Saturday, July 26, 2014

NOLA, a Vacation in Food

Note: This post is LONG and picture-heavy, be prepared!

 To say we had fun in New Orleans would be an understatement. To say that also would be a cliché, which you aren't supposed to do in writing according to my sophomore year writing workshop, but that's beside the point. We knew it'd be a fun city with so much amazing food... we didn't know that despite crappy weather, street scammers taking $20 of our VERY limited budget, and getting my car scratched after totally re-doing the back bumper just two months ago, we'd still end the trip saying "let's make this a yearly thing!" It was that awesome.

To save money, we drove. It was a LONG drive from Austin to New Orleans, but whereas plane tickets would have been at LEAST $400 apiece plus public transport or rental car, driving my little Toyota only cost $120 in gas for 4 fill-ups, which is what it took to get there and back.

Also to save money, I booked the cheapest hotel as close to the French Quarter as I could get. The Crescent Palms Motel was far from luxurious, but it was clean, had friendly staff, and it was located in a convenient area. It was not walkable to anything (and the neighborhood is a little too sketchy and your cars are locked behind a gate), but a short 5 minute car ride was all it took to get just about anywhere. I HIGHLY suggest it for budget travelers who don't care about maid service (there was none, sheets stayed the same the entire time) and have their own car. My ONLY complaints were that there was a cigarette burn in the comforter, and the non-walk-ability from anything of note nearby. Otherwise, it was perfect for our needs!

So our first day I had us up at the crack of dawn to beat the rush at Cafe du Monde. And it worked! We had a spot immediately and got to load up on beignets and delicious coffee. I got the souvenir mug for an extra $5 or so, but had I not done that our entire little breakfast would have been under $10.

Then it was off to the Deja Vu restaurant to grab a drink and wait for our tour to begin--you can grab a drink and go in NOLA, drinking on the streets is a-okay!--We chose the St. Louis Cemetery Walking Tour and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Our tour guide, Elizabeth Broussard, was extremely friendly and knowledgable and made the tour really fun to be on! I HIGHLY suggest the Free Tours By Foot--while we overslept and missed the other tour we went on, you really cannot do better for the price (which, did I mention, is FREE?? Plus a tip for your lovely guide, of course). If you can get Elizabeth, all the better! She also gives the French Quarter History Tour.

After the tour, we were hungry again. So I grabbed an incredible shrimp Poboy from Killer Poboys. It was suggested to me by multiple trusted sources, and it did not disappoint.

Crusty fresh bread sliced in half with a homemade aioli, a zesty slaw, and spicy grilled gulf shrimp... I am getting hungry just remembering it!

Cory wasn't so into the seafood sandwiches, so he grabbed some chicken at Willie's Chicken Shack. He didn't go into much detail, but he wolfed it down and said "it was good." when prompted. I asked him if it made him feel like slapping his mama and gestured to the sign behind him. He rolled his eyes, I take that as a no.

I'm sad we didn't get some legit spicy New Orleans fried chicken--next time!--but I decided to get one of NOLA's famous Hurricanes while we were there. I suggest Willie's Chicken Shack if you're looking for a short line and a potent frozen drink. I intend on using the yard stick souvenir cup as a flower vase because heaven knows I won't be ingesting this much sugary booze for a while...

Unfortunately, our reservations at the highly recommended Cochon were cancelled. Despite making them A WEEK IN ADVANCE. I was devastated--we'd saved for this trip and intended on a nice dinner out, and after much research I'd settled on Cochon since it was suggested to me by multiple people in the Food Blogger Alliance and the price was within our budget. Then they cancelled our reservation THAT DAY. So, it was a scramble to find somewhere that didn't need reservations, as it was a Friday and also the weekend of a convention, and EVERYWHERE was booked. Thumbs DOWN, Cochon, that's not very nice...

BUT, it worked out for the best: Jacques-Imo's was amazing. We wanted authentic Cajun/NOLA food, and we got it. When we arrived I was a little concerned by the decor--it was a $30/plate kind of place and it looked really kitschy--but as soon as we got our appetizer, I was sold.

The Alligator and Shrimp Cheesecake SOUNDS ridiculous, but it is one of the best things I've ever eaten! I'd never had a savory cheesecake, but now the wheels are turning as to how I can make my own. Cory had the Stuffed Pork Chop and I got the Seafood Bouillabaisse.

Cory was in a state of euphoria and I just barely made out him saying "this is the best dish I've ever had in a restaurant..." in between bites. I loved my dish but was so stuffed.

I picked out my favorite bits and sipped on the broth and did my best. It was an incredible meal, and we will definitely make this a stop on our yearly NOLA adventure!

