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Best of the Big Easy Writers' Picks

00:00 May 28, 2013
By: Staff

Best Place for Big Kid Cookies

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Saint Lawrence: 219 N Peters St., saintlawrencenola.clom Get your mind out of the bong ashes; these cookies aren't as baked as you might assume. When I say "big kid cookie," what I mean is it's an American childhood classic-turned-artisanal sweet that's superior to any countertop jar cookie out there. St. Lawrence's Milk and Cookies dessert—3 tempura-fried Oreos that dance around a scoop of vanilla ice cream encircled by a peanut-y chocolate sauce—is straight-up sinful. Not many sweets out there are so good they'll make you admit that you were once a fat kid and always will be. I'll put it even more bluntly: it is the kind of dessert that makes me wonder how many women on the Titanic passed up the dessert cart. The dish just screams YOLO, y'all. Pair it with a White Russian and you really know how to live. — Jhesika Menes

Best Place to Have a Guilt-Free Margarita

El Gato Negro: 81 French Market Pl., www.elgatonegronola.com El Gato Negro has the right idea. Fresh juices like carrot and pineapple tango with other healthy bits, like watermelon and cilantro, to make you forget you're about to chug a cup full of tequila and get the party started. The Blood of the Devil Margarita may be an innocent pink, but it certainly lives up to its name. Upon first sip you know what's up—your core temperature. A premium tequila infused in-house with serrano peppers gives this sweet drink a spicy and unforgettable kick. The Carrot and Lime Margarita tastes like something you put through your VitaMix for a post-workout cool-down, and the Watermelon is just pure danger. There are very few fruity drinks I could live on, but ay Dios mio! This is one. — Jhesika Menes

Best Culinary Book Store

Kitchen Witch Cookbook Shop: 631 Toulouse St., kwcookbooks.com Maybe I shouldn't be singing praises for this shop, as it belongs not only to me, but also to another writer for this magazine, Phil LaMancusa. However, it's the only bookstore in this region dedicated to cooking so I hope no feelings will be hurt.

Why do we want you to visit our shop? First, we're famous. Not a good reason, we'll never get rich peddling books, but we look damn good in a glossy magazine.

Okay, seriously, we believe the French Quarter needs to maintain an anachronistic aestheticism. Our Quarter's architecture should house something more than just "shopping mall" merchandize. And our shop does its part, offering a time-capsule experience upon entering.

We offer thousands of cooking and food literature books—new, used, rare and out-of-print. Also music--primarily vinyl. The décor consist of culinary antiques, collectibles, and local art (much of it for sale). There's no library quiet—WWOZ is a constant; the place smells of bread toasting and our lunch plates start appearing around noon amid left over wine bottles from our book signing parties. Weekends, our dogs are underfoot and it feels like a visit to your wacky aunt's house—an aunt who talked too much and had a penchant for dust and clutter.

When it comes to best bookstore, there are no runners-up, no second places. Any business honoring the written word—be it a leather bound classic or paperback pulp fiction—is doing their part to keep this city real. — Debbie Lindsey

Best Swimming Pool Ever!

Stallings: 1600 Gentilly Blvd., 658-3000 You've passed it a hundred times. It's an unassuming park at 1600 Gentilly Boulevard. Sometimes all you might notice are some guys on park bench sipping their breakfast in a bag—not what you'd expect at a NORDC playground. You might walk by and never give the pool a second look. Well I am here to tell you that an Olympic size swimming pool awaits you and it is free. I fancy myself an amateur pool aficionado. I love pools—any size, any kind. The mere smell of chlorine sends me. I swam them all—from high school gyms to resort hotels and this pool is one of the best ever. The water is expertly maintained, with a perfect balance of chemicals and freshness. It takes skill and diligence to go up against a hot day's worth of kids and suntan oil and retain consistent clarity.

NORDC (New Orleans Recreation and Development Commission) sponsors various free public pool facilities and swim classes throughout the City (www.nola.gov/nordc for more info or call 504-658-3000). But for me, Stallings is my favorite. There is something about swimming right in my own neighborhood. It connects you to the people and place. But what I love the most is feeling like a kid again. Waking up, throwing a pair of cut-offs on over my suit, tossing a towel atop my shoulder and flip flopping my way through the early morning towards those cool blue waters. — Debbie Lindsey

