Mardi Gras 2016

Mardi Gras 2016

Yikes! I wrote this in February 2016 and never posted it! Well, here it goes…I detailed our trip as we went along.

Life’s short, party in New Orleans! “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” as in “Let the good times roll!”

Mardi Gras for us was nothing like the stories you’ve heard about with the girls flashing boobs and everyone being frat-boy wasted. I mean, yes, there is that element if you want it to experience that in the French Quarter but we only stopped by the Quarter to see what that party atmosphere was like and it wasn’t our thing so we left to hang out in other parts of NOLA.

French Quarter

We were pleasantly surprised to find how family-oriented Mardi Gras actually was, away from the Quarter. The whole city is into Mardi Gras with families decorating their houses and front lawns and kids being let out of school for the festivities. The parade routes are decked out with ladders for kids to sit on to watch the parading of very decked out floats and costumes. There are parades during the day and at night and there’s a full-on schedule of parades all over the city. Families get together and BBQ along the route and the kids run around playing ball until the parades start. When the floats go by, spectators clamor for all the charms and candy being thrown off. It was so much fun to chase the floats for the best gifts, even as full grown adults. Mardi Gras was quite the experience and I look forward to returning with my own kid(s) one day.

Alice in Wonderland at MOMs Ball

Our Mardi Gras trip to New Orleans was an amazing trip! We spent a week from Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday morning in New Orleans partying and going on a whirlwind food tour from Tuesday to Friday night. Our food excursions included Classic Creole at Galatoire’s, “New” New Orleans at three of John Besh’s restaurants, Cajun Southern at Cochon as well as hometown local gems like Evangeline’s and Frankie and Johnny’s. If you plan a trip for Mardi Gras, you definitely want to be there Saturday to Tuesday. We extended our trip so we could add in tours of the area and of course, more food experiences.

We got off the plane on Saturday night, grabbed burgers and drinks at Madigan’s & G.B.’s after offloading our luggage and waiting for our friends. Then the six of us headed to MOM’s Ball with some locals to celebrate Mardi Gras. MOM’s Ball was amazing as we had never seen such elaborate costumes. I originally thought it would be similar to our San Francisco Bay to Breakers but Bay to Breakers paled in comparison to MOM’s Ball. People handmade their feathered headpieces and costumes and some had very detailed face painting or ornate face masks. MOM which stands for “mystics, orphans and misfits” definitely lived up to its name as everyone was unique and free spirited. It’s very difficult to get tickets to this private, invitation only event. And when they say dress in costume, you better do so, as one of our friends found out the hard way.

Hush Puppies – savory, deep-fried ball of goodness made from cornmeal

Below is a run down of all the places we drank and ate at for the week.

Saturday

We had to coat our stomachs with a hefty meal and drinks before heading out for the big party night.

  • GB Patio – Three of us had delicious burgers and Steve had a Grilled Chicken Salad. The burgers were juicy and cooked just the way we ordered them. I had a Swiss Cheese Mushroom Burger cooked medium rare without the bun with a side of broccoli and I very much enjoyed it. The others got French Fries and Sweet Potato Fries. This joint is popular with both the locals and those just visiting town and it is my understanding they are known for their burgers.
  • Madigan’s – This bar was conveniently located next to where we were staying so we had drinks here while we waited for our friends to get ready for the ball. Walgreens around the corner didn’t have any beer or liquor and we needed to lube up before heading out. The same Veronica from GB’s served up drinks behind the bar and she was just as friendly as earlier in the evening. Madigan’s is a fine place to relax at, centrally located in Uptown on S. Carrollton along the St. Charles street car route.
    Sunday
  • Satsuma Cafe – Our three friends went here for California fare of Kale Salads and Breakfast Dishes while we went for a 6.5 mile run along St. Charles and two laps around Audubon Park and back to Uptown. Our friends enjoyed their meal and remarked that they were one of the older people eating there. We walked by to grab our house keys and the crowd did appear to be a bit younger, mostly college aged kids. The place had nice outdoor seating along the exterior of the restaurant. Our friends enjoyed the Ginger Limemade, eggs, bacon, biscuits, and the Mexican Breakfast plate which was basically a Huevos Rancheros. The biscuits, I was told, were more of the traditional kind you’re probably accustomed to. I was too full to try the biscuits.
  • Cooter Brown’s Tavern and Oyster Bar – I always like coming here for football or baseball and quick, good New Orleans bar food amongst the locals. It’s not amazing food or anything but it was perfect for us to watch the Super Bowl so if you’re rating the place on service, atmosphere, and quality bar food, Cooter Brown’s scores a five. They had a limited Mardi Gras menu but we were still able to grab a few dozen raw oysters, Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Shrimp Po’ Boys. My friend had a JalapeƱo Burger and loved it. She even thought it was better than the one at GB Patio. The burger was juicy and had a very unique and delicious melding of spices. Even their Bloody Mary had good spices and nice pickled vegetables. The flavors and crunchiness of the Shrimp Po’ Boy was really tasty and the oysters were fresh. You had to make your own cocktail sauce though but nothing beats $15 for a dozen of shucked raw oysters.
  • The Camellia Grill – Forget trying to eat here for Sunday breakfast as our friends tried to do because the line was ridiculously long. The line was actually long here every time we passed but we were able to get six stools together after a 15 minute wait at around 9:30pm. The server Dennis was very attentive and friendly. He asked two gentleman to shift seats twice to fit our large party in at the counter. Their diner food was great! Some of us had Burgers, Egg Dishes, Waffle and Fries. I had the Chef’s Special Egg Omelette which was an egg omelette of turkey, ham, veggies and cheese smothered with chili which was very delicious. I’ve never had such a dish before and it was really good. The diner is also very different than other diners I’ve been to. They customize every order on small sheets of order forms and then call out each order with their exact specifications to “The Chef” who seemed to get all our orders correct with very little feedback or questions. It was amazing to see their interactions.
    Monday
  • Columns Hotel – We took the street car down St. Charles and popped into this place before the parade viewing. It wasn’t part of our original plans but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for craft cocktails and a huge $16 Platter of Cheese and Crackers. We also got some Truffle Fries. We very much enjoyed our Pimm’s Cup, Gin Fizz, Sazerac, and Mint Julep drinks as well as the ornateness of the place but it was odd the ladies room was extremely warm and their sink was out of order so that was gross. They had hand sanitizer every where though.

