Turning Twenty One in New Orleans
It's my second full day in NOLA and I have so much to share I don't know where to start. I've already eaten SO MUCH and had some awesome drinks to ring in my 21st birthday (woot woot!). My dad is the master planner when it comes to traveling. He picked a great hotel in the heart of the French Quarter which happened to be perfectly within walking distance of most of our brunch and dinner spots. We're staying at The W Hotel, so far the service has been 5 stars so let's hope it stays that way. We arrived Wednesday afternoon, around 5 and came straight here from the airport. Guess where our first stop was?
The famous Cafe Du Monde was our first stop and if you're wondering if it lives up the hype the answer is yes. I did a little research before this trip and was under the impression I'd have to face a long line and wait forever to dive into the little donuts from heaven but it was actually the opposite. We sat down and a lovely lady took our order and brought us our coffee (hot chocolate for big bro) and three orders of powdered sugar covered goodness. I shared one with my best friend but definitely plotting on going back for my own order.
Our dinner pick for the night was one of Emeril's restaurants- NOLA. I knew this place was something by the 1,437 Yelp reviews but it is by far one of the best places I've gotten fried chicken. See, I love food so I made sure to scope out the menu before which meant high expectations. This fried chicken exceeded them. My best friend and I agreed to doing a little plate swap- she got the black drum. We thought it was a chicken drumstick but turns out it's a kind of fish. It's apparently really popular down here because it's been offered at a few different spots, all served a different way. But back to this chicken- it's perfectly battered with a nice crispy outside that then you bite into all this tender meat filled with flavor. It came with a pepperjack macaroni and cheese and a secret sauce that gave it the PERFECT finishing touch. The shrimp and grits my dad got was also really flavorful, it had a nice touch of a smokey undertone but wasn't overwhelming. The black drum was a very meaty fish and had a great hint of garlic and butter on top which we fell in love with.
The ambiance of the restaurant was really upbeat. Our server was sure to guide us in the right direction with everything we ordered. My dad originally was going for the chicken but ended up a lot happier with the shrimp and grits. He was even nice enough to stand on a chair to make sure we got a good shot of all the food- that's what I call top notch service! They even added a birthday touch to dessert for me.
Overall, NOLA gets a 10 from me- I honestly can't think of anywhere where they could lose any points. They had an extensive wine list and even managed to post it on the wall for everyone to see. Each of our meals were cooked perfectly, our server exceeded all expectations and I even had another server escort me to my seat as I left the bathroom! If you're debating adding NOLA to your trip itinerary- do it. For guys, go with a collared shirt and ladies, dressy jeans with heels or a dress is your best bet. I know I had trouble outfit planning so I figured I'd throw that in there.
Up next on my NOLA must do list is Commander's Palace for brunch. On the outside, it looks like a regular old spot but the vibe inside makes you feel like royalty. There are like ten people greeting you upon entry then you have three servers checking on you making sure everything is perfect. The food is top notch but the experience is also one that puts Commander's Palace on the to-do list. I somehow missed the memo to order the gumbo unlike everyone else at the table but it looked way too good so one of the three servers saw my sad puppy eyes and got me a bowl of the savory goodness. I always pictured gumbo as this weird mush of random things restaurants have leftover but you could tell there was serious thought and effort put into it.
(black Angus beef over Creole smashed potatoes)
If you're looking for a less fancy location to get brunch but still want excellent service and amazing food try Stanley. It's right in the French Quarter next to Jackson Square. We were welcomed with a nice jazz band on our walk over. Their menu is classic breakfast with a New Orleans twist. I'd never hard of boudin before but our server explained it as sausage made with rice & beans so I gave it a try and it was different but good. Oh and I ordered my first 21 year old mimosa here!
My second birthday dinner was at GW Fins, the go-to spot for good quality seafood. I ordered the Scalibut and it wasn't until three bites in that it finally clicked scallops + halibut= scalibut! Don't judge me. The fish was cooked perfectly atop this creamy lobster risotto*insert heart eyes*.
I don't know what was so funny, I was probably just really excited about the cake.
I bet it's probably really hard to go wrong with food in New Orleans but hope this makes your food adventures a little easier!