Best Place For a Quick Hairstyling

Blo: 5530 Magazine St., 570-6101 For those of you out there who absolutely cannot do anything with your hair on your own, Blo is the way to go for doing your 'do. The salon has no cutting instruments, as they only wash and style your hair, so you can have a fabulous style in under an hour (typically much quicker than that, depending on your chosen style). The chic, yet quirky salon invites you to peruse its style menu in small hot pink books to choose the one you want. Then the friendly staff leads you past a wall with portraits of the fabulous Marilyn Monroe to the washing station with all-white, comfy chairs for a quick wash. After the washing ritual, you're whisked off to have the styling completed at the long white styling area, complete with pink glass counters. I chose the Sex, Hugs, and Rock n' Roll design when I went there, and my straight-as-a-board hair was transformed into a mountain of sexy, luxurious curls. Those that don't have such naturally straight hair can go with the Red Carpet or Executive Sweet, which will give you straightness without sacrificing volume or bounce. For the sophisticated updo, you must try the Hunt Club ponytail and bump. The basic Blo Out styling costs $35, and you can purchase extras for intricate updos, extension additions, and even head massages. Whatever style you desire, Blo can 'do it up for you. —Emily Hingle

Best Trivia Night

Half Moon Bar: 1125 St Mary St., halfmoonnola.com Any establishment that has trivia is a great place to me. A group of friends answering the important questions of life over some good drinks, regardless of where we are, is a perfect night. But Half Moon

Bar & Grill, just off Magazine Street at 1125 St. Mary Street, does have its perks. Not uncommonly, the competing teams must come up with inventive team names to win the first points of the night. The award is based on what catches the judge's eye. The winners are usually based on current events, like the winning name based on Paralympian Oscar Pistorious' ongoing murder trial: "I'd Like to Believe Oscar Pistorious But I Don't Think He Has a Leg to Stand On." Trivia topics range, of course, but I find theirs to be the most challenging. One night, I had to rack my brain trying to remember medieval and Renaissance-era scientists and their chosen fields of study. Half Moon has also included rounds that are based on naming songs or song artists from listening to the first few seconds of a song, which I haven't seen at other trivia nights in the area yet. Moreover, the bar keeps regular players interested in coming back the next week by releasing a bonus question on Twitter which can earn you some points days before the game starts. As I said previously, I love trivia anywhere it happens, but Half Moon Bar earns the right to pick goodies out of the Prize Bucket, and wins a bar tab. —Emily Hingle

Best Restaurant to Play "Guess What I'm Having for Dinner?"

Adolfo's: 611 Frenchmen St.: 948-3800 Although you can assume you're eating Italian food going by the name of the restaurant and the specials the waiter might rattle off, Adolfo's is so dark, you'll need a flashlight to read the menu. Located above the Apple Barrel Bar on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny, this tiny eatery has a rolling wooden floor where your next step could be higher or lower than the last and the lighting is so "romantic" as to leave you squinting at a menu mere inches from your nose. It might help to charge your smart phone and, if you don't already have it, download the flashlight smartphone app. In the new "smokeless" atmosphere we enjoy in restaurants these days, busting out your Zippo might be frowned upon, so my best advice is to just wing it and hope your dish tastes like the one you ordered. — Kim Ranjbar

Best Spot to Sing Along with the Chef

Juan's Flying Burrito: 2018 Magazine St., juansflyingburrito.com Less than a block from where Magazine Street, St. Andrew and Sophie Wright Place make a triangle, Juan's Flying Burrito is slinging some of the most popular "Mexican" food in the city where the chefs like to sing along to classic 80's tunes blaring from the radio. While browsing the menu and trying to decide between Flying Burrito or a Juaha Roll, you'll probably start mouthing the words to Guns N'Roses "Sweet Child O'Mine." Heavily tattooed and pierced servers don't seem to mind if you belt out the chorus to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" with the chef who's grilling up a pork-laden "Al Pastor" burrito, just as long as you keep ordering their fresh margaritas and extra queso and tortilla chips. — Kim Ranjbar

Best Place to Drink Craft Beer, Eat Oysters, and Watch Football and Fiddler on the Roof at the Same Time

Cooter Brown's: 509 S Carrollton Ave., cooterbrowns.com Cooter Brown is a name that has come to signify drunkenness. According to both Wikipedia and Urbandictionary.com, Cooter Brown supposedly lived on the line that divided the North and South during the Civil War making him eligible for draft on both sides. He also had family on both sides. So, 'Ol Cooter decided to stay drunk until the war ended so that he would be seen as useless either way. Today, Cooter Brown's is the name of a Frankfurt Kentucky impromptu boxing ring, an 80 proof blended whiskey, a Devin the Dude song and what some have called an "upscale dive bar," on the outskirts of Uptown, New Orleans.

