Writers' Picks

00:00 May 30, 2012
By: Kristal Blue


Best Restaurant to Receive a Fabulous "Doggie Bag" Emeril's 800 Tchoupitoulas St.

The original restaurant of well-known chef and celebrity Emeril Lagasse on Tchoupitoulas Street in the Warehouse District is already known as a fabulous dinner spot offering dishes like Sorghum Smoked Duck Breast with "Dirty" Fregola Sarda, Red Cabbage Choucroute and Truffle Pâtee or Andouille Crusted Drum with Grilled Vegetables, Shoestring Potatoes, Glazed Pecans and Creole Meunière Sauce. But what you may not know, or may not appreciate, is that the servers go the extra mile and package your leftovers in aluminum foil sculptured swans or large baskets with handles that make carrying home the remains of your meal not only classy, but fun as well!—Kim Ranjbar

Best Place to Have a Business Lunch Borgne 601 Loyola Ave.

Located in Downtown New Orleans, this eatery in the Regency Hyatt Hotel masters down-home sophistication with a menu that combines Canary Island flavors with the more traditional cooking techniques found in South Louisiana. Ten dollar weekday lunch specials are high on flavor (and portion size) but low on price. The natural light spilling in from floor to ceiling windows creates an atmosphere that's fresh and inspiring, just like the food.—Emily Smith

Best Place for a First Date Dinner Baru Bistro & Tapas 3700 Magazine St.

The rustic charm of this Bouligny restaurant is sweepingly romantic but never forced.

Bright colors and up-tempo music keep things fun while candlelit tables and intimate seating stimulate conversation. The tapasstyle menu is designed for sharing, so ordering a variety is encouraged. Entrèe portions tend to be much more generous, especially the pescado frito (whole fried fish) which is always fresh, so delicious, and meant for two people. Homemade Tres leches cake will seal the dinner (and the date).—Emily Smith

Best Restaurant With a Bar to Have Lunch and Work Maurepas 3200 Burgundy St.

The gorgeous copper-topped bar, exceedingly comfy chairs, soulful dishes (I tend toward the veggies and an order of creamy grits) and killer wine/cocktail list, makes for a perfect spot to whip out the iPad, sip a beverage, dine lusciously and tap out an article, surf the web or chat with the informationpacked bartender.—Lorin Gaudin

Best Place to Eat on Two Rolls of Pennies Espe's kitchen 1743 N. Broad St.

Sweet, no-fuss, soul food is at the heart of Espe's Kitchen, which cooks up the city's biggest breakfast bargain: 100 pennies gets you a heap of grits, one egg (fried, poached or scrambled), toast, and a sausage link or bacon strip. Breakfast lasts as long as the kitchen has grits, so you might turn that into a one-buck lunch as well.

Got folding cash? Then spring for Espe's simple, staircase-priced lunches: a $3 order includes red, white or butter beans with rice, moist cornbread and a chicken thigh (try it grilled, as it's perfectly seasoned). A $4 meal features a meatball and spaghetti, or chopped chicken salad, while $5 gets you catfish or trout with your choice of sides, or smothered turkey necks with rice. Shrimp or chicken alfredo round out the $6 options. Though service here isn't the quickest, it's usually pleasant, so I tend to tip well above 20 percent of these cut-rate plates.

You can pick up your meal to go at the side window, though you should dine in - chances are you'll get to thank owner Esperanza Arriola herself. With luck, she'll tell you stories about setbacks, faith, and the friends who helped her rebuild (she's also a former Marine).—Anne Berry

Best Place to Meet a Beautiful Blonde Norwegian Seamen's Church 1772 Prytania St.

No matter your faith, these gorgeous churchgoers are easy to meet; they throw lots of parties, and their worship services often roll into lunch and live music (often Swedish or all-string jazz ensembles, as well as the occasional touring Norwegian pop band).

Friends of the church are invited to National Norwegian Day (a good reason for prayer, a parade and dinner), golf tournaments, random rice porridge lunches, and even for fresh waffles after the weekly baby swim class (yes, the church has a good-sized pool right on the garden grounds, which also include a bandstand).

