New Orleans’ Greatest Hits

by Angela on April 20, 2012 · 6 comments

The Hollicks’ Top Ten in New Orleans, LA

What is it they say — veni, vedi, veci? We came, we saw, we conquered New Orleans. No, wait, I stand corrected: New Orleans conquered us. Mike and I have been joking that there’s a secret voodoo additive in the Creole and Cajun food here that makes us crave more, more, more, despite just shoveling oysters, jambalaya and po’boy after po’boy down our beignet-hole.  We have become true gluttons in The Big Easy.

We have our new friends Jackson and Adam (introduced by our dear friend Erika Croxton) to thank for finding us a great shotgun house in Bywater to rent during our 5-week stay. We felt like real locals — Max made new friends at Markey playground 3 blocks away, we sipped hippie-hipster coffee at Satsuma, ran across the street to Elizabeth’s for our praline bacon fix, and listened to great jazz at Vaughn’s.

Although we could easily put together a Top Ten just for food, we decided to be more scrupulous and detailed about our overall incredible (and exhausting!) NOLA experience. A huge thank you goes out to Greg Bonin, Mike’s local dresser at The Lion King. He pretty much served as our personal concierge with his great recommendations and connections, especially with our #1 pick. Here it is, the Hollick New Orleans Top Ten!

10) The Frenchman Street Jug Band. A (free!) transcendent musical act, right on the corner of Frenchman and Decatur. See them here! Theresa and I stumbled upon them while prowling for late-night grub in the Marigny, and as far as music experiences go, this one just took you back in time. This photo has not been doctored in any way – the sepia tones are natural. It’s as if the streetlamps were in on the act as well.

9) Bacchanal. What if a bunch of wine geeks and foodies got together with Sanford & Son to open a restaurant? You get Bacchanal. This outdoor patio bistro/wine bar/music venue on the edge of the Ninth Ward boasts a relaxing charm that belies their underlying grunginess. You enter what looks like someone’s junk storage, complete with abandoned appliances and rusty machinery. But as you venture on, the yard opens up into a space filled with fun, mismatched tables and chairs teetering on uneven brick. You can duck into their cave-like wine shop to buy a bottle — or three — to enjoy out back; you order from a menu of 7 items at a kitchen window counter (cash only, although an ATM machine is perched literally one foot away), and they shout out your name as they deliver your food to your table.  In the velvet dark of the night sky, with white, starry lights strung up over your head and a sweet jazz trio playing on their makeshift stage in the back corner, with thoughtful dishes like flat iron steak with fingerling potatoes, whipped feta, duck fat, and strawberries and a chilled bottle of pinot gris, the grime is an almost annoying afterthought. It bows to the gourmet of the food.  It’s too magical, too delicious. And weirdly enough, it’s kid-friendly.

8.) Café Du Monde.  One look at this plain green/white awning and the long lines of fanny-packs waiting for a table in this French Quarter outdoor café, you want to run for the Mississippi River, screaming “Tourist trap!” But once you do get in (the line is deceptively quick!), you understand and buy into the hype. You drink the Kool-Aid, except the Kool-Aid is actually intense, iced chicory coffee. And off you go, to heaven. The beignets are soft pillows of air, with a satisfying, sweet chewy finish. Everything under that tented awning— including yourself — is coated in a layer of white powdered sugar. The waitstaff are in constant motion, balancing trays of hot dough and hotter coffee, while feverishly adding up our bill on a napkin. Forget about asking for a receipt. We even bought a canister of chicory coffee to carry around in our fanny pack.

7) City Park Sculpture Garden. Nestled right next to the Museum of Art at the dramatic end of Esplanade Avenue, this is a treasure trove of diverse, emphatic sculptures that lurk around each bend in this beautifully manicured park. It’s serene and relaxing to walk through, and definitely a mind trip to take in pieces like “Evolution” and stand under one of Louise Bourgeois’ spindly spiders. And it’s free.

6) The Audobon Zoo’s Dinosaur Expedition. So the whole irony of our trip to the zoo: with all of the live animals to see, we got the hugest kick out of the animatronic, non-living, not-existing-in-our-world dinosaurs exhibition. They’re creepy, y’all. They seemed real. To the point where none of us, including the adults, wanted to get too close to these life-sized reptiles.

5) Tie: Dooky Chase & The Joint. Max, now 21 months, has turned into a bit of a carnivore and is never happier than when sitting in front of a big pile of meat. These two restaurants made him ecstatic.

The famed Dooky Chase in Tremé featured a gorgeous dining room with a superb collection of local art lining their walls, and their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($18 for adults) made our heads spin. The fried chicken and greens were my personal favorites. Just solid, well-done Southern soul. As I watched Max nibble off our plates, I said to Mike, “I wish our little guy could be frozen at this age.” He responded, “I know, he’s just so beautiful and precious.” To which I answered, “Yeah. And…I don’t want to pay for a real meal for him.”

The Joint in our Bywater hood served up some of the best ribs I’ve ever had — they were fall-off-the-bone and fall-off-my-seat scrumptious. Most of the menu items like beef brisket and smoked chicken were inexpensive, and while the service was quick, The Joint still had a lively local feel. We wanted to stay a while, even after the ribs were licked clean.

