Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks
Jun 27 2018

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

By: Staff

Clay Curry:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best (and Only) Cidery in New Orleans: Broad Street Cider & Ale
2723 S. Broad Ave., (504) 405-1854, broadstreetcider.com

While New Orleans has undeniably seen an influx in new breweries over the last few years, Broad Street Cider & Ale is still a one-of-a-kind in the Big Easy for specializing in homemade—you guessed it—ciders. Despite popular belief, cider is not limited to apple flavors. Its aromas can fluctuate just as widely as its more popularly brewed cousin. One of cider’s biggest differentiators from beer is that it is brewed with the absence of heat, which makes this taproom and patio a perfect hangout during these hot summer months! –Clay Curry

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Start the Work Day: Laurel Street Bakery
2701 S. Broad Ave., (504) 897-0576, laurelstreetbakery.com

One of the most inviting aspects of this city is its abundance of neighborhood bakeries, bars, and restaurants. One such establishment is Broadmoor’s Laurel Street Bakery. Breakfast and lunch are served in the form of fresh bagels, tasty paninis, lush salads, and, of course, a fine selection of pastries and sweets. They also serve many high-quality coffees and teas to cheerful patrons at this friendly community bakery. Be sure to try the chicken salad sandwich with an amazing side salad and a hot chai tea. –Clay Curry

Michael Fulkerson:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Drink Craft Beer While Watching A Movie: Wayward Owl Brewing Co.
3940 Thalia St., (504) 827-1646, waywardowlbrewing.com

While New Orleans is definitely not short on breweries, Wayward Owl stands out by honoring the Southern tradition of community. Nestled in the historic Gem Theater in Central City, WO is the perfect place to enjoy a pint of delicious beer with friends and family (even well-behaved dogs!). Be sure to stop by on Wednesdays for movie night and enjoy a glass of my personal favorite ale, Family Tree Kristallweizen. –Michael Fulkerson

Kathy Bradshaw:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Set the Bar High: Vue, Atop the SpringHill/TownePlace Suites Hotel
1600 Canal St., 14thfloor, (504) 702-6800, vuenola.com

Want to have a drink that will really make you feel like you’re on top of the world? Then have it at Vue, my vote for New Orleans’s best rooftop bar. They have a top-notch cocktail list, small plates like gator nachos, comfy outdoor seating, and views for miles. You’ll feel like you’re above everyone else as you take drinking to new heights. Besides, if anything goes wrong—from overindulging to vertigo caused by the 14th-floor elevation—the University Medical Center is within spitting distance. –Kathy Bradshaw

Best Place to Remember New Orleans’s French Roots: Gem de France
729 Royal St., (504) 571-6304, gemdefrance.com

Some might disagree, but New Orleans is a French city. It was, after all, a Frenchman who, exactly 300 years ago, claimed a patch of swampland and called it Nouvelle-Orléans. Gem de France is a French Quarter shop that pays tribute to our French heritage with all sorts of original French merchandise. One special item of note: a commemorative tablecloth that honors both New Orleans’s tricentennial and the city’s connection to the motherland. It resists all spills and stains—even those from a good French red wine. –Kathy Bradshaw

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Be Indecisive: Pythian Market
234 Loyola Ave., (504) 605-0414pythianmarket.com 

Probably one of life’s toughest questions: What’s for dinner (or lunch)? The newly opened Pythian Market can help solve this dilemma. Like a deluxe food court, the market offers several tasty counter-service restaurants under one roof, such as Frencheeze, Poulet, Central City BBQ, and Cru. Can’t make up your mind? Get pho from Eatwell and a smoothie from Squeezed. Or pizza from Meribo and arepas from La Cocinita. Mix and match, get one of each, or come back every day and try something else. Here, indecision is as good as the food. –Kathy Bradshaw

Best Reason to Drag Your Butt Outta Bed in the Morning: Aebelskivers from Toast
5433 Laurel St., (504) 267-3260; and 1845 Gentilly Blvd., (504) 351-3664; toastneworleans.com

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if breakfast comes from Toast, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree. Don’t let the odd name dissuade you: aebelskivers are little round, doughy balls of pancake bliss, and more closely resemble a pancake-donut hybrid. They are served warm with powdered sugar, and come with your choice of sauce, from chocolate and caramel to old-school maple syrup. “Flat as a pancake” has become so cliché; Toast gives pancakes a new dimension.  –Kathy Bradshaw

Emily Hingle:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Take Tourists for “New Orleans Food”: Deanie’s
841 Iberville St., (504) 581-1316, deanies.com

