If you didn’t know already, New Orleans just might be the most delicious city in America.
I could go on and on about how due to the impending Fourth of July weekend, we had to drive straight to New Orleans and skip Memphis and Elvis and his blue suede shoes. I could tell you how terribly disappointed I was that I wasn’t able to tour Graceland (for the third time), and that, as a result, Paul still hasn’t gotten the opportunity to see the mansion or the airplanes or the amazing shag carpeting in the “Jungle Room”. But let’s get to the point, shall we?
We stayed at the Hotel Indigo in the Garden District of New Orleans. I highly recommend this hotel for various reasons. #1-It is not on Bourbon Street. #2-The bartender is your best resource and you’ll leave wishing she’d be your new best friend. #3-The St. Charles Avenue streetcar stops right outside the lobby doors. #4-Huge rooms with hardwood floors. #5-It is not on Bourbon Street-did I mention that?
After a day’s worth of driving through the less than scenic parts of Alabama and Mississippi, we were delighted when we arrived into the city of New Orleans. Mentally, it is very difficult to separate New Orleans from the devastating images etched in our minds from Katrina, especially when you see the massive bodies of water surrounding this low-lying city. It is not hard to comprehend how it happened when you see it. Geographically, New Orleans is situated just right to be tremendously delicious yet extraordinarily vulnerable.
After checking in to the hotel we headed down to the bar for a drink and a snack to hold us over before dinner. This is where I had the most amazing and succulent crawfish dip and I officially proclaimed that “if everything in New Orleans is as tasty as this dip, we are going to get along very well”.
We had dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico, a darling little restaurant within walking distance from the Hotel Indigo. Our bartender at our hotel told us a rather intriguing story about this iconic dining facility. If I got the story right, two sisters owned and operated Delmonico for most of their lifetime. As they got older and were unable to maintain the restaurant, they looked to sell their establishment to the one and only Emeril Lagasse. Despite all other offers, they would only sell to Emeril. As a result, Emeril’s Delmonico serves up fine Louisiana Creole cuisine in a historic and elegant atmosphere.
While both of our meals were fantastic, I definitely had food envy over Paul’s appetizer. His plate of crispy pork cheeks over dirty rice was quite possibly one of the greatest things to ever touch my palette. Had I not already ordered my entrée before I tasted these, I probably would have placed two more orders of appetizers and skipped the entrees altogether. As our main meals Paul had the jumbo gulf shrimp bordelaise and I had the Louisiana drum meuniere. While both of these dishes were flavorful, the pork cheeks were by far the most delectable.
After a delightful evening at Delmonico’s, we returned to our hotel and, despite our bartender’s urges for us to go listen to some jazz at a local venue, we headed to bed. We were excessively exhausted from our lengthy trek from Nashville to New Orleans.
The next morning we hopped the St. Charles Avenue streetcar (the oldest functioning streetcar in the world) and rolled down to Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is bustling with bars, tacky t-shirt shops, restaurants, some establishments I don’t even wish to mention, and an abundance of people who want to keep the party going as long as they possibly can. While we may have checked off another popular tourist trap on our “Things We Never Need to Do Again” list, we also found our way onto a street that was much more our speed: Royal Street. Just a few blocks to the right and parallel to the Bourbon Bash, Royal Street is quiet and serene. It is also home to Cafe Amelie, a sweet little dining establishment with outdoor seating and a menu that will make you sing.
Cafe Amelie is where I had my first taste of Louisiana shrimp and grits. The best way to describe how incredibly fabulous this dish tasted is to picture my first bite. It was so good I closed my eyes and fell back in the chair. As if that wasn’t enough fireworks to make my Fourth of July memorable, my catfish sandwich that followed was heaven on ciabatta and Paul’s muffaletta was the most delicious combination of salami, mortadella, and ham to touch his lips in a long time. You can say the vegans took a vacation from being vegan on their vacation. After all it was Independence Day.
After lunch we stepped into some shops here and there and listened to jazz artists in the streets. Next, we made our way back to the streetcar and stopped at The Blind Pelican for a few drinks. As if we needed to add more excitement to our day, we happened to sit right next to two people who were on their first, and definitely last, date. I’m not sure who it was more awkward for, them, or Paul and I. It obviously wasn’t going well and it didn’t help to have two happily married people nearby swooning over each other. Luckily, after they left, a lovely couple from Florida took their place. We struck up good conversation with these folks, which in turn resulted in many orders of 25 cent oysters. Never in a million years would I trust 25 cent oysters to be safe to eat, but the couple sitting next to us had ordered five dozen the day before and were back for more. Since they were still standing, I took my chances and quickly found out why The Blind Pelican is famously known for the 25 cent oyster. They were fresh, delicious, and dangerously cheap. I’m a sucker for raw oysters and although I was outrageously full from lunch, I made sure to put a few orders in to keep my hunger at bay for the rest of the day.
In the end, I am happy to point out that Southwest flies direct to New Orleans and I’m ready to book us two seats. This is a city we just have to revisit and eat our way through. There is so much more for us to explore and taste in this little city that’s thriving with talented chefs and overflowing with southern charm.
Check out our recommendations for New Orleans!
The Hotel Indigo
The Blind Pelican
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