Besides being known as a place where patrons can go to "walk the line" (even if it is a little blurry), Cooter Brown's has over 400 domestic and imported beers, 17 flat screens and 2 eight foot drop downs for all of your NFL, NHL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, MLS and FIFA needs. Not into sports? Try the following tips from my acclaimed repertoire of ways to feign interest almost anywhere: 1. smoke a cigarette (allowed inside). 2. Check out college co-eds. 3. Turn your attention to the out-of-place black and white movie playing in the corner. 4. Just focus on drinking more beer. If worse comes to worse you can always grab a code red daiquiri across the street. If that's not a selling point, I don't know what is. — Lauren Adam

Best Place to Buy a Book

Maple Street Books: 7529 Maple St., maplestreetbookshop.com Word on the street is, the book is dead. I beg to differ and so does Maple Street Books. Left wing feminists and free thinkers Mary Kellog and her sister Rhonda Norman opened the Maple Street Bookshop in 1964. Since then, they have successfully opened two new locations, coined the phrase "fight the stupids" and gained recognition from Publishers Weekly and The New York Times as New Orleans best independent bookstore. Next year they will celebrate their 50 th anniversary.

Perhaps best described a an authentic neighborhood store, Maple Street was one of the first businesses open after Katrina, offering free coffee to the public in lieu of the closed PJs and Starbucks. They host readings, book clubs and throngs of students utilizing free Wi-Fi, beverages and the charming wrap around porch. In addition, they give a 10% discount for students and seniors on Tuesdays, a 10% discount for New Orleans volunteers, 10% discount for any teacher or faculty member (including school librarians). — Lauren Adam

Best Place for Coffee and Beignets

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Morning Call City Park: 56 Dreyfous Dr., morningcallcoffeestand.com If you're of an old school—sometimes got to be—"away from the madding crowd" type of person, you, gentle reader, might be just the brand of biped that would thrill to have a place to go, sit outdoors, have some coffee and beignets, not fight crowds and not be overly anxious or critical. If you're ready to chill and want to know that there's a spot ready with a table for you, among trees and breezes and no one concerned about you hurrying, then you're my kind of monkey. Do you like City Park? Like to converse intelligently and civilly at reasonable decibels with chosen companions? Do you want to relax while the kids run amok in a safe environment? Want to go out for a java, sit down at midnight or later, unwind and not be bothered while you compose prose, poetry, mull over the day's occupation? Or take that certain someone to watch the submarine races? Do you want to take your dog out and commiserate at ease? Need a caffeinated oasis where you can take a load off and think uninterrupted? Morning Call in City Park is open 24/7. There's no tap dancers, shoeshine boys or panhandlers (at least not yet). They're right by the sculpture garden, have ice cream, WiFi, local foods and clean restrooms. You'll be served on real plates, cups, saucers and glasses for water. The staff wears spiffy white jackets and those cute paper hats. They aim to please you. Priced reasonably, and you get to put your own powdered sugar on your beignets. Bring Fido. — Phil LaMancusa

The Doctor Is In

Dr. David Averbuck

Dr. David Averbuck wears many hats: he's a lawyer, educator, philosopher, and award-winning Guardian of the Groove. You'll see him at the Bestoff Sculpture Gardens dispensing wisdom and knowledge, in the Jazz Tent at Fest time, at Piano Night and you can listen to him on our community-supported radio station, WWOZ, spinning platters and discs. Those of you that cannot make the connection deserve a clue. Does the name Jelly Roll Justice mean anything to you? If not, why not? You'd have to live under witness protection not to have had his deep rich baritone hit a soft spot in your consciousness. I mean it. When you hear his voice, you just know that you need to listen up and pay attention.

Here's something that you should know that he's behind: donations of music for KLSP-91.7. Now, you probably haven't heard of KLSP unless you're in Angola Prison. They have a radio station of their own. Yep, it's called the Incarceration Station and all of the DJs are inmates. There are over 5,000 inmates in Angola Penitentiary. 85% percent will never get to leave. KLSP plays contemporary jazz, all types of blues, country, gospel, old and contemporary R&B. They don't play rap, bounce or hip-hop. WWOZ teamed up with KLSP in a music project to continue to expand the station's inventory and repertoire, and as a tribute to someone who around here is considered a hometown hero, I want you to go through your CDs, pick out some (in good shape) that fit the criteria above, and get them to

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