Your out-of-town guests are probably going to want to spend a considerable amount of time in the French Quarter, and they’re going to ask you where to eat traditional New Orleans cuisine. Though you may prefer that they dine at the hottest new fusion restaurants in town, they want to know what all of this gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffée is about. So, send them over to Deanie’s, which is perfectly placed far enough away from Bourbon Street, yet still close to the action. –Emily Hingle

Best Jewelry Store in the French Quarter: Porter Lyons
631 Toulouse St, (504) 518-4945, porterlyons.com

A lot is changing in the French Quarter right now; if you haven’t walked the streets for a while, now is the time to get back down there. There are plenty of brand-new, locally owned, high-end boutiques that are a far cry from t-shirt shops and daiquiri bars. Porter Lyons is a luxurious, yet personable jewelry boutique, featuring designs made by Ashley Porter. Stop by to shop and maybe get some local kombucha on tap or take a yoga class. –Emily Hingle

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks
Photo by Randy Schmidt

Best Rooftop Bar for Selfie-Taking: Hot Tin at the Pontchartrain Hotel  
2031 St. Charles Ave, (504) 206-3114, thepontchartrainhotel.com/food-drink/hot-tin

We all know that you plan out your selfies before you even walk out the door. Who doesn’t want their ex seeing how hot they look now? If you need to take the best selfie ever, head over to the Pontchartrain Hotel’s open-air rooftop bar Hot Tin and pucker up for the camera. The nearly 360-degree views of the city will provide a gorgeous backdrop, and the signature cocktails will look great in your hand. Your ex will be so jealous. –Emily Hingle

Most Authentic Pizza: Oak Oven Pizza
6625 Jefferson Hwy., (504) 305-4039, oakovenrestaurant.com

You’ll have to take a trip out to Jefferson in order to taste the best pizza in the entire New Orleans metro area. These pizza-makers create their menu offerings from scratch daily, including their mozzarella cheese. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven fueled by Louisiana oak. Try a traditional Margherita Pizza; a Fumo Pizza with smoked, locally sourced pork and bacon; or a Salsiccia Pizza with fennel sausage, roasted peppers, and capers. They also offer amazing Italian entrees. –Emily Hingle

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Group Cocktail: Scorpion Bowl at Tiki Tolteca
301 N. Peters St., (504) 288-8226, tikitolteca.com

Tiki is in again, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to grab a few friends and climb the stairs above Felipe’s in the French Quarter to get to Tiki Tolteca. They offer a cocktail that was meant to be drunk by three to four people (two if you don’t have any other drinks that night). The Scorpion bowl comes in a single large tiki bowl with multiple straws, and the little volcano in the middle is on fire. –Emily Hingle

Phil LaMancusa:

The Best Return of a Prodigal Child: Uncle Louie

Say what you will about circumstances and occurrences; the mistake of a stupid kid is put to bed as Johnnie “Uncle Louie” Miller has his day in court, admits his wrongdoing, and is forgiven by the family wronged. Uncle Louie has performed as a human statue for decades, bringing joy to thousands and literally becoming the face and fixture of the French Quarter’s visitor hospitality. We were saddened witnessing his transgressing come to light; overjoyed seeing him return. Case closed. –Phil LaMancusa

The Best and Most Conscientious Street Vendor: Clarence the Banana Man

No muss, no fuss, no big deal: live and/or work in the French Quarter, and you’ll get to know our street merchants. You’ll know that Clarence comes by your door every day with bananas (sometimes more), healthy and real, for your al fresco or work-break snack. He asks for nothing but your business and then is on his way, striding with purpose, invisible to all but those who know him and the 300 years of tradition that he embodies. –Phil LaMancusa

The Best Face of New Orleans Hospitality: French Market Workers 

Go down into the French Market and bear witness to the folks who keep the visitors coming back: merchants of muffulettas, crepes, healthy foods, and adult beverages; oysters, roasted corn, sangria, and bottled water; oranges and hot sauce. Purveying with patience, friendliness and personality, our vendors are all there, every day, to make a buck and keep the New Orleans vibe going strong. I pass through many days a month and applaud their attitude of commerce with respect, especially that of Eliza Doolittle. –Phil LaMancusa

The Best Yet Most Confusing French Quarter Landmark: Joanie on the Pony (Jeanne d’Arc)

