neworleansstreetartandmusicCafe du Monde is as touristy as it gets and a stones throw from the Mississippi River. Gator on a stick is offered at the French Market. The Old Legends Park was the best place to grab a beignet and a cup of coffee while listening to a jazz quartet.

New Orlean’s French Quarter — a walk-able feast for eyes, ears and taste buds — is the real deal. Gritty, sweaty, and as down-to-earth as a city might get.

We hit some vintage restaurants, a few newer and more modernized places, and had a grand workcation. Here are some highlights.

sazeracandmilkpunchThe Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone is great for sipping Sazeracs and people watching. Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House on Bourbon Street offers a Bourbon Milk Punch that is less tame than its name implies. 

Bourbon Street is a constant parade of middle-aged adults behaving badly. The place smells bad on it’s best day and like a cesspool when the weather turns warmer and more humid. Yet there is that human pull, like the one that makes you rubberneck when passing a car accident. You just have to see it with your own eyes.

Glassy eyed tourists swig Hurricanes, Handgrenades, and over-sized vessels of beer while stumbling down the street in funky hats, feather boas and the omnipresent cheap beads. Wrought iron enclosed balconies add a touch of authentic elegance to this contradictory scene.

arnauds2016Escargot, Crabmeat Karen in a puff pastry crab, Crawfish O’Connor and the antique architecture of Arnaud’s.

In the midst of neon and mayhem are deep rooted restaurants. Arnaud’s on Rue Bienville has been in business since 1918. Steeped in tradition, it’s all about refined rituals. A warren of rooms cobbled together, the tile floor and woodwork can easily keep your eyes moving around the rooms, but the food is really what it’s about here. Puff pastry, classic sauces and seafood. The café Brûlot is a sweet dessert and a show worth seeing.

arnaudsDylan cafe bruloutOur waiter, Dylan lit up the atmosphere while creating our Café Brûlot tableside.

Invited to a working dinner at a newer French Quarter restaurant, we found food to be an immediate social link. It is inspiring to meet partners who find a fascination with food photography. We compared our iphone pics.

Doris Metropolitan comes to New Orleans by way of Doris Butcher’s in Israel. Owners, Doris Rebi Chia and Itai Ben Eli practice the art of Dry-aging their beef in an on-display glass-enclosed room . The meat becomes artful sculpture as your eye peers through the glass.

A modern take on old steakhouses such as Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn and The Old Homestead in Manhattan, this one is all modern amenities and stellar service. Your server asks if you prefer your rib-eye or bone-in New York Strip aged twenty one days or thirty one days. Discerning palates may taste the difference. Mine didn’t.

dorisneworleansappsCarpaccio appetizer is decorated with soy pearls that burst in your mouth. This is a memorable dish in presentation and flavor palate that brought me to my knees. I want to have it again. Notice the bread service offers a variety of butter including a wasabi enhanced version.

dorismetropolitanneworleansMelt-in-your-mouth dry-aged steaks and a filet that arrived with a glossy marrow-filled bone. Even the salt and pepper on the plates has artful character.

doris2The glass enclosed dry-age room at Doris Metropolitan shows off tantalizing Wagyu beef on a quintessentially decorative antique iron-work table.

Ubiquitous to the French Quarter, the name Brennan means one of several restaurants. We enjoyed oysters and a Bourbon Milk Punch at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House on Bourbon Street as well as an old fashioned dinner at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse on Iberville Street.

The food — a perfectly executed prime rib served with creamed spinach, and a Wagyu beef burger — we found to be perfectly executed and a bit of a break from the Creole and Cajun influenced dishes. The only dessert we scarfed down all week was a seven layer coconut cake served swimming in a classic British custard. It was worth every calorie!

DickiebrennanssteakhouseA classic steakhouse meal at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. Steeped in experience the Brennan family has been serving New Orleans for more than sixty years.

neworleansarchitectureArchitecture in the French Quarter is as interesting and diverse as the food offerings.

AcmeoysterhouseneworleansPo boy sandwiches, hush puppies, and char-grilled oysters at The Acme Oyster House.

Tourists wait in line for a table at the Acme Oyster House on Iberville Street. My solo lunch at this ancient bar — it’s been in the French Quarter since 1910 — was a breeze. I just happened to find a sweet-spot in the lunch rush and waltzed in to find an open stool at the bar.

acmegumboMy first New Orleans cup of gumbo at The Acme Oyster Bar.

The gumbo is as tasty as any in the area while the hush puppies are an acquired taste. For those like me who had trouble deciding which Po Boy sandwich to order, the menu has a half and half option. Settling on fried cat fish and shrimp, my Po Boy craving is officially sated.

A bar-stool-neighbor offered up his char-broiled oysters for photo and taste. Inquisitive and sympathetic, most people, customers and servers want to discuss my food pictures and offer opinions and advice. While I find this is the case everywhere, the people of New Orleans have a tendency toward being more assertive.

coopsplaceRabbit jambalya, fried chicken and fried okra were big hits at Coop’s Place.

Our salivary glands went into overdrive when we walked into Coop’s Place on Decatur Street. A smoky essence hangs in the air at this little hole-in-the-wall that my nephew Peter insisted we try.

A dive bar, it’s authentic in feel and age and but the food is just plain memorable. Rabbit and sausage jambalya comes as an entree portion called Jambalya Supreme and is garnished with shrimp, crawfish, and tasso ham.

So perfect was the combination of flavors that it provoked an emotional reaction. I wondered out loud if they’d offer-up the recipe. Clearly I wasn’t alone in my desire to reproduce this dish because our bartender handed me a pamphlet-style cookbook that included the coveted recipe. While I always listen to my nephew’s suggestions, I have to shout-out a big thank you to Pete…he didn’t steer us wrong.

deaniesplaceneworleansAt Deanies Seafood boiled potatoes are a free albeit weird appetizer with your cocktail at the bar. 

A quick martini and the oddest apps were found at Deanie’s Seafood on  Iberville Street. Slightly spiced unpeeled boiled potatoes were served with our martinis. A flatbread-style bar pie came loaded with gulf shrimp and craw fish.

redfishgrillgumboand crawfishA quick lunch of craw fish and gumbo at Red Fish grill.

On Bourbon Street we bellied up to the bar at Red Fish Grill for some in-season craw fish and a bowl of gumbo. Craw fish are a delicacy like shad roe, Copper River salmon and soft shell crabs that can only be appreciated at specific times of the year. If you haven’t tried sweet and succulent craw fish you’re in for an exciting taste bump.

Four days worth of a myriad of meals influenced by Cajun and Creole roots, leave me with the opinion that the French Quarter of New Orleans is a culinary wonderland. Food that I was excited to try (beignets)  weren’t half as exciting as the unexpected (jambalya).

Will I go back? Maybe. Probably. but here are plenty of other untasted areas of the world to snack and photograph my way through.

You can read more about NOLA here. If you go, bring your appetite and an open mind.

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