter. Its tagline –  “Beignet…done that” – made me groan every time I saw it, and I saw it a lot, because there are several locations and not a small amount of advertising. I was too late to order breakfast, and all their sandwiches were much too meaty for my vegetarian diet, so I ordered a modified sandwich with cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted croissant. I sat inside the small restaurant, but diners could also eat at the adjacent courtyard.

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I spent the afternoon walking in the French Quarter, strolling through the French Market (above) and flea market on Decatur Street, until I reached Frenchmen Street – my favorite place to hang out in New Orleans. It’s a small area just past the east end of the French Quarter, across Esplanade (a lovely boulevard with charming homes and huge oak trees).

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Frenchmen Street is known for its live music, funky shops, and restaurants. I revisited the Electric Ladyland tattoo parlor (610 Frenchmen St., above) where I got my first tattoo, and stopped by the Spotted Cat music club (623 Frenchmen St., below) to listen to some live jazz.

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Eventually I got hungry and climbed the stairs to Adolfo’s, a small Italian restaurant on the second floor above a jazz club. The place is cash only, which is kind of inconvenient, but the food was excellent. A lot of people were eating mussels, which is apparently a specialty, but I had a cheese-filled pasta that tasted incredibly fresh, and the price was very reasonable.

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I also revisited a small tavern called Erin Rose, a place I discovered years ago on my first trip to New Orleans. Erin Rose (811 Conti St., just a block off Bourbon St.) is a small Irish pub, just teeming with tradition and memorabilia. During that first visit, this was the first place I felt at home in the city, as a solo female traveler. The bartenders were friendly, and I had some interesting conversations with other bar patrons. I felt at home, I guess, because it seems a lot like an Iowa dive bar! It was also the first place I ever drank an Abita, and I’ve enjoyed that beer ever since.

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The next morning, I headed for Café du Monde (800 Decatur St.), expecting to find a long wait. I got lucky and was able to grab a sticky, powered-sugar-covered table right in front. Café du Monde coffee stand has been operating since 1862, and all it serves is chicory coffee (I always order it café au lait) and beignets – French-style donuts served hot from the fryer, three to an order, covered with like half a bag of powdered sugar. You can get stuffed to the gills for $6. Café du Monde is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except on Christmas day and during the occasional hurricane. It’s a joyful experience. By the time I left, the line was down the block.

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I ate dinner that night with a group of editors from all over the country. We walked from our hotel to NOLA (534 St. Louis St.), one of the well-known restaurants owned by famous chef Emeril Lagasse. I enjoyed my dinner there; it was not as fancy nor as expensive as I expected. Several in my group ordered local cuisine like shrimp & grits, gulf fish, and alligator. I played it safe and got a quattro formaggio pizza. The service was good, and we were able to get out of there with separate checks.

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The next day was a full day of conference sessions, but we had an hour and a half to do lunch on our own. I ate at the Café Fleur-de-Lis, an old-fashioned diner at 307 Chartres St.

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I love eating breakfast, so I just ordered some scrambled eggs, a biscuit, and a cup of coffee. It was very rich-tasting and filling.

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My last day in New Orleans was warm and sunny, and I couldn’t wait to find an outdoor café. I spotted the Palace Café at 605 Canal St. and enjoyed a cheese plate and people-watching. Palace Café is a Dickie Brennan restaurant, and when I went inside to use the restroom, the interior was so stunning that I almost wished I’d eaten inside.

I had some time to kill before I had to head to the airport, so I wandered through the French Quarter, poking around in some shops. Many of the souvenir stores sell nothing but tourist tchotchkes: Mardi Gras beads and masks, pralines, alligators on a stick, and X-rated T-shirts. But there are also some adorable little boutiques if you look around. I went in several of them and found them on the pricey side, but one in particular appealed to me. Lost & Found (323 Chartres St.) was filled with reasonably priced, ’50s-style cotton dresses and other throwback styles. I love that look, but didn’t know where in the world I would ever wear a dress like that. But then I found a tank top with little French cats all over it – for just $18 – and I knew I had my New Orleans souvenir.

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My final stop in the French Quarter was at a French Truck coffee shop (217 Chartres St.), drawn in by the colorful yellow cup. I sat in the window and watched the people go by. It was a great way to end my visit to New Orleans.

Here are some final street scenes from my walks:

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1 comment so far

  1. Tim Coble on

    Sounds like great fun! Might have to add that to our travel destinations!


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