    Drinks at The Columns Hotel

  • Balcony Bar – $2 Well Drinks at Happy Hour, pizza and fried goodness for when you want “bad for you” food plus salads to feel healthier is exactly what I like to see on the menu! The Fried Okra, Fried Mozzarella Sticks, and Greek Salad is what we got on this last visit so it was a little bit of vegetables and fried yumminess to fill that craving.
  • Coquette – We came to Coquette specifically for their craft cocktails and we were pleased with the drinks. We were glad it wasn’t too busy at around 4:30pm so we were able to fit seven of us at the bar. The drinks were delicious and the food coming out looked great. Our local friends says the food at Coquette is very good so we’ll them next time because we like visiting Magazine Street.
  • Breaux Mart (pronounced Bro Mart) – Grab your drinks at this locally owned and operated neighborhood supermarket and pack your styrofoam ice chest full before heading to one of the parades! We saw the Orpheus parade and it was so great. The floats and costumes were extremely elaborate and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

    Drinks at Coquette

  • The Bulldog – Uptown – This place is cool. I like their outdoor patio, fireplace and heaters but the fireplace wasn’t nearly warm enough for us to stay outside. The heaters weren’t on so we squeezed back inside and enjoyed half our drinks before deciding to make our way down the street. We ended up returning later for their bar food to end our night. Since it was the first day of Chinese New Year, I had to eat vegetarian so we had Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Hummus & Pita and Waffle & Cheese. The hummus was really tasty and didn’t float in a lot of oil but the pita bread wasn’t very good. Still, we were happy to get some food in our tummies after a night of drinking and partying.
  • Maple Leaf Bar – We went to see some live music and dance. If you’re in the mood for catching a band, this is the place, though for many years I refused to go here because the restrooms were nasty. It’s better now. All the locals know what I mean about their restrooms but everyone also knows it’s one of the best bars for music. Tipitina’s is actually our favorite place for music but we couldn’t make it there.

    Orpheus Parade

    Tuesday

    We walked all over the city on Mardi Gras Day. We started on St. Charles and took the street car to Napoleon. Then we walked through the city so we could see all the parades and festivities and eventually ended up in the French Quarter that night.

  • New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. – Sick, sick, sick! Yes, that’s what happened to three of us after drinking their Bloody Mary! The service was rude at the counter even though it was only around noon so it wasn’t that busy yet along the parade route but worse of all, we had stomach issues after drinking their mediocre Bloody Mary that they dispensed out of spouts in a big bucket.
  • Domenica – Amazing pizza and pasta! John Besh impressed us with the wood-fired pizzas and awesome Happy Hour prices. We originally had 12 noon reservations but moved them to 2pm to let some of us recover and it was the best thing we could have done. Chicken Liver gluten free pasta…Clam, White Sardines with Green Garlic and Procuitto…all so good!!! It soaked up all our alcohol. And the inside of the restaurant is modernly decorated and it’s great for groups.
  • Evangeline Restaurant – Some locals brought us here and we grabbed some drinks, appetizers, and dinner. Everything was great and the service was really friendly. This was our first “real” New Orleans meal as far as their famous fare is concerned. We had a bunch of fried appetizers and Etoufee, Jambalaya, Grit, and Po Boys.
    Wednesday

    We spent the day checking out many of the famous establishments in New Orleans. We started with a fine dining experience at Galatorie’s and ended with another fine dining experience at August. We got to see what New Orleans had to offer in terms of history and good food.

