I had only been to New Orleans once and that was just a short stop when we made a detour on our way to Panama City. It was in 2003 and I had wanted to see New Orleans and I will say that I did not leave with good memories. I remember there being an unpleasant smell, the streets had broken glass, and it was not clean. Why in the world I decided that we would drive 10 hours to take my son to New Orleans after he graduated from high school is beyond me, but I did.
We stayed at the New Orleans Marriott on 555 Canal Street. When looking for hotels, there seemed to be a common complaint of the elevators being too slow or kids playing on the. The New Orleans Marriott had a great elevator system that made it impossible for kids to get on and play on them and the system was great and we never waited long for an elevator. The hotel was in a great location and we were able to walk to most things or catch a streetcar. Make the RTA Streetcars your friend. I downloaded the app and paid in advance for a pass and we would hop on discover different areas of the city. Our favorite route was the one that went through the Garden District.
We got into town late, so we headed to bed, so that we could get up early to catch a bus to go to Slidell for a swamp tour with Cajun Encounters.
We tried to pick one main event per day and then spend the rest of the the afternoon and evening walking and sightseeing. This was our first day to get some New Orleans food, which is what all of us where talking about leading up to the trip. We road the bus back into New Orleans from the swamp tour and got off on Decatur Street. This is a very busy street with several shopping opportunities. Our son had been looking forward to eating one of his favorite sandwiches, the muffuletta. We went to the only place that seems like you should go for a muffuletta, Central Grocery, the place that claims to be where the muffuletta was created. This was a small grocery story that opened in 1906. Not the kind where you will get your milk and eggs, but they have you covered on pastas, seasonings, and oils. Don’t worry about deciding what to eat. You will eat a muffuletta or you won’t. I wanted to split one, but of course my husband son wanted their own. We took our sandwiches to a shaded area with park benches and ate. There are very few places to eat inside Central Grocery.
I would like to say that our dinner was just as great as our lunch, but it was not. We had 3 foods that we could not wait to eat in New Orleans, gumbo, jambalaya, and a muffuletta. I had researched and researched the best places to get each of these foods and when I looked at where to get the best gumbo I would always find Gumbo Shop. When we arrived we were immediately seated, but in very tight quarters. The kind where you have to turn sideways to get into your seat and your rump is not right in the space of your neighbors food. Still not a problem. It must be delicious to need this much seating. Our waiter came over to us and I am not sure if he was having a bad day or that is his natural demeanor. There was no southern hospitality oozing from him. I order the seafood gumbo and my husband and son order the chicken andouille gumbo. The waiter brought our water and quickly sat it down without saying a word and quickly hurried away. My husband’s water had a fly in it. Again, we are not upset. These things happen. We have a very difficult time get the waiters attention and it seems he is ignoring us. When he brings our food we tell him about the fly and he seems angry and offended that we tell him this. Sets our food down, takes the glass, and leaves without saying a word. When he returns I tell him that I ordered the seafood gumbo and I got the chicken andouille gumbo just like my husband and son got. Again, not a word and just removes my food and returns with a new bowl. We still have no idea if I got the right gumbo because they tasted the same and I think I found one small shrimp in mine. It was a little bland and not full of flavor the way we imagined it tasting. We were left with the check and that is it. If the food had just not been that great, then I may have considered not even writing this review, but combine it with a bad experience, and I feel like I can’t ignore it. I want to be honest because I have read reviews that are either are bashing or nothing but sunshine and daisies. To be honest, I don’t trust those.
The next morning we got up early to go to the Whitney Plantation. We drove this time in case we wanted to venture off and sight see on our way home. It was about an hour from New Orleans. Again, I had researched which plantation to go to and I did not pick wrong this time. I had read some reviews on the other ones that said the tours were mostly based around the big house that the owners lived in. I was wanting more of a history lesson, to pay my respects to those who suffered. Our tour guide was great! She was a wealth of knowledge, not only about the plantation, but also New Orleans and the area. She was very matter of fact while telling the story while being very respectable. They have umbrellas or you can take your own. I suggest you using one if you are visiting in the summer. Don’t forget your water bottle. This plantation is more like a museum. You will see statues on the plantation that represent the slaves. You are given a lanyard when you check in and each one has a different slave on it with their information. You will learn about how much of New Orleans culture is influenced by the slaves…the food, music, and vibrant colors.
We were absolutely starving by the time we got out of our tour. We asked our tour guide where she would suggest. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and were hungry and didn’t really care where we ate. She suggested a place a couple of miles down the road. When we pulled up to the building there was a sign on the door saying they would be closed for the week. While being frustrated at the moment, it turned into one of our best food fines. Back in the car I say “Siri, I am hungry” to which she replied “Well, we can’t have that. Spuddy’s Cajun Food is 5 miles”. Spuddy, here we come. Pulling up to the building we can tell this a local’s place, which is exactly what we like. We like to eat where the locals eat. We walk in and right away we are greeted by a lady who can definitely tell we are not local and she shouts out “What we are serving today is jambalaya, andouille sausage, beans, and coleslaw” and we say “And that is what we are wanting”. Other than us, the people eating are definitely locals, so we feel like we are in a good spot. The same lady that greets us, came over and got our drink order and she was friendly and joked with us. Out came the food and it was more food than the price reflected.
