It’s been a decade since I’ve gone to New Orleans for anything that wasn’t a) Mardi Gras, b) an Alabama football game, or c) a Dad 2.0 conference. All 3 of these are normally cold events in January or February, so a trip in late March for some warmer weather and significantly less crowding with my bride? Was awesome.
The impetus for my 24th trip to New Orleans was a legal conference of 2 half-day sessions on Saturday and Sunday. We flew down Friday evening, had dinner with other conference attendees at Broussard‘s before following the group to the overly loud Famous Door. After 10 minutes of that, I decided my bride and I were going to begin the tour of new Southern bars I’d read about in Garden & Gun magazine and announced we were going to the nearby Longway Tavern. A few folks followed, and we enjoyed the hidden courtyard for some good drinks, fun conversation, and nice ambiance.
Next, I really wanted to walk down to Frenchmen Street for live music and the next bar I’d pre-planned from the article: the Elysian Bar hidden at the Hotel Peter & Paul (a former convent). We LOVED it. The cocktails were amazing–some of the best, most meticulously prepared I’ve had anywhere. We talked to the cheerful + knowledgeable bartender and the couple in town for a wedding sitting next to us, and we stayed until past 2am, when we had to be asked (nicely) to leave.
We heard the service industry folks like to go to Mimi’s in the Marigny once the bars close, so we started walking that direction, but had difficulty navigating dark residential streets in an unfamiliar area. I saw a 20-something walking with purpose, asked him where he was headed, and he said, “Mimi’s!” and so I said “Us too!” and we became the best of friends during the several blocks’ walk that followed.
I’m not positive what I ate at 3am at Mimi’s, but I am positive it was delicious and involved pork. We grabbed a cab back to the InterContinental and slept in the next morning, very happy with our use of Friday night in New Orleans.
Saturday, we had breakfast at Trenasse (in our hotel) after some coffee at French Truck (which was awesome–we brought several bags of beans home). After my afternoon session, the conference arranged for a dinner at Lula Restaurant and Distillery, where we had local food and heard local music while sitting on the patio by St. Charles.
Afterward, I’d planned to check out 2 more places I’d researched and read about: Bayou Bar and Hot Tin roof bar, both at the Pontchartrain Hotel. We started at the former, where a pianist rocked a Steinway before an audience having cocktails where Frank Sinatra and Truman Capote once had cocktails. A large contingent from the conference followed us, but went straight up to Hot Tin, which had a much younger and louder clientele, but it offered wonderful views of the city skyline and Mississippi River plus the open air coolness of a March night in New Orleans.
We stayed until our conference group left, and then the 2 of us returned to the piano bar to hear the player conclude his set, including a rendition of “Piano Man” in which much of the bar joined in, and the old man sitting near us wept with the enjoyment of it all, which caused me to weep as well, as I realized just how good this moment felt and just how happy I was to be a part of it.
At the same time, my bride had gone to the restroom, where she found someone’s purse in a stall, walked out with it, saw a 20-something woman headed toward said restroom looking concerned, decided that this was, perhaps, the owner of the bag in her hand, so she asked the frustrated woman if she’d left the purse in her hand in the ladies room just before, and the woman broke down in tears, and my wife gave her a hug and told her she’d be okay, and the woman was grateful and told my bride how badly she needed to hear that in this moment, and clearly the Bayou Bar was full of feelings that Spring Saturday night, and my bride and I were both giving and receiving them.
The Bayou Bar closed, and I wanted to see if Igor’s Bar was open, because I read not long ago that the owner died, and I was hoping it was still open, because I’d been in 2011 at a Mom 2.0 conference with several friends, and I’d been during many Saturdays preceding Fat Tuesday while watching parades in the Garden District when it was time to grab a seat, some shade, and a drink. It was open, and it was welcoming, and it felt good to return to a familiar spot with the quirkiness of a laundromat inside a 24-hour bar.
At this point, it was about 2am, and for some reason, we decided it’d be a good idea to get a cab and see what’s become one of the most famous dive bars in the South, Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge. It was the antithesis of the Bayou Bar we’d enjoyed earlier, but there was a dog inside I enjoyed petting, and I did get a pretty good omelet that I carried inside from the lady with a hot plate outside to enjoy with my can of beer before we decided to call it a night and head back to the InterContinental at 3am.
I didn’t quite make the 8am conference on Sunday morning. In fact, I didn’t go at all that day. Instead, we walked to Jackson Square to have breakfast at one of my favorite places to have breakfast in the world, Stanley. It was as delicious as I remembered. Then we explored Faulkner House books before starting some day drinking at Chart Room, Napoleon House, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, and the very new but excellent Jewel of the South, where we met our friend Amy after she finished seeing “Hamilton” nearby.
The 3 of us had dinner at Domenica at the Roosevelt followed by more beverages at Sazerac Bar before posing for pictures with Ignatius J. Reilly. Amy had to drive back to Lafayette, so my bride and I went to Preservation Hall to hear jazz at arguably its most famous venue, and it was outstanding.
We probably should have gone to bed, given that it was 11pm, and we had to fly back the next morning, but I couldn’t leave the city just yet, so I took my bride by Cat’s Meow (which had too long a wait to sing karaoke to even bother) and then to Pat O’Brien’s piano bar for more live music before, against my better judgment, taking her to The Dungeon at 1am for a creepy nightcap. And then we returned to the hotel to sleep a few hours and fly home.
I loved this trip. I love any trip to New Orleans, whether it’s crowded at Mardi Gras or cold at a winter bowl game, but going in early Spring, sharing some of my favorite places with my bride, plus exploring new ones I’d only read about before, was just awesome. I can’t wait to go back for Mardi Gras 2020.