Let’s face it: Women are better then men at this. In my experience, a girls weekend involves a degree of anticipation and planning foreign to most guys. Often, a male gathering involves a sports bar and a quick check to ensure there’s money for beer, quantity trumping quality in many cases. However, most of us still don’t carry purses, and that does make it less likely a calculator will be produced at the table for the hideous purpose of splitting the check, a practice that should be illegal in any civilized country. So we’ve got that going for us.
But we can do better than just showing up and drinking right? There’s more to New Orleans than Hurricanes and Hand Grenades, correct? If you’re planning a guys weekend in NOLA and want to be sure to hit the hot spots on Bourbon, you can stop reading now, because this post won’t help you. But really, who needs a tour guide? Bourbon Street isn’t what you’d call subtle in its charms. Just show up; you’ll manage to find the party. Trust me. But if you’re looking for something different, you’ve come to the right post. Here’s my take on the male foodie’s weekend in New Orleans. Hand-grenade free, but hopefully complete with acceptable levels of testosterone.
First Choice: Cochon, 930 Tchoupitoulas, Warehouse District. Donald Link is a James Beard honored critical darling, and Cochon is his homage to all things pig. There’s nothing frou-frou about this dining room. Try rabbit livers, cracklin’, hogshead cheese, alligator, and other guy-style delights. Finish things off with house-made moonshine. Yes, I said moonshine. This is where the hunters go when they leave the gatherers at home.
Honorable mention: Feast, 200 Julia, where you can separate the men from the boys by ordering an entire pig’s head. Bring your camera.
Send the ladies to: Herbsaint, 701 Saint Charles. Another of Donald Link’s places, stylish enough to appeal to the fairer sex, and one of our ten best restaurants in the city.
Friday Night Cocktails:
First Choice: Hermes Bar, 725 Saint Louis, French Quarter. The legendary Antoine’s opened this annex after Katrina. Stop in for some pre-drinks, people watch along Saint Louis, and pretend you’re a blue-blood while you discuss dinner options.
Honorable Mention: Bombay Club, 830 Conti, French Quarter. Dark wood, brass, and martinis, tucked away in the Price Conti Hotel.
Send the Ladies to: Sylvain, 625 Chartres, French Quarter. Drop the ladies at this newly renovated 17th century gem for appetizers of Veuve Cliquot and pommes frites. Tom Fitzmorris says that’s pretentious; we say Tom doesn’t know much about girls and champagne.
Friday Night Dinner:
First Choice: Emeril’s, 800 Tchoupitoulas, Warehouse District. The flagship, and one of NOLA’s most iconic places. Don’t let any of the anti-Emeril hatorade splash on you; it’s just sour grapes. In addition to remaining one of the very best restaurants in town with a telephone book of a wine list, Emerils is unabashedly male, with a clubby atmosphere perfect for a group of guys.
Honorable Mention: Galatoire’s, 209 Bourbon, French Quarter. The very best of the old-line restaurants, Galatoire’s is a party every night. Throw on a jacket, refuse to eat upstairs, and don’t bother with a menu.
Send the ladies to: Iris, 321 North Peters, French Quarter. Relocated from its former Riverbend location to a very pretty space in the Bienville House hotel, Iris serves contemporary cuisine and fabulous cocktails. When the weather permits, the courtyard is the right place to sit.
Friday Post Dinner:
First Choice: dba, 618 Frenchmen Street, Faubourg Marigny. Frenchmen is essential, everything that Bourbon isn’t, and d.b.a. is the perfect landing spot for your crew. Dim and masculine, this bar serves up a mind-boggling array of beer and spirits, sure to please the most persnickety of your bunch. If you’re lucky, John Boutte will be playing. As of January 2011, they are gloriously smoke-free.
Honorable Mention: Howlin’ Wolf, 907 South Peters, Warehouse District. Almost around the corner from Emeril’s and always a good bet for live music in the Warehouse District.
RIP: Donna’s 800 North Rampart, French Quarter. One of the best music venues there ever was, closed permanently August 2010. Moral of the story: Do not wait. Eat that dinner; see that band. You never know when it will be too late.
Send the Ladies to: The Ritz Carleton Davenport Lounge, 300 Bourbon, French Quarter. Sleek, cozy, and very upscale, Jeremy Davenport’s sets from 9:00-1:00 at the Ritz will keep the ladies happy.
Late, late night: If you’ve got any gas left in the tank, finish things off at Cosimo’s, 1201 Burgundy, French Quarter, the former recording studio of the legendary Cosimo Matassa. A very local bar tucked in the back side of the Quarter full of character and characters, dogs, and a pool table in back.
Saturday Breakfast: I’ll go out on a limb here and say you might need some hangover food.
First Choice: Camellia Grill, 540 Chartres Street, French Quarter. The secret to the fluffy omelets is the eggs tossed in a blender. Now that Camellia Grill has opened a French Quarter location, you won’t need to cab it to get the bacon, eggs, and etc you’re body is craving. Added bonus: This location serves alcohol if you need a little hair of the dog.
