From the French quarter to the Garden District, New Orleans is composed of many unique neighborhoods that each have their own personality but all of which offer amazing music, food, drinks, and company. I got the opportunity to sample everything from alligator jerky to chewy pralines. While most of the foods were great, there were a few places that stood out more than the rest.
First and foremost is the most amazing brunch I have had to date. We were advised to try out a local spot called Lil’ Dizzy’s, a small café that offers an all you can eat brunch for about nineteen dollars. The restaurant was located just a short walk from our apartment, so my friends and I walked through the wide streets and canopy of trees with high hopes and gurgling stomachs. Lil Dizzy’s did not disappoint. It was clear that the café was a local favorite. We went on a Sunday morning and most people were dressed in their best but taking their time to enjoy their meals. The servers also took their time, chatting with and hugging the customers as they bustled around serving sweet tea and eggs made to order. The buffet was filled with an array of classic southern favorites, crispy fried chicken, grits, macaroni and cheese, a variety of sausages, biscuits and gumbo with rice. I had never tried gumbo before and was astonished at the amount of ingredients inside! The flavorful soup had all sorts of surprises from chorizo to shrimp to an entire soft shell crab. I particularly enjoyed my crab and cheese omelet as well as the bread pudding dessert. Once we finished eating, my friends and I enquired as to where the nearest trolley was. The servers explained that it was too far of a journey to endeavor on foot and one of the managers insisted on driving us to the trolley stop himself. The kindness and hospitality of the people in Lil’ Dizzy’s is unparalleled to anywhere else I have ever eaten.
As per recommendation, I also greatly enjoyed the beignets at Café Du Monde. This place is a tourist destination and usually has a line down the block, but we managed to grab a table right away. Everything in the open air café is covered in a thin dusting of confectioner’s sugar and the place is loud and crowded, but it is all part of the experience. The menu serves only beignets. The efficient wait staff run around carrying large trays of pastries and coffee, serving customers as quickly as possible so that they can eat and get out for the next wave of people to come in. The beignet was served warm, still fresh from the oven. It was light and airy but still doughy inside, not overly sweet.
On the day that we explored the Garden District, Natasha, Grant and I happened to stumble upon a cute little chain called “Dat Dog”. The restaurant caught our attention with its open-air layout and bright color scheme. We decided to sit down for a beer and a rest on the beautiful day but we stayed once we learned about the menu. As expected, Dat Dog serves hotdogs, but not your average hot dog. The restaurant has a wild array of sausage options from classic beef to spicy pork or even a veggie option. Once you choose your meat you can add as many toppings as you would like, the possibilities are endless and you are welcome to let your imagination go wild. After about a half hour of indecision, I settled on the duck special, which was a duck sausage topped with mustard, blueberry jam and bacon, all served on the softest doughiest bread I have ever tried. The hotdog was heavenly, especially due to the play off of sweet jam and salty bacon.
I must mention an unconventional and surprising find. I have to say that the cheap and kitschy Bourbon street fast-food joint, Willies Chicken Shack, is out of this world! Sure, the fried chicken is fine, but the biscuits are to die for. I will not bring myself to ask what they put in those fluffy little nuggets but I can only imagine that it must be five pounds of butter and a whole lot of love. The buttery biscuits come hot and crumbly and have the most heart-warming and comforting affect due to the sweetness of honey drizzled over the top. I kid you not that I stopped at Willie’s for a two-piece of chicken and a biscuit every time I walked by, which I am ashamed to say occurred more than once daily.
There was also another place that I stopped at on more than one occasion once I made the discovery. It is probably good that Natasha and I discovered Molly’s bar on one of our last days in New Orleans because we would have spent all of our time there! On one of the last evenings, we happened to be walking towards “The Gumbo Shop” for dinner, when we noticed a lively pub filled with people drinking what looked to be pina coladas. I thought this was strange, until I noticed a sign outside advertising “Frozen Irish Coffees” for four dollars. We couldn’t help but stop in for a taste, and I was instantly hooked! I cannot believe I haven’t thought of this idea myself. The drink tasted like a creamy coffee milkshake with just a hint of Jameson whiskey and bailey’s liquor inside. The bartender put a sprinkling of coffee grounds on top as a garnish that added an extra little satisfying crunch once they froze in the sweet beverage. Natasha and I stopped by for breakfast, lunch and dinner on our last day.
Finally, one cannot forget to mention the famed Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. My friends and I walked past it one evening and made a mental note to stop back, not knowing it was well-known as one of the oldest bars in the country. The place looks as old as it must be, with dim lighting and many little candles twinkling around the tables and piano that always seemed to be in use. I went back on my last night and enjoyed a drink while chatting with fellow travelers and listening to the live music of someone banging on the piano while customers sang and shouted along.