25 Reasons We Love New Orleans
You thought a hurricane or two could keep this city down?
1. Sobering thoughts
The French Quarter may be one of the nation's main party zones, but it has its quiet spots. Duck into Kitchen Witch Cookbooks and you just might find a first-edition M.F.K. Fisher (631 Toulouse St., 504/528-8382, kwcookbooks.com). Arcadian Books & Art Prints is a tight squeeze, but it's a trove of books about Louisiana's history and culture (714 Orleans Ave., 504/523-4138).
2. They put the art in party
Held the third Saturday of every month in Markey Park, the Bywater Art Market showcases local artists and a food truck that sells boudin balls (breaded and fried sausage). You'll find paintings, photography, jewelry, and boxes made from recycled lumber. Royal St. and Piety St., art-restoration.com/bam, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
3. High on the hog
Culture-conscious chefs are reviving recipes from the old-time boucherie (butchering) tradition. Tory McPhail's dinner menu at Commander's Palace recently offered pork-belly pie and house-made bacon (1403 Washington Ave., 504/899-8221, commanderspalace.com, entrées from $27). At Cochon, chef-owner Donald Link turns boudin balls and cochon de lait (roasted suckling pig) into delicacies (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 504/588-2123, cochonrestaurant.com, entrées from $14). At his newest restaurant, Lüke, John Besh serves choucroute maison, the house sauerkraut, with house-made sausages, pork belly, pig knuckles, and cochon de lait (333 St. Charles Ave., 504/378-2840, lukeneworleans.com, $13).
4. Acadian rhythm
A two-hour drive from the city, Breaux Bridge, La., is the perfect place to dip a toe into Acadiana, a.k.a. Cajun Country. Start by tuning the radio to KBON 101.1 FM; DJs speak in the local dialect and play Cajun and zydeco music. Visit Poche's for hog's head cheese and boudin (3015A Main Hwy., 337/332-2108, poches.com) and Mulate's, The Original Cajun Restaurant for gumbo, étouffée, and alligator (325 Mills Ave., 337/332-4648, entrées from $12). The owners of Bayou Cabins, Rocky and Lisa Sonnier, do a trade in cracklings (similar to pork rinds) and sometimes fry breakfast beignets in the fat. "That's some good eating, chère," says Rocky (100 W. Mills Ave., 337/332-6158, bayoucabins.com, from $60).
5. Take me to the river
Audubon Park is an urban paradise for golfers, runners, bikers, picnicking families, and napping students. Audubon Zoo is on the grounds, along with one of the city's best views of the Mississippi. At sunset, crowds gather at the riverbank with soccer balls, six-packs, and peel-and-eat crawfish. auduboninstitute.org.
6. Helping hands
Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation is helping to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward, with an initial goal of constructing 150 affordable, relatively hurricane-resistant homes (makeitrightnola.org). More than a million people have donated elbow grease, money, and time, and the state of Louisiana has a website—volunteerlouisiana.gov—for people looking to lend a hand.
7. Sounds nice
To really savor jazz, go where you can sit. In the French Quarter, the best options are Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter St., 504/522-2841, preservationhall.com, $10) and Fritzel's European Jazz Pub (733 Bourbon St., 504/586-4800, one-drink minimum). Nearby, Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro hosts legends like Ellis Marsalis (626 Frenchmen St., 504/949-0696, snugjazz.com, from $15).
The first Roman Candy Man, Sam Cortese, entered the taffy-pulling trade in 1915 after he lost his legs in an accident. Today, his grandson Ron Kottemann traverses New Orleans in Sam's old mule-drawn cart, selling vanilla-, chocolate-, and strawberry-flavored Roman Chewing Candy, while Ron's son Daniel sells his wares from a cart at the zoo. romancandy.gourmetfoodmall.com, 75¢.