A "Perfect" Night in the French Quarter
Once the Mardi Gras hordes have dispersed, it will be possible once again to do New Orleans in style! Here are our suggestions for the ultimate night's romp
Having a good night out in the Big Easy is, in fact, easy. But the perfect night? The French Quarter is so densely packed with historic and atmospheric venues for food, drink and music that settling for the first open doorway is sacrilege. After extensive research, we've assembled an itinerary which, barring interference from Mother Nature or Lady Luck, is as close to a perfect night as one can come in the French Quarter. It features a little of everything the Quarter is known for: drinks, dinner at an old-time Creole restaurant, top-drawer live music, po' boys, and a stop at America's most famous coffee shop.
A night in the French Quarter doesn't really end until noon the next day, even if you break it up with some sleep. So, we have mapped out your perfect morning after, as well, assuming the following:
So, here is the recipe for a night to end all nights in the Vieux Carre:
4pm: Pat O'Brien's 718 Saint Peter St., 504/588-2744
Start the evening off with the famed tipple--the Hurricane ($6). Although the drink menu runs several pages, stick with the rum punch that turned Pat O'Brien's into a French Quarter institution. It is sweet and deceptively easy to drink, but at 24 ounces, you should stick to one and one only. There are actually three bars within the Pat O'Brien's complex, but for your first visit, stay out of the piano and locals bar, and head to the bar in the garden. If you make friends with the right waiter, you may be selected to light the flaming fountain in the center of the courtyard.
6pm: Sunset at Café Du Monde 813 Decatur St., 504/581-2914
Café Du Monde is so pleasurable, and so cheap, that more than one visit over the course of your New Orleans stay would not be unusual in the least. Its frothy chicory-infused café au lait is only $1.50, and an order of three fritter-like beignets runs $1.50, as well. Keep in mind, however, that every tourist in town wants to visit the famous cafe between nine and eleven in the morning, and again between three and five in the afternoon--its busier hours. So, plan to arrive for your last caffeine shot of the day after the rush, and enjoy watching dusk fall over Jackson Square.
7pm: Dinner at Tujagues 823 Decatur St. (at Madison St.), 504/525-8676
It won'' be your best meal during your stay, but it will be the best bang for your buck. It's unlikely the atmosphere has changed much since the place opened in 1856, only the advent of electricity making a difference. Five courses run $30-35 prix fixe, and there is no a la carte option. Choose from the three or four options the kitchen has prepared that evening. The courses are a walk through the Quarter'' Creole past, with shrimp remoulade, brisket with Creole sauce, and bread pudding. If none suit your fancy, there is an off-the-menu dish, Chicken La Bonne Femme, which will provide you with enough garlic to keep the famed voodoo priestess Marie Leveau away for the duration of your stay.
9pm: Jazz at Preservation Hall 726 St. Peter St., 504/522-2841
Since 1961, Dixieland Jazz has continued to thrive at Preservation Hall. A rotating cast of musicians, one more talented than the last, plays from 8pm until midnight every day. Each set lasts about a half hour, but your $5 will let you stay for as many sets as you'd 'ike. Requests will run you $5 and up (despite what the sign says), and they must be traditional Dixieland numbers.
10:30pm: Live Zydeco at Old Opera House60 1 Bourbon St (at Toulouse St.), 504/522-3265
If New Orleans is the closest you can make it to the heart of Zydeco (Lafayette, LA), you shouldn'' miss an opportunity to catch some squeezebox and rub-board in the Big Easy. The Old Opera House isn'' the best place in town to see live Zydeco (that would be the Mid City Lanes Rock & Bowl), but it is the best Zydeco on Bourbon St., especially Monday through Wednesday when Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers own the stage. Dwayne was named the "Hottest Accordion in America" by the American Accordionists Association, and his band is hotter than a good gumbo.