New Orleans is a town seeped in history, magic, music, cuisine, and booze. It’s a heady city, with all its humidity and aromas of parties past. There’s a certain freedom here where you can be anyone you’d like and pursue any sort of obscure interest. Strangers call you “Love,” or “Suga.” Mardi Gras beads decorate oak trees as remnants of masked revelers on kaleidoscopic floats. Crawfish is a religion, and Chef John Besh is a god.
In short, I’m in love.
As a student at Tulane University, I’ll confess that sometimes it’s a little difficult to get out of “The Bubble.” We have our local uptown hangouts that are fun and easy. But sometimes (most times) I want something more. I feel so fortunate to go to school in a city where adventure is just around the corner. The trick is knowing how to find it. Granted, most of my adventures are of the gastronomic variety, but I know of a few other ways to occupy a weekend. Here are my top picks to satisfy any appetite, culinary or otherwise.
Best Coffee Shop
Rue de la Course
1140 South Carrollton Avenue // (504) 861-4343
Oh Rue, how I love you. Rue de la Course and I have been going steady since freshman year finals and I don’t think we’re ever going to break up. There’s something about the atmosphere that just makes me feel studious, intellectual, and sophisticated. The building used to be a bank and I adore its vaulted ceilings and stone interior. The coffee is strong and they make incredible loose leaf tea. With good pastries and free wifi, this places is the best for some brood-y essay writing, witty banter, or cramming for an exam.
Best Farmers Market
Crescent City Farmers’ Market
Sure, farmers’ markets are great, but I’m a sucker for a farmers’ market with delicious food to eat while I shop. Crescent City Farmers’ Market has green plate specials, tamales, popcorn, and generous free samples. The vendors are friendly and knowledgeable. The market is a project of marketumbrella.org, which is an incredible organization that looks at best practices and effectiveness of farmers markets worldwide. I love to support their work at the Tuesday market uptown, and on occasion the bustling Saturday market downtown.
Best Place to go When Parents Come In Town
The Green Goddess
307 Exchange Place // (504) 301-3347
The Green Goddess is so good that you won’t even mind waiting two hours to be seated because they don’t take reservations. Ok, maybe I mind a bit, but the chef once brought me free beer so I can’t complain. The menu is seasonal and whimsical, loaded with exotic ingredients and lengthy descriptions. They have everything from pork belly to savory vegan options (exciting!). The staff is friendly and a little funky, and the price point is just so that you’ll want to mooch off the ‘rents to eat at this divine restaurant.
Best Date Night Restaurant
736 Dante Street // (504) 861-3121
Dante’s Kitchen is dimly lit, cozy, and classy enough for date night but not at all stuffy. Start off your meal with the inventive punch du jour and gaze into your significant other’s eyes. Swoon over watermelon salad, caramelized onion mashed potatoes, and chicken roasted under a brick. Gorge yourselves on flavor and decadent cuisine. Awaken your senses (wink wink, nudge nudge). Also, spoonbread. Need I say more?
Best Movie Theater
The Prytania Theatre
5339 Prytania Street // (504) 891-2787
Last summer I went to this theater to see a double feature of Singin’ in the Rain and Inception. It was easily the best day of my July. The Prytania Theatre is the only single-screen movie theater in all of Louisiana. It’s been open since 1915 and the owner is a cute old gentleman who still takes tickets at the door. Before Singin’ in the Rain he even gave a history of the film, complete with his rendition of “Good Morning.” I love The Prytania because it makes going to the movies special again. Sometimes you just want to be transported to another era.
Best Hangover Breakfast
Surrey’s (any location)
I like places with wheatgrass shots, tofu platters, and cool artwork on the wall. I also like places where breakfast is served all day long. Surrey’s is laidback and delicious, perfect for a massive feast with friends while trying to remember what happened last night. The food is fresh and deeply satisfying with the potential of being greasy enough to soak up any remaining alcohol-related nausea. With all the fun that college in New Orleans brings you may just need it.
Best Classy Bar
The Columns Hotel
3811 St Charles Avenue // (504) 899-9308
After going out one too many times on Maple Street you’ll probably crave the antithesis of another beer-soaked, stumbling evening. Welcome to The Columns. The hotel was built in 1883 and is decorated with mahogany, rich textiles, and towering ceilings. The sexy and sophisticated Victorian Lounge is where all the magic happens, especially for happy hour specials. Go to sit at a plush velvet booth with friends to sip a mint julep and discuss classic literature. Fun fact: rumor has it that The Columns was one of the last brothels in New Orleans.
