The perfect escape before final exams roll around is in New Orleans. The Big Easy is an eight-hour road trip away, and though sitting behind the wheel for half a day may seem like torture, it seems like nothing with a good playlist and friends to take over the wheel when your legs start to cramp up.
Upon arrival, you will probably want to relax at the hotel for a bit, but don’t spend too much time in your room. Get cleaned up, throw on a pretty dress and grab the best Cajun meal of your life at Mr. B’s Bistro on Royal Street. Though the meal will certainly be a bit pricey and you have to don a bib, it’s all worth it once you try the giant
Across the street from Mr. B’s is the famous Carousel Bar located in the Hotel Monteleone. The bar itself is a carousel as the name indicates, and if you are lucky enough to grab a seat at the bar, you will find that the bar is slowly moving in a circle. Drinks are expensive but beautifully made.
Café Du Monde in the morning is a must. The line will probably seem daunting, but it tends to move rather quickly. The joint only sells one food item — beignets, the French version of a doughnut. With one bite your daily caloric intake will have been met, but the taste of fried dough and powdered sugar is too good to pass up. Wash it all down with a cafe au lait, and you’re set to take on the city.
Neighboring Café Du Monde is the French Market. This is the perfect place to pick up inexpensive souvenirs for friends and family. Everything from voodoo dolls to feathered Mardi Gras masks can be found here. Be sure to look around for the best bargain. Many of the stands sell the same items at slightly varied costs.
Across from the French Market is Central Grocery Co. Boasting itself as the “home of the muffaletta,” this joint sells enormous sandwiches filled with deli meat and olive salad. Unless you are feeling extremely ravenous, go for the half sandwich. The whole sandwich is dauntingly large. Grab yours to go and set up camp over by the Mississippi River to watch boats go by and enjoy your meal.
The rest of your afternoon should be spent exploring the French Quarter. Not only are there a ton of amazing local shops, but the street performers also serve as a great form of entertainment. A band of boys that look as if they should be in a production of “Huckleberry Finn” usually play bayou-friendly music on Royal Street, while a magician known as “The Lunatic” can be found across from Jackson Square.
After heading to the hotel and changing out of your sweaty clothes, it is time to start thinking about dinner. If you are sick of Cajun food, head up Bourbon Street to Esplanade Avenue to Port Of Call. This restaurant sells enormous half-pound burgers. And to make matters worse, they come with a side of a loaded baked potato. You’ll want to split the burger with a friend for sure.
Wash it all down with an Abita, a local beer, or if you are more adventurous, try the Neptune’s Monsoon, a mix of fruit juice and liquor.
Then make your way over to Frenchman Street. This area offers an array of hip bars that usually feature live music. It serves as a great alternative to the craziness of Bourbon Street. Stay put at a bar that has a band you enjoy, or do a bit of bar hopping to get a sense of what is going on at each bar. Either way, you’ll enjoy a wonderful night of music that you will actually remember the next day.
The best breakfast spot on Sunday morning is Croissant D’Or Patisserie located on Ursulines Avenue. The croissants here are truly comparable to those found in France. Made fresh daily, their pastries will have you wishing you could eat these every day. Try the almond croissant with a hot coffee.
Before hitting the road back to Austin, make a quick detour to Magazine Street. This area is reminiscent of South Congress Avenue with all of its vintage stores. And be sure to hit up Sucre. This pastry shop has a variety of flavors of French macarons that will come in handy as a great road trip snack.
So before the work starts to pile up, take a break in the Big Easy. It’s not all beads and Bourbon Street.
Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: Savory weekends in New Orleans