A Perfect Day in New Orleans
As a New Orleans musician with a non-stop performance schedule, I try to fully enjoy any day that I have off. Every now and then, I have a chance to have a "stay-cation" here in this amazing city.
Morning starts with my favorite breakfast: A crab, bacon and shrimp omelet at Lil' Dizzy’s Cafe on beautiful Esplanade Street. It's a local restaurant that I've been going to since I was a kid.
Then I walk down Esplanade to the Vieux Carre, or French Quarter. It's a gorgeous walk past traditional New Orleans houses. If it's a Sunday, you may catch a “second line” – a brass band parading with its followers, or the “second line,” in tow.
Once I get to the French Quarter, I explore until lunch time. There's lots to do – tours, museums and plenty of street music. At lunch time, I go to Hotel Monteleone's restaurant, Criollo. I’ll order whatever special they are offering, and I always get the gumbo. After lunch, I have a drink at the hotel’s Carousel Bar. (Yes, there is a real carousel.) When you go, arrive early enough to get a seat at the revolving bar – early being 2 p.m. or so at this popular spot.
Afterwards, I take the street car to Magazine Street and do a little shopping, especially at Feet First, which I like because they have lots of local gear. My favorite local brand is Move Ya Brass – it’s a must-buy T-shirt or tank top before you leave New Orleans.
My next stop is for dessert – a sno-ball at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. A New Orleans’ sno-ball is a finely shaved mound of ice flavored with syrups. It’s different from a snow cone in that the sno-ball’s fine ice retains the flavor at the top, while a snow cone’s more granular ice lets the flavorings drain to the bottom. My favorite at Hansen’s is a strawberry sno-ball topped with sweetened, condensed milk. Some people get condensed milk topping and have their sno-ball stuffed with ice cream. I'd recommend just starting small!
If I’ve skipped Hansen’s, sometimes, I’ll head to the Freret neighborhood from Magazine Street and go to Mint Modern. It’s Vietnamese food with a New Orleans twist. Try the green waffle (which is shorthand for the Padan waffle with green-tea ice cream). Run by a local New Orleans family, the owner (Jimmy) is hilarious.
Before I head out to dinner and other festivities, I like to start at Windsor Court's bar, the Polo Lounge. It's one of New Orleans' hidden gems. I love its truffle fries and crab cakes, plus the bartenders and staff are so sweet.
I usually have a big meal before my night’s adventure. For a dinner, my top-two favorite restaurants are Jacques-Imo's Café (Uptown). Get the savory alligator and shrimp sausage cheesecake. They don't do reservations, but I always find a seat in the back of the restaurant – a themed, back porch-bayou arrangement with New Orleans Creole décor. In the French Quarter, I like Doris Metropolitan. You will have to make a reservation and – fair warning – it’s not an inexpensive outing, but it's delicious.
For dessert, I must have beignets at Cafe Du Monde in Jackson Square (there are eight locations now) and a yummy cafe au lait, too. This is an after-dinner stop or after-party, all-night stop, the choice is yours.
I usually tell friends to stay at the Windsor Court Hotel, with its gorgeous suites (even for one night). It's one of the best hotels in New Orleans and there’s plenty of live entertainment to enjoy (if you’re in town on a Saturday, stop in and see me at the Windsor Court’s Polo Lounge from 9 p.m. to midnight… on Friday’s, I perform at Hotel Monteleone from 5-8 p.m. on Friday nights).
The best street for music in New Orleans is Frenchmen Street in the Marigny neighborhood. You can’t go wrong, whether you want traditional jazz (any night at Snug Harbor) to jazz fusion (Sundays at the Spotted Cat), to funk-soul (at the Blue Nile). Other great venues are Preservation Jazz Hall (check out Shannon Powell's show) or the Maple Leaf (in Uptown). Remember to please tip the musicians if you’re enjoying yourself; it can really make a musician’s night.
Dance the night away, and if you get hungry, there's plenty of street food available — try the Pizza Pirate food truck.
– Robin Barnes
Known as "The New Orleans Songbird," Robin Barnes grew up in the “Big Easy” in a household of musicians. In January 2016, Robin was voted 2016 Favorite New Orleans Musician by New Orleans magazine.