Plum Street Snoball
1300 Burdette Avenue // (504) 866-7996
Nothing beats a sticky smelly summer day in New Orleans like a snoball. No, not a snow cone. A snow cone is a ball of ice flavored with chemicals and colors. A snoball is a shaved iced topped with sweet elixirs and eaten out of a Chinese takeout container with both a straw and spoon. With flavors like nectar and orchid cream vanilla it’s easy to see what the fuss is all about. Plum Street Snoball is only open seasonally and is nestled in a residential area close to uptown campuses. Marked by a single rainbow umbrella, a wooden bench, and a long line, you know it’s something special.
Most Fun Restaurant Dish and Name
La Macarena Pupuseria and Latin Café
8120 Hampson Street // (504) 862-5252
La Macarena is indeed the name of a restaurant as well as a catchy dance from the 90s. And no, a pupusa is not a nickname for your lady bits. It’s a traditional Salvadorian dish made from a thick, handmade corn tortilla filled with cheese, beans, and/or meat. La Macarena also has delicious tapas. It’s BYOB–and on Wednesday nights if you bring a bottle of red, there’s free sangria! Also be sure to make friends with Manny, the host. He is a delight.
La Divina Gelateria (any location)
Gelato seems to be all the rage today, and New Orleans is no exception. So when a La Divina location opened up right next door at Loyola I was thrilled. Of course I go for the dairy-free sorbetto, but from what I hear the gelato is also out of this world. Try the Turbo Dog Chocolate Sorbetto, when they have it, for a real treat. If you’re more into savory treats, La Divina also has incredible Italian-style paninis and salads. All ingredients are local and natural. Hooray!
Maple Street Book Shop
7523 Maple Street // (504) 861-2105
Maple Street Book Shop’s slogan is FIGHT THE STUPIDS. I couldn’t agree more. The store is broken into two sections, separated into shotgun houses. One side is used, the other is new. Both houses have that delicious old book aroma and a vast selection. Best for a rainy afternoon.
Best Place to be a Hippie
New Orleans Healing Center
2372 St. Claude Avenue
Beignets and sazeracs are good for the soul, but sometimes you need a true dose of holistic wellness. This is where the brand new New Orleans Healing Center comes in. It is a gorgeous facility that fosters community, sustainability, mental well being, education, and physical health. It has everything from hypnosis to micro loans. I went to the grand opening a few weekends ago and couldn’t be more excited to have such innovation in a city that could use some healing in every sense.
Best Bar for Stupid College Shenanigans
1039 Broadway Street // (504) 866-9008
What can I say about The Boot? Don’t go before Boot O’Clock (at least midnight), unless it’s Friday happy hour. Watch out for old men creepin’ on freshmen girls. Have fun at Fifty Cent Night on Tuesdays. Take pictures because you won’t remember much. Eat a slice or three of New York style pizza at 4 am.
And, once you get that all out of your system, never go back.
I know I should go to Frenchman more often. It’s just that it’s a bit of a schlep if you live uptown and don’t have a car, but it’s worth all the cab fare. Frenchman Street is truly the place to go to hear jazz in the city. You can also catch any other kind of music, from reggae to blues. Just wander down the street to enjoy the different sounds that waft out of each club. The later at night, the better. Stop and listen to street performers, who are sometimes more talented than the stage artists. Beware: there are lots of crusties.
Best Shopping on a College Budget
3312 Magazine Street // (504) 891-7443
Though Buffalo Exchange is not unique to New Orleans, it is without a doubt my favorite guilt-free place to shop. They sell gently used but very stylish clothing and accessories for men and women. They will also purchase some retired items from your closet for cash or store credit. Some of my best pieces are from Buffalo Exchange, and no one has to know that they aren’t fresh off the rack! The store also has specialized costume sections before big city events like Mardi Gras, Running of the Bulls, and White Linen Night.
Best Place to Exercise
Best place to do just about anything, actually. Have a picnic, feed some ducks, ride your bike, take a nap…Audubon is the spot. Sometimes I can’t believe that I go to school just across the street from this sprawling historical park. Audubon has a 1.8 mile jogging path, a lagoon, and playgrounds. Great for sunny afternoons by yourself or with friends.
Best Way to See The City
Definitely not the best way to get around if you’re short on time, but at some point you’ll certainly want to enjoy and appreciate the streetcar. The lines have been up since the 19th century and the one on St. Charles is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world. For $1.25 (exact change, mind you) you’ll get a grand tour of the most beautiful mansions in town. You can admire the oak trees and the probably encounter a drunk tourist for a bit of entertainment. And there’s something about the charming clang and the wooden seats that give me a sort of nostalgia that I can’t quite explain.
Suzannah Schneider is a junior at Tulane University working on degrees in Environmental Studies and International Development with a minor in Business. She’s enjoying as much of New Orleans as possible before going abroad in the spring.