Four flag poles, two cannons, and a 13-foot, gilded, equestrian-ly elegant statue of a woman who had little to do with New Orleans, living almost 300 years before our founding; underwritten as a gift from France by Charles de Gaulle in 1964, she sits at the intersection of Decatur, North Peters, and St. Philip Streets. With 2,700 pounds of fierce beauty, she proudly waves our fleur de lys flag. She’s once, twice, three times a lady, and we love her. –Phil LaMancusa

The Best, Most Fertile Place in the Country: New Orleans, Terra Tropicale            

Here in New Orleans, flowers grow in front yards and up through cracks in our sidewalks; there are magnolias, gardenias, jasmine, ginger, figs, bananas, sweet olives, loquats, citrus, and scented honeysuckle. Wild parrots, possums, raccoons, alligators, and snakes live side-by-side with us bipeds, along with feral chickens, street felines, free-range rabbits, all manner of insects, and ever-changing chameleons. There’s no end to the evidence that we are Caribbean creatures and not denizens of the frozen north of this country. New Orleans: where fauna and flora rule. –Phil LaMancusa

Debbie Lindsey:

Best Reduction of Recycling: Jazz Fest 2018

Recycling bins were few and far between at Jazz Fest. Perhaps it was an attempt by Shell (a corporate sponsor of Jazz Fest) to “green wash” their image by manning the few recycling drop-offs and giving away free gas cards, or maybe it was a huge oversight by festival organizers, but the bottom line was this: virtually no recycling bins were available for fest-goers. Trash cans overflowed with recyclables (and no, they do not sort and separate). –Debbie Lindsey

Best Ambassador for Jazz Fest and New Orleans: Officer Eddie Ordogne

Eddie Ordogne commanded the intersection of N. Lopez and Maurepas, directing foot traffic to Jazz Fest and dispensing handshakes, hugs, hospitality, and humanity to everyone who crossed his path. He was quick with a smile and ready to answer questions, all while enforcing the safe flow of thousands of pedestrians. Visitors from every corner of the world passed him and were made to feel the warmth of this town. He did the NOPD proud and was my Jazz Fest moment this year! –Debbie Lindsey

Best Block Captain: Judy Day

A block captain is that neighbor who makes sure trash and recycling bins are properly tended to.  Litter is not something she will walk past; ditto for clogged storm drains. Need mail picked up? She’s on it. Homeless cats will be fed. Enlist her for dog-walking—she’ll go the extra distance. She’s there with a cup of coffee and an ear for you, a glass of wine and a hug. She’s the best you could ever want from a neighbor—she is my friend, Judy. –Debbie Lindsey

Emil Flemmon:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

The Best Fried Salmon: Pra _LEES
3600 St. Bernard Ave., (504) 478-6868, pra-lees.business.site

Fried salmon, anyone? Okay, so when it comes to fish, we all think of grilled, baked, blackened, and fried. However, who really thinks of fried salmon as an edible option? Allow the guys at Pra_LEES to change your mind. This hidden gem located on St. Bernard Avenue has the absolute best fried salmon. They also provide really good and affordable quick bites that will satisfy your hunger. To top it off, every patron is treated like family. –Emil Flemmon

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Vegan Hot Dog: Dat Dog
3336 Magazine St, (504) 324-2226, datdog.com

For the Love of Hot Dogs—Vegan, That Is

If you're a hot dog-lover, but just so happen to be a vegan, you want choices, right? Well, Dat Dog is the place for you. Victoria VerHagen, director of marketing for the popular chain, recommended the Spicy Chipotle Sausage on a vegan bun. She said, “You barely notice it’s vegan, because it tastes so good.” However, if you still enjoy the taste of meat, check out the Crawfish Sausage. Yes, with actual crawfish on top. –Emil Flemmon

 

Greg Roques:

Best and Most Eye-Catching Local Artist: Brent Houzenga
Houzenga.com 

Maybe you have seen his kaleidoscopically colored cars decorated with vintage Batman characters cruising around Mid-City. Or perhaps his similarly stylized stencil portraits have caught your eye adorning the walls of Slice Pizzeria or Juan’s Flying Burrito. These vibrant prisms of pastels are the works of New Orleans’s own Brent Houzenga. Houzenga’s pop-meets-street art aesthetic brings to mind Lichenstein, Warhol, and Banksy. Follow his steady flow of creations on Facebook (@brent.houzenga) and Instagram (@houzenga). –Greg Roques

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Bipolar Breakfast: Bearcat Cafe
2521 Jena St. | (504) 309-9011 | bearcatcafe.com