And these congregants can cook, strutting their culinary stuff at the church's Scandinavian festival, held early November. This, uh, smorgasbord includes layer cakes stuffed with raspberry and vanilla cream, open-faced sandwiches piled with dill and smoked salmon, gingersnaps and wafer cookies, and all homemade by sleek, rosy-cheeked blondes. Another bonus: browsing the festival's holiday bazaar for ornaments, knitwear, folk art and candles.

No matter when you go, be sure to shop the church store, which stocks meat and fish, canned goods, marzipan, chocolates, Scandinavian wines and soft drinks. Even if you don't meet your mate, you'll look Nordic cool.—Anne Berry

Best Places to Cool Your Jets Hansen's Sno Bliz 4801

Tchoupitoulas In summer's sizzle, put your cool where your mouth is—I offer you Hansen's Sno Bliz at 4801 Tchoupitoulas St., open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m.-7 p.m. A list of 20-something house made syrup flavors and a line that snakes out the door, allows plenty of decision-making time, and is part of the ritual. The combination of fluffy ice and homemade syrups—layered ice, syrup, ice, syrup—is each fully saturated Sno-Bliz, upholding Hansen's motto: "There are no shortcuts to quality." For 73 years and counting, with the fourth generation at the helm, it's easy to get hooked on many flavors. Right now, I'm stuck on the "Hot Rod," a traditional tart sno-bliz, stuffed with ice cream, but check out the newest syrup flavor getting lots of local love…Satsuma!

—Phil LaMancusa

Best Place for Surly Service Coop's Place 1109 Decatur St.

Coop's Place flew under the radar until right after hurricane Katrina when it suddenly became the most talked about "hole in the wall" joint/bar/eatery by locals and local food pundits. Always known for their crunchy fried chicken, passionate patrons spread the word about the soulful rabbit and sausage jambalaya, aromatic smoked duck quesadilla, classic redfish meuniere and deeply flavored gumbo, causing all and hungry to take a closer look. The food is tops, but service is often with a sneer, snarl or snark, and that's just the way I like it… So will you. Expect a line to get in to Coop's, they don' take reservations and they don't take any guff… Hours are 11a.m. until… — Phil LaMancusa

Best Place to Enjoy BBq Shrimp Liuzza's By The Track 1518 N. Lopez St.

Run, walk, taxi or gallop to Liuzza's By the Track, two blocks from the Fair Grounds (home to horse racing and Jazz Fest!). This little neighborhood restaurant and bar, famous for its fresh, home-cooked food, will have you in a quandary over what to order (always check out the daily specials), but their signature dish, and my favorite is the BBQ Shrimp po-boy. Miss B and her kitchen crew prepare fresh shrimp sautéed in Liuzza's own New Orleans BBQ Sauce (butter, butter and more butter with pepper and secret seasonings). Generous spoonfuls of the butter and spice-soaked shrimp are pulled from the cast iron skillet and tipped into hollowed out French bread. The contrast between spice, butter, sweet shrimp and crisp airy bread is Heaven. —Debbie Lindsey

Best One Buck Bargain Café Maspero 601 Decatur St.

Home of the "One Dollar Daiquiri." One dollar, including tax! That dollar gets a thirsty soul one snappy frozen rum libation in the following flavors: strawberry, strawberry or…strawberry. They even throw in two little straws to make sure every drop is enjoyed. Think of this drink as your own personal air conditioner in a cup. And here's a handy tip: food customers line the sidewalk, but dollar daiquiri imbibers can skip the line to purchase TO GO drinks and food, or to dine at the bar. Did I mention this drink is just ONE DOLLAR? P.S., don't forget to tip the bartender.—Debbie Lindsey

Favorite Weekend Brunch The Ruby Slipper 139 S. Cortez St.

Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West aren't the only fans of ruby slippers. With two locations—Mid-City and Downtown—The Ruby Slipper is a stellar way to enjoy a leisurely weekend brunch. Fruit-stuffed "Pain Perdu" (French Toast) is decadent, lush with fruit and sometimes sweetened cream cheese; and then there is the savory house special "BBQ Shrimp Blackstone"—gritcakes topped with poached eggs, barbecue shrimp and a barbecue shrimp Hollandaise. Sip a bubbly pomegranate mimosa, a superb, extra spicy Bloody Mary or a steaming mug of deep, dark coffee. When the weekend comes, it's time click your heels and prepare to indulge…there's no place like The Ruby Slipper. —Kimmie Tubrè


Most Eclectic French quarter Bar 1135 Decatur St.

This location has been a goth/industrial hot-spot for many years, so it shouldn't be new to anyone in the scene. It was best known as The Blue Crystal in the 1990s and early-2000s, The Whirling Dervish after that, then The Rubyfruit Jungle… now, simply, it just goes by its address. Many bars on lower Decatur are great for gathering with friends and hanging out without the difficulty of yelling over loud music. But 1135 Decatur is my current favorite because they have no problem with turning the televisions to Comedy Central instead of sports, not a common thing anywhere in the area. 1135 Decatur features a very long bar with comfortable seating around the venue, roomy bathrooms, and a small stage in the back with lots of disco lights where the majority of dancing happens. If the main room is too crowded, you can retreat to the small, comfortable room upstairs for soft music and a small bar so you don't have to take trips downstairs. The bar also hosts special parties and performances that you may be hard pressed to find elsewhere like themed costume nights or the hook-hanging troupe Pain Tribe. It's a good to place to unwind or party the night away on Lower D. — Emily Hingle

Best Bar Where You Can Act Glamorous (even though you're not) Whiskey Blue 333 Poydras St. (Inside the W Hotel)

Inside the W Hotel on Poydras Street lies a swanky little bar featuring dark, clublike lighting using simple votives and soft, squishy sofas to lounge upon. Attractive, yet attentive waitresses offer top-shelf libations from a blue-lit bar and tasty nibbles in the form of Kobe beef sliders or delicious shrimp tempura just decadent enough to make you feel like a spoiled movie star.—Kim Ranjbar

Best Neighborhood Bar to Watch the Saints Roberts' Bar and Liquor Store 3125 Calhoun St.

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Owned and operated by the Roberts family since 1933, Roberts Bar and Liquor Store has been faithfully serving customers for decades. Having affordable daily drink specials regardless of the time, competitive billiards, one serious ping-pong table, and friendly bartenders makes this establishment a fun dive bar on any occasion. However, it is during Saints' games that this arena truly comes alive. They put up a big projector screen at the back of the bar, which can be seen anywhere in the establishment. Also, the game is shown on all the flat screen TV's surrounding the bar area. Still, this is just one part of your Sunday football experience right? There are still $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbon's to be enjoyed if you happened to spend all your money that weekend, or other domestics to be enjoyed for under $3 a piece.

And, to be honest, the place makes one hell of a Bloody Mary to kick your morning off if you still feel winded from that weekends series of events. Also, the regulars there are like most New Orleanians who are friendly, easy to make conversation, and are rabid Saints' fans. So, jumping up and down like a mad man, screaming at the TV, or expelling a sweet "Sproles-Royce!" in excitement is completely acceptable. However, the main event and best kept secret about a Saint's game at Roberts' Bar is the BBQ! Every game day they have a big BBQ full of every sort of thing you can imagine, cooked to smoky perfection, and topped with local flavors. It is free to everyone purchasing, all the Roberts Bar locals ask is that each attendee bring a little dish to prepare.

The food is delicious and will warm your bones during the brisk fall season. Good people, great drinks, outstanding free food, and the New Orleans Saints' doing what they do best. Sounds like a good way to spend a Sunday.—Chris DiBenedetto

Best New Monthly Music Event Simple Saturdays at The Maison 508 Frenchmen St.

