Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Smell that is New Orleans

It hits you as soon as you exit the airplane – this odorous, almost stench of a smell. It greets you outside of the hotel and can almost knock you flat as you round a corner, or when the wind whips through an alleyway. But mostly, it just hangs in the air like a persistent fog that you can’t see, but you know without a doubt that it’s there. Even on the 6th day of being there, I could still smell it, even though the dank smell of my hotel room had finally faded.

But, what’s also very noticeable is the wonderful, outgoing spirit of the residents and visitors from surrounding areas.

I was traveling solo, so perhaps I was a bit more attuned to my environment than usual, but I also truly believe that New Orleans is just a great place to be.

The highlight, by far, was being invited to dine with 3 ladies from Mississippi. They realized I was dining alone and invited me to join them at their table. I'm sure I should have refused, but completely out of character as it was for me, I took them up on their incredible gratiousness. I was so nervous though, I was chattering on endlessly. I'm sure they'd had their fill of me by the time dinner ended!

Finally, this last note on the Crescent City is to encourage others to go there as well. To help you out, here’s the list of all the restaurants I went to over a course of a week, all in or near the French Quarter, and all highly recommendable.

Near the Convention Center & Harrah’s Casino:

* Emeril’s – posh and delicious

* Gordon Biersch Brewery – chain, but lots to choose from and lots of activity

*Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar – got the feeling this place is a great late night hangout.

* Mulates – traditional cajun food – live music every night

* Riche by Todd English – way swanky and pricey. I stopped in for the Friday afternoon seafood boil. Huge shrimp, tasty oysters, great gumbo at a fantastic mid-afternoon price.

French Quarter – locally owned (I think):

* Tujagues – 2nd oldest restaurant in New Orleans, and the 1st stand-up bar in the city. Causal atmosphere with a set menu with choice of entree.

* Gumbo Shop – wonderful Cajun cuisine, reasonably priced.

* Crescent City Brew House – best oysters and cocktail sauce I’ve ever had!

* The Market Café – great place for breakfast. Stand in the long line at Café Du Monde to quickly eat a beignet (aka as donuts) or keep going a couple blocks further to my very favorite spot! There’s almost always live jazz, the bloody marys are excellent and the pace, very relaxing!!!

* Pat O’Briens - – more of tourist tradition than a local tradition is my guess, but it’s well worth the stop. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually eat here.

French Quarter - chains:

* Landry’s Seafood House – New Orleans boasts the original, thought the chain actually began in Houston.

* Bubba Gump Shrimp Company – where the movie "Forrest Gump" plays all the time. I thought the menu was rather limited, but a fun place to hang and listen to the music

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