Bearcat serves the city’s best breakfast, regardless of whether you are in the mood to diet or devour. Their menu has two categories: Good Cat (low-cal, vegan, and paleo options) and Bad Cat (zero f’s about healthiness). If I’ve gotten my steps in, I’ll go with the (Bad) Bearcat Breakfast with bison sausage and a side of the fluffiest pancakes you’ll ever have. And don’t miss the coffee—the Ecuadorian brand they brew is so good that even the decaf is delicious. –Greg Roques

Best Place to Get Your Shine On: Ghosts of New York
4719 Freret St. | (504) 615-5010 | IG: @ghostsofny4719

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?Dr. Seuss has never led anyone astray, and neither will Ghosts of New York. I wandered into this superb secondhand store in search of a baller Mardi Gras outfit. I walked out with a set of designer dress shirts, a vintage track suit, and the flyest multicolored Carnival coat since Joseph in the book of Genesis. If you’re searching for a knowledgeable staff with an impeccable selection, look no further. –Greg Roques

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Store for Fast Feet: Varsity Sports
3450 Magazine St. | (504) 899-4144 | varsityrunning.com

I’ve been frequenting Varsity Sports for about 15 years now, and short of a podiatry clinic, there is no staff around that understands the mechanics of the foot as well as they do. My most recent purchase relieved pressure from a strained muscle overnight, knocking seconds off each mile; plus, these custom, special-edition shoes sport a Mardi Gras design so dazzling, you’d think it came from the Krewe of Muses. If you are an athlete, don’t even consider getting your kicks from anywhere else. –Greg Roques

Best Hidden Treasure in the Warehouse District: Crescent City Books
124 Baronne St. (formerly on Chartres Street) | (504) 524-4997 | CrescentCityBooks.com

Crescent City Books sits, nondescript, among the historic majesty and millennial modernity of the Warehouse District, like a mystic shop in a children’s fantasy just waiting to be found. The anachronistic aroma of an old library simmering off the aging pages housed in this used, out-of-print, and rare bookshop reminisces a time when readers hunted and gathered books among a labyrinth of shelves—a soon-extinct experience brought to you by Amazon. Visit this hidden gem and lose yourself in its eclectic collection. –Greg Roques

Andrew Marin:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Get Drunk on ‘90s Pop Culture: Turkey & The Wolf
739 Jackson Ave., (504) 218-7428, turkeyandthewolf.com

Although Turkey & The Wolf’s whimsical sandwiches and long lines get all the attention, their ever-changing cocktail list also deserves a look. Vintage glassware includes ET and Smurfette designs. Drink names play on Street Fighter II and other nostalgia. My personal favorite was “When I Was 10, I Went to School as a Dead Cheerleader for Halloween.” Yes, that was the drink’s name. Offbeat ingredients like coconut milk and Ovaltine make the drinks soar or sink, so choose wisely and be rewarded. –Andrew Marin

Leigh Wright:

Best Place to Pretend You're Connor McGregor: Mid City Martial Arts & Fitness Academy
4910 Banks St., (504) 309-7018, midcitymma.com

MMA (mixed martial arts) has really taken off in the fighting world, but is now positioning itself in the mainstream fitness arena as well. Mid City Martial Arts combines wrestling, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, no-gi wrestling, and striking to pull together a powerhouse curriculum of intense learning and combative practice. Shawn Gayton, the owner and lead instructor, is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and also coach to local pro-MMA fighter, Macy Chiasson. –Leigh Wright

Best Oyster BLT: Station 6 
105 Metairie-Hammond Hwy., Metairie; (504) 345-2936, station6nola.com

Admit it, you love a surf-and-turf. The lobster + steak heavyweight is overkill, but seafood and pork mashed together IS New Orleans. Station 6 has a shaded, comfortable patio and feels like a nice version of the family fishing cabin. Their oysters are $0.50 during Saints games, but the real pièce de résistanceis the Oyster BLT. It’s as simple as it is delicious: fried oysters, thick bacon, special “6 sauce,” tomato, lettuce, and pickles. –Leigh Wright

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Learn Self-Defense: Triumph Krav Maga, Metairie
2949 Veterans Blvd., (504) 324-5705, triumphkravmaga.com

Triumph has made a name as the place to learn self-defense. Their new location in Metairie has room for even more students to attend classes, new equipment for Cardio Bag and Monkey Bar Gym (a functional fitness curriculum), and top-notch instructors. This location is family-friendly, too, with Kids’ Krav classes as well as annual seminars such as “Anti-Kidnapping” or “Active Shooter,” where the highest-ranking black belts teach real-life scenarios and defenses. –Leigh Wright