  • Galatoire’s Restaurant – We could hardly hear our server, Kenny, describe the food but his raspy voice added to the charm of Galatoire’s and what I mean by that is you can tell he partied for Mardi Gras. We took Kenny’s advice and got the large Seafood Platter to start and we should have just shared a small size. We each had either Turtle Soup or Gumbo and then some sort of fish dish like Crabmeat Sardou, Bouillabaisse, and Shrimp Creole. Everyone had something different so we could taste a variety of dishes but really, we were silly in doing that because the dishes were huge. I can’t believe we each ordered our own dish.
  • Cafe du Monde – It is so BUSY in here. Just keep your eyes open for people to get up and swarm in and grab a seat. The servers are really quick. You just sit, order your beignets, drink water, get your coffee, and get powdered sugar all over you while you enjoy beignets and the hustle and bustle of the place. Everyone from locals to tourists fill this place all day and night. I’d say they do serve up some yummy beignets.

    Beignets are worth the wait at Cafe Du Monde

  • We took a horse and buggy tour with Showtime and Le Blanc, the white horse. The driver, Showtime, was a hoot. He really added something to the tour of the French Quarter. We definitely recommend taking the tour to see all the historical sites in New Orleans.
  • Pat O’Briens – Everyone has to stop by this outdoor bar to see their fountain and share a Hurricane. They made the Hurricane drink famous but I think Hurricanes are too sweet so I like sharing with my friends for just a taste. Pat O’s also has a piano bar inside but I enjoy being outside.

    Pat O’Brien’s drinks

  • Felix’s Oyster Bar– Grab some oysters and other appetizers WITHOUT a line. Seriously…this place serves the same oysters and Acme across the street. We don’t understand why people wait in line at Acme for the same food. Every time we go back to town, we stop at Felix’s for oysters and it’s great. You can sit at counter or at a plastic table-clothed table for non-pretentious fare. Felix’s (or Acme’s) is a must for anyone visiting New Orleans.
  • Restaurant August – Mark and Nick at August provided exceptional service. What a great place to experience a fine dining meal in New Orleans! From when you enter the door to when you’re accompanied to the restroom, you feel welcomed. With its high ceilings, both brick and wall papered surroundings, pretty chandeliers and impressive upper level wine cellar, August is charming and yet cozy. The food and cocktails were fantastic. All the seafood, meats, and veggies were prepared really well. My friend and I shared a vegetarian plate because we were too full of protein. August might have been my favorite meal during the whole trip and one I’ll log as a memorable dinner forever.
    Thursday
  • Willa Jean – Delicious breakfast! It’s not like a typical New Orleans restaurant though. It didn’t have any historical charm because it’s newer and very contemporary. Willa Jean has some awesome biscuits which is not really surprising since it is also a bakery. Opened in 2015 by a pastry chef who worked at Restaurant August so it’s no wonder the food is good here!
  • Oak Alley Plantation Tour – I highly recommend the tour for some history and what helped build America. I think a lot of people don’t realize that there were many sugar cane plantations in the South. Growing up we only heard about the cotton plantations.

    Plantation Tour at Oak Alley

  • Frankie and Johnny’s – This place is the best for buckets of crawfish and shrimp. I always ask my husband to take me back to this place on our visits. I just love sucking on the crawfish and this place does it right. The spices are perfect. My mouth waters whenever I think about the crawfish here.
  • Cochon – We stuffed ourselves silly here! It’s pretty difficult to get a reservation here but lucky for us, the manager went to high school with my husband and when he called, the manager recognized his name and held a table for us! I’ve always heard that everyone knows each other in that big little city but that was incredible. We had so much food that night! Fried Alligator, Boudin Balls, Grilled Shrimp, Boucherie Plate, Ham Hock, Mac & Cheese, Smothered Greens, and some other items. All our local friends recommend Cochon.
    Friday
  • World War II Museum – They did an awesome job with this museum. The museum is huge and very well planned out. I’d recommend carving out a few hours for this place because there is so much to see and experience. The most surprising part was the food in their restaurant. We had a great meal here! Our friends left after lunch so we were really happy that they got to close out their trip with delicious food and Southern hospitality.

    National World War II Museum

  • Trey Yuen – Since it was Chinese New Year and we had family and friends coming to meet us from the surrounding areas, we decided to go to Trey Yuen. The food was fine though the quality is not what I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Chinese food. There was nothing wrong with the flavors of the dishes but more so in the preparation, presentation, and the ingredients used. I just thought the dishes looked boring and lacked color because they didn’t add a variety vegetables or cut their vegetables in different shapes. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant and I live in one of the food meccas of the U.S. so I am very picky about my Chinese food. Trey Yuen is famous though and has won many awards. They had a reporter there doing a story on the the night we visited.
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