My guys are fans of andouille sausage and I am not. I don’t dislike it, but I can take it or leave it. Y’all, this andouille sausage is not like anything I have ever eaten. It is made fresh by Spuddy himself. It is a perfect amount of smoke and seasoning. Nothing overwhelms. It is perfectly balanced and tender. Listen, the jambalaya was amazing also, but it is hard to talk about anything else once you have tasted the andouille. My husband and I wish they would ship their sausage, because it truly one of the secrets to the authentic taste of the dishes. While we were in New Orleans we kept running into a filming crew and come to find out, they were doing a food show. We were excited to see that Spuddys was featured on one of the episodes. If you go to New Orleans, you have to take a little drive to go eat at Spuddy’s Cajun Food. It is close to many plantations, so make a plan to eat at Spuddy’s on the day of your plantation tour. They have now added a cooking class, which I think means that we need to go back and do this. Thank you, Jesus and Siri, for getting us to Spuddy’s Cajun Food.
When in New Orleans you must have a beignet. Now there is argument where you will find the best one. We of course went to Cafe Du Monde, because it is the original.
Honestly, I could not tell the difference in the beignets at Cafe Du Monde and Cafe Beignet. We would go to Cafe Beignet in the evening and enjoy and beignet and the music.
That evening my husband was not feeling well, so he stayed in the room during dinner. My son and I wanted some oysters, so we walked next door to Creole House. We shared an order of crab cakes and oysters on the half shell. These were hands down, the best raw oysters I have had. They were tender to the point that they would almost melt in your mouth. We didn’t want to pass up on dessert, so I ordered a pecan cobbler and my son ordered bread pudding. We easily could have split a dessert. They both were delicious.
On our final day we went to a cooking class and this was one of our favorite things to do. Make sure to make reservations ahead of time because they do fill up. We went to New Orleans School of Cooking. Once seated we were served a biscuit. You know, one of those biscuits that melt in your mouth. The first half is the instructor giving a very entertaining history lesson on the food of New Orleans. Because of the mirrors above her cooking station, you can see from anywhere you are seated, but I would suggest to get up close if you can and make sure you are faced toward the instructor. They are round tables and we faced the opposite direction, so we could not eat and watch at the same time. We were taught how to make jambalaya, gumbo, pralines, and bananas foster. The food was delicious and the instructor was entertains and informative. This was a highlight of our trip.
Any downtown we had, we spent walking around a exploring. My son liked Jackson Square. He liked to walk around a see the artwork that the locals had brought in to sell for the day.
Once we heard the history of New Orleans and the slaves from our guide at the Whitney Plantation, we walked around a view New Orleans through new eyes. She had told how most of the iron work that we see was done by slaves. There are plaques everywhere telling you of the history of the location where you are standing.
Our final meal in New Orleans was at St. Roch Market. I had found this place on a website while researching places to eat. It was a little too far to walk, so we took an Uber. It cost $8.55 each way and was worth it. When the Uber dropped us off, I was not sure we were in the right place and our driver assured us that we were. We walk in this white building and there were not many patrons inside, but as we started to walk by all of the different food options, we had a hard time trying to make up our mind because it all looked so good. The best way to describe it is a food court, but I would say that is a little offensive, because these are not your chain food places. These are people doing what they do best, making delicious foods. We all 3 chose different places to eat. I ordered Shrimp and Grits with a side of Jalapeño Corn Muffin and it was beyond good. I really am embarrassed to call this a food court. Y’all, this is quality food. The prices are incredible for the food you get. Everything was around $10 per plate. We decided to get dessert after our meal just because they looked so yummy even though we were stuffed.
We can’t talk about New Orleans without mentioning Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is not really my style. We did get to “witness” it as we drove in late on a Friday night and could look down street to see as much as we desired to see. We did walk down Bourbon Street during the day.
I know a frequently asked question, and one that I asked myself is “Is New Orleans safe?”. It is a larger city that has crime like other large cities and you should always use common sense. I never felt in danger and the homeless people never approached us. The only time I felt a little uneasy was one evening when my son and I were out walking alone, we went a little too far and the businesses were closed and we were no longer in the same area as other tourists and we came across an angry drug addict. He did not approach us, but was very angry and agitated by the pot holes that were yelling at him and he was running from them. We turned around and went back toward more tourists.
So, did I have a different impression of New Orleans 16 years later? Yes. New Orleans can definitely not be a detour quick stop. We were there for 4 nights and I saw everything we had on our list to see, but there is so much to see and do in New Orleans that we did not have on our list and we will save for another trip. Unfortunately, there is an odor in certain areas. I took with me an appreciation for the culture and more knowledge of the impact the slaves made to the culture. I also took with me the ability to make some jambalaya, gumbo, and pralines, even though it will never be the same without Spuddy’s andouille sausage.