Best Summer All-Day Cocktail: Aperol Spritz

Summer isn’t meant to sleep through, so don’t fill up on heavy, booze-laden cocktails. Chill out and cool down with an Aperol spritz, a drink meant and marketed since its conception as a social cocktail for the fitness-minded. Aperol is a fruity, herbaceous concoction that is added to Prosecco and soda water and typically garnished with an orange. Or, try Peychaud’s Aperitivo instead of Aperol for a deeper, more Campari-like flavor. –Leigh Wright

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best New New Orleans Sports Team: NOLA Gold Rugby 
1000 Salesian Ln., nolagoldrugby.com

There is little that New Orleanians like more than sports, fandom, and all-day tailgating. The new rugby team, NOLA Gold, started up this year and is already gaining lots of traction. They play at Shaw High School’s new stadium in Marrero. Rugby is the father of American football, so while the Saints aren’t playing, check out these hard-working men. They play other cities’ teams, such as Seattle, Austin, and Houston. It’s brutal, it’s intense, it’s New Orleans pride. –Leigh Wright

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best NOLA Race: Saints Kickoff Run 
Starts at Champions Square, saints5k.com (This year’s event takes place Saturday, September 8, at 7:30 a.m.)

Not many people get the chance to run under the goal posts and onto the field of the Superdome. Sign-up for this 5k, and you can end your run drinking beer where Brees and Payton give their post-game interviews. There is a concert the Friday night before and a Saints-themed costume contest on race day. The race is a quick jaunt up/down Poydras and into the French Quarter before ending on the 50-yard line inside the Dome. It’s not as crowded as many other races, so running in groups is more fun. –Leigh Wright

Best Underrated Section of New Orleans: New Orleans East

New Orleans East gets a bad rap most of the time, but if you venture out, you will be rewarded. Bayou Sauvage’s tranquil scenery and ease of access to nature makes it a great place for a family or day trip. On your way to or from a hike, swing by the now-famous Dong Phuong Bakery for lunch with treats like almond buns and moon cakes. If you want more of Louisiana nature, definitely see Audubon’s newly opened Audubon Louisiana Nature Center. –Leigh Wright

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place to Sweat Away a Summer Afternoon: The Drifter Hotel
3522 Tulane Ave., (504) 605-4644, thedrifterhotel.com

The hippest place to be seen these days is the Drifter. Located in a renovated motel on Tulane Avenue, the Drifter Hotel has a laid-back pool early in the day that gradually amps up (as does the music volume) into a nightlife club atmosphere. No one wants to sit around sweating all summer, so pay the $5 cover and drink $3 Tecates all day long. The vibe is a blend of bohemian, yuppie, service-industry, and millennial travelers. Stop hating on hipsters—you won’t hate your time there. –Leigh Wright

Fritz Esker:

Best Park in the Burbs: Lafreniere Park
3000 Downs Blvd., (504) 838-4389, lafrenierepark.org

Just off Veterans Boulevard is one of Greater New Orleans’s hidden gems: Lafreniere Park. It has a walking track, lagoons, disc golf, plentiful soccer fields, a man-made hill, and a diverse crowd (you’ll often hear multiple languages spoken in the park). There’s a Plum Street Snoballs stand for refreshments and an array of birds and ducks (the roosters can get a little ornery, though). What else could you want from a park? –Fritz Esker

Mike Perry:

Best of the Big Easy 2018: Writers' Picks

Best Place In Metairie For Your Inner Flower Child To Eat: Hippie Kitchen
3741 Jefferson Hwy., (504) 444-4113, khnola.com

Jefferson Parish is an unlikely place for hippies to have invaded, but their conquest is your culinary gain. With colorful psychedelic murals and an outdoor herb garden, Hippie Kitchen boasts seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients and a diverse menu with everything from pizza, wraps, and po-boys, to pasta, specialty drinks, and salads—all with an emphasis on healthy eating. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, HK offers unique flavor profiles that pander to meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans, and beyond. –Mike Perry

Cassandra Damascus:

Best Italian Imports: CIBO
1114 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 592-7797, cibonola.com

Offering New York bagels so good that customers buy them pre-cooked in order to freeze at home, CIBO is a fair-priced Italian staple in the Carrollton neighborhood. Meatballs? On point. Cannolis? Filled to order. Best Italian sandwich? The Imports Combo; it's a charcuterie platter between two slices of perfect Italian bread. Think ingredients such as prosciutto and its salty cousins, as well as fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers. CIBO is located Uptown along the streetcar line. –Cassandra Damascus

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