Honorable Mention: Clover Grill, 900 Bourbon, French Quarter. This 24 hour diner is guaranteed to serve up local color and cooks’ repartee with your breakfast. Hopefully the cook and a patron don’t get into a ketchup and mustard versus butcher-knife fight (true story). Never boring here.
Send the ladies to: Cake Café, 2440 Chartres, Faubourg Marigny. A bakery and breakfast joint, Cake Café offered eggnog muffins this year during the holidays. Do I really need to say anything else?
Saturday Lunch: ok, time to find a neighborhood joint for some grub before your afternoon nap. I’ve got just the place:
First Choice: Parkway Bakery and Tavern, 538 Hagen, Mid-City (or Esplanade Ridge, or Bayou St. John, or whatever…) You can’t visit NOLA and not have a poboy, and this is the best place. Roast beef, oyster, and shrimp all have their champions, and there are many others to choose from as well. Sit down and dig in for one of those ‘New Orleans is the best freaking place on earth’ moments. And you’re not far from the Fairgrounds; nothing wrong with an afternoon at the track, right?
Honorable Mention: Casamento’s, 4330 Magazine, Uptown. Established in 1919, Casamento’s is a fried seafood paradise, home of the famous Oyster Loaf. Perfect setup for an afternoon on Magazine Street.
Send the Ladies to: Tartine, 7217 Perrier, Riverbend Very new, very French in the subset of Riverbend known as the Black Pearl neighborhood. A former pastry chef at Muriel’s makes everything in-house including the bread. Perfect for ladies who lunch.
Saturday Night Cocktails:
First Choice: Bridge Lounge, 1201 Magazine, Lower Garden District. Nestled in the shadows of the Missisippi River Bridge as the name implies, this is another dog-friendly neighborhood joint. Known for terrific Mojitos.
Honorable Mention: Cure, 4905 Freret, Uptown. If you’re feeling a little more dressy than the Bridge Lounge, head on over to the next ‘it’ street in NOLA before it gets discovered by the less adventurous. Freret is on the come, and it is anchored by Cure, the Manhattan-channeling temple of hipness and mixology. Don’t miss the giant cockroach on the wall.
Send the ladies to: Bouligny Tavern, 3641 Magazine, Uptown. Chef John Harris of the justifiably revered Lilette opened this uber-designed shrine to vintage cool last year. Cocktails, wine, small plates, and atmosphere that make the ladies swoon.
First Choice: La Boca, 857 Fulton Street, Warehouse District. Steak houses generally stink out loud, monuments to all that is worst about men, including our incessant penchant for how-big-is-your-wallet contests. Not so La Boca, a true Argentinean steakhouse with a menu full of unusual and high-quality cuts.The biggest problem will be getting your crew to ever leave.
Honorable Mention: Jaques Imo’s, 8324 Oak Street, Riverbend Weekends on Oak can turn into a giant street party, and Jaques Imo’s has a lot to do with that. Leave your diet plans at home and get ready for alligator cheesecake, fried chicken, and a great time.
Send the ladies to: Coquette, 2800 Magazine Street, Garden District. This beautiful space occupies a perfect corner at Magazine and Washington in the Garden District, where the beautiful people live. Artful preparations, an ever-changing menu, and artisinal cocktails all make this a must do, and the girls can walk right over to Sucre for an after-dinner sweet.
First Choice: The Maple Leaf, 8316 Oak Street, Riverbend. With the added bonus of being right next door to Jaques Imo’s, The Maple Leaf is a kick-ass venue for music and drinks, home of the legendary Tuesday set by the Rebirth Brass Band.
Honorable Mention: Rock and Bowl, 3000 South Carrollton, Mid City. Enlarged and relocated since Katrina, Rock and Bowl is the perfect place to check out great live music while getting your competitive juices flowing with a little bowling. Trash talking optional.
Send the ladies to: Oak, 8118 Oak Street, Riverbend. One of Oak Street’s newest additions, Oak is a pretty-people place, done in shades of white. All the better for the see and be seen crowd to stand out. Live music, wine, cocktails, and a vibe sure to make her feel like the work of art she is.
First Choice: Elizabeth’s, 601 Gallier Street, Bywater. The feel here is very funky and Jazzfesty, and the killer app is praline bacon. You might consider the Duck Waffle or the manly Campfire Steak and Eggs.
Honorable Mention: Huevos, 4408 Banks Street, Mid City. As the name implies, all things eggs are celebrated here. Cash only, great coffee, everything under $10, and very, very good.
Send the ladies to: Café Amelie, 912 Royal Street, French Quarter. One of New Orleans’ very nicest courtyards, and the perfect parting scene for the ladies’ visit to NOLA. Mimosas, Bellinis, music, and greenery contribute to this beautiful venue..
There ya go: You can’t hit everything in one weekend, so maybe we’ll do a part two for your return trip. If you’re looking for more suggestions, there’s always the Big Restaurant List. One way or the other, you’ve got no excuse to live on lucky dogs and hurricanes while you’re here.