The next day we took a swamp tour and fed marshmallows to gators. It was SO COOL and I 100% recommend the Honey Island Swamp Tours. It's a bit of a drive from the city proper, but it cost half as much as the other tours I saw ($22 verses $50-$70) and you were literally a foot from a gator in certain areas.

For lunch we were on a quest for crawfish. The boiled crawfish we get regularly at Austin's Crawfish Shack are amazing, but we figured NOLA's were the best... sadly we missed crawfish season and everyone is too cool to buy them wholesale I suppose.

We found ourselves at Deanie's Seafood. We shared some gumbo and I got the Stuffed Crab. Cory tried the Crawfish Etouffé but it ended up being a bit too heavy for him.

My crab was mostly bread. Disappointing, especially with the 45 minute wait we had, but it quelled our seafood craving at least.  Next time I'll go for the drinks, as the fishbowls looked pretty legit, but hopefully we'll get there before crawfish season ends next time.

There are FOUR Emerson grads in this picture.

Later in the day I met up with my old friend from my study abroad program: Kelsey! She and her boyfriend Paul showed us the "locals" spots, like the Old Point Bar and R Bar.

However, our favorite by far was Buffa's! Off the beaten path a bit, it's a restaurant, bar, and music venue. When we went the the Royal Rounders were playing jazz and they were just incredible. At one point the trumpet player popped up from a table behind us and joined the band. Super great!

Cory got a chicken sandwich and I got some spicy wings. I was expecting the medium wings in a city known for spice to be spicier than normal, but they actually tasted mild.

That was fine by me though, as there were an assortment of hot sauces to supplement the spice with (I'm guessing over 50! I tasted at least 10). I went with a habanero one that definitely did the trick. Plus the drinks were reasonably priced, and the entertainment was awesome.

Finally, our last meal the following day in New Orleans was in the Garden District, on Magazine Street. We tried to get a spot at Commander's Palace since we had a bit of extra cash to drop, and AGAIN it had been suggested by foodie friends as being quintessential NOLA, but the doorman didn't inform us that our attire was not up to dress code standards when he welcomed us in. The conversation with the host went something like this...
"Are you open for lunch?"
"It's brunch."
"... so brunch then? Can we see a menu?"
He then went on to seat the people in line behind us. I was a little miffed, and went to leave and grabbed a complimentary map, which had a menu on it. There it said that men were not permitted to wear shorts, and only collared t-shirts were allowed. Since we both had on t-shirts and shorts, we could not eat there. COOL, I get it, but maybe TELL your potential guests that instead of sticking your nose up at them? Thanks. Cool. I may have tried you guys again next time I'm in town with the right dress code on, but now I probably won't.

So we found ourselves on Magazine Street, spending our money comfortably in our shorts instead. We ended up at The Rum House. I was a biiiit hungover from our jazzy barventures the night before, and I was craving a burger but they didn't have one. So I got the Jamaican Beef Patties. Cory got the taco plate with a Brisket Taco with Mango Salsa and a Pulled Pork Taco with Mole sauce. Both our lunches were EXTREMELY tasty. Enough spice and sustenance to bring me out of my lingering hangover and get me bright eyed and bushy tailed for the long drive home. Sadly I could not, nor did I want to, partake in the enormous fishbowls that Rum House had here, but I made a mental note for next time.

And then we drove home. While driving to and from NOLA we ended up at Popeye's and Outback Steakhouse respectively, but those weren't anything of note. I likened eating Popeye's in Louisiana to having Taco Bell in Mexico, and felt slightly ashamed. Oh well. Overall, the trip was wonderful and I had so much fun! I didn't bore you all with the details of EEEEVERYTHING we did since this post is long enough, but rest assured we had a jam-packed long weekend. Cannot wait to return again!


  1. SO glad you loved your trip to NOLA!! I went two years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite places. Ever.

  2. For some reason, New Orleans has never been very high up on my list of must-see places, but seeing all that delicious food you ate might make me change my mind!

    Looks like SUCH an awesome trip! But I can't believe Cochon did that to you... Not cool at all!


  3. omigosh so much fun!!! I want to go so bad!

  4. I've been a couple times and absolutely love it -- looks like you had fun! I can't get over the amazingness of all of the "Big Ass Beers To-Go" everywhere. We have a free flight we HAVE to use in August (#firstworldproblems?) and this is definitely on the shortlist. If I wasn't afraid my skin would melt off in NOLA August weather, it'd be a for sure.

    1. The drinks to go were a highlight, not going to lie. Maybe August starts to cool down? Might still be worth a trip!

  5. This looks like a awesome trip! My favorite part of vacation is always the food!

  6. Ryan and I have two tickets with Southwest and we were thinking about New Orleans as a possible destination. Your post just won me!

    1. Excellent! Let me know how it goes! And do NOT fall for the shoe scam.