25 Reasons We Love New Orleans
You thought a hurricane or two could keep this city down?
18. Gumbo guidelines
Every Louisianan has a set of rules about the famous stew: A gumbo must contain a roux; or, a roux isn't necessary if you use okra; or, okra should be used only in seafood gumbos. To taste multiple styles, visit the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter. 630 St. Peter St., 877/525-1486, gumboshop.com, gumbo from $8.
19. A fresh approach
New Orleanians enjoy changes of seasons—seafood seasons, that is. That means oysters during fall and winter, crawfish in spring, and shrimp and crabs all summer long. Casamento's Restaurant, located Uptown, is famous for its raw oysters and fried-oyster loaf (4330 Magazine St., 504/895-9761, casamentosrestaurant.com, oysters $8.75 per dozen). Big Fisherman Seafood specializes in boiled crawfish (3301 Magazine St., 504/897-9907, bigfishermanseafood.com, crawfish $2.50 per pound). And Tommy's Cuisine is revered for its crabmeat au gratin (746 Tchoupitoulas St., 504/581-1103, tommyscuisine.com, entrées from $21).
20. Magnificent MiLa
Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing fell in love as young cooks in New Orleans roughly a decade ago and then moved to Manhattan to pursue their big-city dreams. Now they've returned to the South and opened MiLa (an amalgam of Mississippi and Louisiana); they take the products of an area farm and turn sweet potatoes into pappardelle and muscadine wine into a dessert gelée. Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel, 817 Common St., 504/412-2580, milaneworleans.com, entrées from $19.
21. Southern hospitality
Two blocks from the French Quarter, the International House hotel offers New Orleans–style glamour with a nod to the city's penchant for superstition. In the plush lobby, a West African fertility bench is covered with so many pillar candles that it seems more like an altar than a decoration. Rooms have bedside tables with cruciform feet, said to act as talismans for guests. 221 Camp St., 800/633-5770, ihhotel.com, from $119.
22. Drink locally
Abita Amber, produced by Abita Brewing Company, is a favorite New Orleans brew—the caramel flavor complements long, slow nights. But since its creation after the hurricanes of 2005, Abita's Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale has become a new favorite. 21084 Hwy. 36, Abita Springs, 985/893-3143, abita.com, brewery tour free.
23. Progressive parties
Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs celebrate local traditions by high stepping through the streets in what are called second-line parades. There's always a brass band and sometimes outfits with sashes and feather fans. For routes and to learn more about second-line traditions, visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum. 1116 St. Claude Ave., 504/287-5224, backstreetmuseum.org, $8.
24. Class transit
Gravely damaged after Hurricane Katrina, the St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street streetcar lines are operational again. Tourists ride knee to knee with commuters and kids, for whom the streetcars serve as school buses. $1.25 per ride; exact change required.
25. You're invited!
Festival season runs spring through fall, and if there's a town, a food, a craft, or a cause, Louisiana celebrates it. You might know the biggies: the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest), French Quarter Fest, and Essence Fest. But what about the Creole Tomato Festival? Or, 85 miles southwest of the city, in Morgan City, the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival? neworleansonline.com/calendar.