(Re)discovering Hometown Gems

15:30 January 08, 2016
By: David Danzig

As a local resident of a city built on tourism, it’s easy to feel like a stranger in a strange land, even in your own backyard. And while we’re all flattered that the world enjoys our bounty of native sights and sounds, the massive herds repel us from the very same attractions that draw outsiders to our fair berg. But unless you were born and raised in New Orleans, you are surely guilty of having once been a tourist yourself—admit it, it was that experience that probably converted you to living here full time! Well, perhaps it is time to re-cross that boundary line from local to tourist and partake of a few of the things that make NOLA such a jewel to the outside world. Here are few of the sites we have recently rediscovered:

(Re)discovering Hometown Gems

Confederate Memorial Hall Museum—With all of the recent hubbub around the Confederate battle flag and local monuments dedicated to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, our own Confederate Memorial Hall Museum on Camp Street feels more relevant than ever. Built in 1891 for the express purpose of commemorating military history and Southern heritage, this shrine does an excellent job of preserving Civil War artifacts in a tasteful way that honors many of the people who fought in (and lost) the War Between the States. Many of the relics elucidate the human side of this terrible conflict, shedding life on the day-to-day experiences of the soldiers and leaving aside the politics and ideologies that are still raw to this day. www.confederatemuseum.com

(Re)discovering Hometown Gems

Steamboat Natchez—When was the last time you really paid attention to the Mississippi River? Not just drove past it or over it, but paused and really took in its gargantuan greatness? If you’re like most locals, probably not since you were a kid. The river not only provides life and prosperity to our city, but also fosters a Zen-like calm and should be celebrated. There is no better way to take in its enormity and scope than on the Natchez, the last authentic steamboat still running on the river. Take in amazing scenery as the captain points out landmarks and elucidates history on cruises that serve food and offer jazz. Yes, it might seem overwhelmingly touristy on some levels, but nothing brings out our geography, history and literature like rolling on the river. www.steamboatnatchez.com

(Re)discovering Hometown Gems

Arnaud’s—While most of us prefer to avoid the French Quarter like a Category 5 storm, your snooty boycotting is costing you some seriously good eating. I just recently rediscovered the joys of Arnaud’s, the sprawling classic French Quarter spot that can almost taste its 100th birthday (in 2018). Turn off wretched Bourbon Street onto charming Bienville and feel welcomed by the gas lanterns flickering outside Arnaud’s door. Inside, the time capsule of Old New Orleans is alive and well with a historic energy that still burns brightly. Drink in the time-warped relics on the walls, floors and ceilings and immerse yourself in the food that draws diners from around the planet—the Shrimp Arnaud, the Oysters Bienville, the filet mignon Charlemond and, of course, the signature soufflé potatoes. I assure you, these tastes still delight as much as they did the first time I dined here as an outsider. With service from the steady hands of their army of career maestro waiters, you almost feel like your meal itself is of historical significance. Tell me where else you can have an experience like that? To celebrate the holidays, Arnaud’s has extended hours and features festive menus for both their legendary cuisine and their craft cocktails. The Reveillon dinner menu will be available through December, and on select dates they will be offering a lunch between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar has a holiday menu of seasonal cocktails available as well! www.arnaudsrestaurant.com

(Re)discovering Hometown Gems

The National WWII Museum—In many ways, our city stands as a living museum unto itself, an artifact of unique Americana preserved unlike any other place in the Union. But without question, the National WWII Museum deserves our recognition as the greatest museum within the museum that is our city. A sprawling and glorious pavilion of civic ambition and historical significance, this Warehouse District gem demands our local support. Wander through the time capsule of planes, trains and military automobiles; the guns, the uniforms, the tanks—all of the artifacts displayed in ways that will make you feel like you are there in the North African, European and Pacific theaters during this solemn time in world history. And the 4D movie experience, Beyond All Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks, now several years old, remains one of the greatest cinematic experiences most of you will ever have. www.nationalww2museum.org                                                                                                                           

(Re)discovering Hometown Gems

American Sector—Like a well-camouflaged mess hall, American Sector has to be the best restaurant in the city hiding in plain sight right now. Chef Eric Cook helms this jewel headquartered at the National WWII Museum compound, cooking with the passion of a GI trying to get home to see his best girl. Even if you don’t attend an exhibit, it’s worth a trip to the Warehouse District to dig into some of the most creative gourmet comfort food in the country. Playing on the military theme, you can delve into Victory Garden salads (including corn-fried oysters), small plates (crab boil fritters), sandwiches (open-faced pot roast) and entrees (short ribs and shrimp and grits). Cook maintains a freakish devotion to local sourcing and does his own butchery. Do not dismiss this as just a museum cafe; try it and you’ll want to storm these beaches for lunch and dinner all the time. Throughout December, the Victory Belles are performing “A Swinging Christmas,” and a special New Year’s Eve “Vegas Style” event is being held to conclude the holiday season! www.nationalww2museum.org/american-sector/index.html

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