4) City Park’s Storyland. I would have killed to design this enchanting playground, rooted with ancient magical oak trees draped with spooky Spanish moss. There were larger-than-life sculptures from children’s stories; you could run with Jack and Jill up a hill, swashbuckle up Captain Hoook’s pirate ship, and check out the houses built by the Three Little Pigs. Most rides were pretty innocuous, but there were a few deceptively harsh slides, like this super steep dragon one. Max and Mike careened down and barely escaped a crash-landing; and ask our friend Lisa Swift, who bravely slid down in her dress, and got major butt-burn to commemorate the ride.

3) Parade-festival-bead obsession. Even if you’re not in NOLA for Mardi Gras or Jazzfest, chances are, you’ll still get to experience plenty of parades and festivals. You will get beads to take home with you. The people of New Orleans jump at any occasion for a festival or parade; we heard that they threw a parade the week before St. Patrick’s Day, just to celebrate ONE WEEK UNTIL ST. PATTY’S DAY! And then it’s the St. Patty’s Day Parade! Fireworks were set off during the NCAA Final Four weekend, but on the day before the championship game. There’s a constant convivial energy throughout the city; you can see it in the ubiquitous reams of gold, purple and green beads hanging from the oak trees on the neighborhoods streets and worn stuffed animals lined up along porch rails. A word of advice: if you’re not set to catch some beads, you better duck. Dem things will whack you, hard.

2) Borgne. This eatery, which was randomly located in the Hyatt, was our very best food experience, from top to bottom. Our foodie friend Theresa found it (she was on a hunt for celebrity chef John Besh) and couldn’t stop raving. And we agree. It’s SO good. The lunch menu was creative but still true to the essence of seasonal Louisiana cooking. Max took an entire warm loaf of bread and bit into it like an ear of corn, closed his eyes enraptured, and sighed. We ate some of the best raw oysters in my life; the oyster spaghetti with creamy broth, garlic, salted cod roe and parmigiano-reggiano was seductive and rich; and their special du jour, a rabbit ragout with orecchiette, kept Mike chanting “This. Is. So. Good.” The uber-friendly waitstaff was enamored with Max, but it was the food that certainly whipped Mike and I into submission.

1) Gondola Ride in City Park. One Monday night off, Mike asked Nick and Hero to babysit Max, and planned a romantic date for us that included a lavish dinner at Commander’s Palace and a “surprise” afterwards. But on our way out the door, the skies opened up and sheets of rain started pouring down, along with thunder, lightning, and wind. Mike’s face fell. The surprise — a nighttime gondola ride in City Park, under the stars, with champagne and truffles — would be rained out.

We rescheduled the ride for the following Monday, and decided to do it during the day, with Max. It was still romantic, as City Park was sunny and serene, and Max napped on our laps under an umbrella. Our gondolier was a sweet, earnest guy named Liam who had worked in New York’s Central Park as a gondolier as well. The view from our authentic hand-made Venetian gondola “The Bella Mae” was divine; we kissed under each bridge and took in the 800 year-old oak trees, swans, ducks and herons.


*** Okay, I’m cheating here. I’m including a few food honorable mentions:

    • In the Marigny, Theresa and I craved late night tapas at Mimi’s. We’d come home smelling like a raunchy smokey mess, but the toast with manchego and mushroom was well worth the 2 am shower before crawling into bed.
    • The hippy-chick Cake Cafe on Spain Street had solid fried oyster breakfasts and salads, and a service staff that went ga-ga over Max blowing kisses to them!
    • Going Uptown, the best bakery cupcake I’ve ever had was the filled dark chocolate Fleur de Lys from Sucre — but stay away from their macaroons. They are certainly pretty, but way too crumbly and dry to be their star item!
    • Magasin on Magazine Street has excellent Vietnamese bahn mi, summer rolls and pho when you need a palate cleansing from all the Creole cuisine.
    • Further down Magazine Street, Gott Gourmet‘s brunch is completely underrated. Mike’s Croque Monsier was outta sight, and my Cajun Bloody Mary lasted oh, about 3 minutes.
    • In Bywater, Elizabeth’s for dinner is a hidden gem (and you can still get their praline bacon then). Their brunches are highly overrated; they’re usually so slammed, the quality of the food and service remains inconsistent.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron April 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I wanna go to storyland, too! Looks like you had a blast, Hollicks. Good times.


ANGELIQUE April 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm



Kat April 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Hello Hollicks! My, the time flew, and you are already done with New Orleans! This list was great and the photos are awesome. City Park is for sure one of those hidden gems in our city. Safe travels to your next destination!

Kat + Rog


Susan M. April 21, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I will be sure to try Borgne the next time we are visiting New Orleans! Thanks for the tip!


steve mccarthy April 22, 2012 at 2:17 am

Hello 3 for the roaders! This is a great list. I will forward on to my cousins, who are heading to New Orleans for Jazz Fest this week. I think they would especially enjoy Bacchanal and the Gondola ride in the park. Thanks again.


Jennifer April 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I so enjoy your blogs and photos 🙂


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