Thursday, I got up much earlier than I usually would on vacation (this was entirely to do with not drinking, I’m sure), and took up the spot I would every morning in New Orleans: at the patio table with my knitting and espresso from the machine in the kitchen, followed by iced coffee (and Bally, of course). I was well-caffeinated indeed.
The sun was glorious… it was still not even close to spring in Minnesota.
Matt got up a while later, and we had breakfast and headed off to be tourists. Our section of Marigny looked like this:
As we got closer to Frenchmen Street and the Quarter, the houses looked more like this:
There were several different ways to walk there, so we varied them a lot to see different things. The shortest walk from our house involved heading directly toward the river and then cutting over toward the city, because of the wedge-shaped neighborhood.
Our first stop was the French Market. Going on a Thursday morning was a good choice, because it wasn’t terribly crowded.
I bought a heart-shaped wall ornament from a guy selling milagros, Matt got a sweet tea, and we picked up a bunch of hot sauce for his dad. We wandered around the crafty booths at the market, and then headed down the riverfront. Near the Jax building, we stopped for burritos at Felipe’s Taqueria, which was like a really good version of Chipotle.
We made it all the way down to the Riverwalk area past the aquarium, and figured we’d go walk through there. (Cruise ports are always weird and interesting, and there was a ship docked there that day.) There was construction all over the place, though, so it took us a while to figure out how to even get in there. We finally did, and discovered that there were a couple empty restaurants open, but the mall area itself was totally closed for renovation.
We headed across the street to Harrah’s instead. The air conditioning was a welcome relief after walking that far in the humidity, so we decided to sit and play some video poker for a while, which had the added bonus of getting Matt free beer.
After that, we walked up Canal Street toward Bourbon Street, following a trio of juggalos. I really wanted to take a photo of them, but sadly failed. We wandered around there, then went down to Royal Street and did some shopping in the many cute stores there. We tried to get into Arnaud’s French 75, but it wasn’t open til later. Then we tried the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, but that was full. (It’s been my life goal to sit at that bar since I’ve known about it, and whenever we go in there it’s totally full.) From there, we walked over to Jackson Square to see the cathedral.
There was a band playing at Maison Bourbon at 4pm, so we had a bit of time to kill before then. We stopped into a voodoo shop, then went over to get a drink at Pat O’Brien’s. We headed directly to the back bar, knowing that the drinks there were cheapest (I’m not entirely sure why they do that, but it’s awesome). I was excited to see they had an N/A cocktail menu, and ordered something called a Cool Breeze, made with cranberry, pineapple juice, and soda. It was delicious, and even came in a souvenir glass we actually wanted to keep. I rinsed it out in the bathroom before we left.
We crossed the street to Maison Bourbon, where the band was setting up. We were pretty much the only people there at that point, so we got seats at the corner of the bar backing up to Bourbon Street.
There was a trough of horrifying-looking water beneath the entire bar, and the place smelled a lot like trash. (Granted, a lot of the French Quarter smells that way, due to the trash cans that sit out on all the sidewalks. Space is kind of limited there.) I had to be careful to not drop my flipflops and get a horrible disease.
We watched the Swamp Donkeys‘ first set, which was pretty entertaining. I did a lot of staring at the activity on Bourbon Street, too, because by 4:30pm it was starting to get a little ridiculous.
We were getting hungry, so we decided to go get our first po-boy of the trip. On the way, we passed Chris Owens, otherwise known as “the bar where we saw a rat running across the dance floor late one night.” We also saw a guy clutching a hand grenade, seemingly unable to stand up. His friend was trying to help him stand.
Don’t go changing, New Orleans.
Killer Poboys is located in the back of a bar right off Bourbon Street called Erin Rose. It’s a friendly little place, and the owners are basically geniuses for having such a restaurant in the building. We ordered at the windows, then grabbed seats along the wall near the jukebox. Matt got a beer and queued up some music, and I watched the super-drunk bros at the bar, glad for their sakes they were eating gigantic sandwiches.
Our po-boys arrived shortly. Mine was roasted sweet potato, braised greens, and a pecan/black-eyed-pea spread. It was AMAZING, and I confess that I still have fantasies about it. Matt had rum-glazed pork belly (they warned him about it being too good), and we split some jalapeno Zapps, too.
Post-poboys, we decided to walk back to the house for an early-evening hot tub break. We took Dauphine Street, which was really quiet despite only being a block off Bourbon, which by that time was swinging into full shitshow mode.
Have I mentioned that I really loved walking through the neighborhood? There’s so much to see, and people like to hang out on their stoops that time of day. You really don’t see that much in the northland.
We sat in the hot tub for a long time, then showered and got dressed again. We headed out in the same direction as the previous night, crossing the tracks into Bywater. Our dinner choice this evening was Maurepas Foods, a friendly little restaurant that seemed even more neighborhood-oriented than Oxalis.
Matt was very excited by their excellent cocktail list, which included a Malort drink (Chicago shoutout!). We ordered fried breaded cauliflower, stewed greens with broad beans and oatmeal gnocchi, and a strawberry and creme fraiche salad. (The oatmeal gnocchi was the best by far.) After dinner, we kept on going down Burgundy (NOLA pronunciation: bur-GUN-dy), almost all the way to the river. (Hence the name ‘Bywater’.) There, a block before the street ended, we found Vaughan’s Lounge, which is famous for Kermit Ruffins’ until-recently weekly sets.
We went in, paid the $10 cover, and found seats at the bar. The place wasn’t too crowded yet, but the band (Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet) was already in full swing, and people were dancing. It was clear that it was mostly locals there, which made us happy.
Matt ordered drinks, and we watched the band. I actually watched the people most, because they were fascinating. My favorite was an old guy sitting by himself at a tiny table on the dance floor, flagging down every woman who made eye contact with him, no matter what their age. It was hilarious.
The band was amazing, and loud – the place was small, but that wasn’t the only factor. They played a long set, until about 11:30pm, and then took a break. At that point, everyone headed to the back of the bar, because they were serving free red beans and rice. A lady even walked along the bar, informing everyone that they needed to go get their free red beans and rice. So awesome.
I was sleepy (that’s the downside to not drinking – you don’t have staying-up-late superpowers), so we decided to head back to the house. Matt ran to the bathroom before we left, and came back fuming because a dude had actually broken the latch on the door trying to barge in. (I guess he really had to go?)
We were apparently supposed to be scared to walk the streets of Bywater and Marigny at night, but I couldn’t think of a single reason why, unless it was the giant cockroaches you’d sometimes scare up on the sidewalk. (They were pretty gross, but still.) Once we got to the train tracks, Matt made me hold his drink so he could fulfill a lifelong dream:
Don’t tell his parents.