Have you ever mapped out every live concert that you want to attend for a month and said to yourself, "Wow how am I going to afford all this?" That is precisely why the minds behind local concert promotion and management company, Simple Play Presents, have come up with Simple Saturday; a free concert once a month at The Maison on Frenchmen Street that combines popular nationally touring acts with local groups to make for one outstanding night that does not break your wallet. The first of these was held in February and featured the Atlanta's popular electro-rock band Zoogma. Paired with the funky groove sounds of local group Earphunk, it was an outstanding show with a packed house of good people, great drinks and of course free entry!

If you have ever been to a concert put on by Simple Play Presents you will also notice that no expense is spared. They are as professional as you can get as the company strives to produce an ultra-sensory experience for every act and audience member throughout the night, making this the perfect way to see some of your favorite touring groups. Keep your eyes alive and look for the next headlining act coming at you for Simple Saturdays at The Maison. It'll be top notch, amazingly entertaining and FREE! It's really a simple decision—check out Simple Saturdays.—Chris DiBenedetto

Best Place to Hear Live Jazz The Maison 508 Frenchman St.

I'm aware how bold a statement this is. However, when you take into account the quality of the musicians, the atmosphere, the location of the bar, the drinks, the food... the choice is clear. Maison is a spacious bar located in the heart of the French Quarter, that opens at 5 p.m. every day. They close at 1 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, serving food the entire time. They have live music every night, and most nights there are multiple jazz groups performing. Make sure you try their rum punch when you get there, as it's the best tasting alcoholic beverage I've ever had. The menu has creative appetizers for one, two or four people. Steaks, salads and po-boys… the menu is huge. Check out maisonfrenchman. com to see all the food offerings and a live music calendar to see who will be performing weeks in advance.

—Peter DuPont

Best Place to Drink if You Are Broke Rocco's Tavern 7601 Maple St.

Come to Rocco's and enjoy drinks with friends in a relaxing atmosphere that won't break the bank. For $5 you can get a 20 oz. Long Island, a 20 oz. Green Wave or a 20 oz. Rocco's Punch. Green Wave tastes like Mountain Dew, and Rocco's Punch has a sweet fruity taste. Both are delicious.

Rocco's has competitive prices all the time, but it's the specials that make it unique. Some Mondays they have "rockpaper-scissors night." From 9-12 p.m. you order a drink and then play the bartender in rock-paper-scissors. You lose, you pay full price for the drink. You win, you pay nothing. Every Wednesday is "penny pitcher night." You pay a $5 cover, and from 9-12 p.m. every pitcher of Bud Light is free. If that wasn't enough, for an additional $5 you can get a pitcher of rum and coke, Long Island, or either of the two specialty drinks I mentioned earlier.

There are other drink specials for the other days of the week—check their Facebook page for daily updates.—Peter DuPont

Best Stress Relief Festival Wednesday at the Square

Leave it up to the city of festivals to host an afternoon treat like Wednesday at the Square. This 12 week concert series is a pleasure for any CBD 9-5 worker who needs a mid-week break from the daily grind. Filled with delicious dishes from local NOLA restaurants and vendors and a wide variety of drink selections, Wednesday at the Square is put on by and supports the Young Leadership Council.

Located in Lafayette Square, Wednesday at the Square is a free festival that begins in spring and ends in early June. While its time is almost up for the year, don't worry, this festival is annual and will be waiting for you next go round in 2013.

So as you embrace your week, and don't hesitate to get some R&R on hump day by indulging in Wednesday at the Square every spring in Lafayette Square.—Kimmie Tubrè

Favorite Sexy Cocktail Victory Bar 339 Baronne St.

This is definitely not your average New Orleans Bar. Victory Bar is an eclectic casual lounge, a description which can be said for not only their unique variety of drinks but also the diversity of patrons the bar attracts.

Victory Bar is the home of some extraordinarily sexy cocktails, including: "The Dante,""Chicago 71," and my personal favorite, the fabulous "Baby Light my Fire".

By the way, nothing is sexier than a flaming cocktail.

This drinker's paradise is a pleasant and refreshing treat for the NOLA scene. —Kimmie Tubrè


Best Place to People Watch The Streetcar

When I began working in the French Quarter, I was confronted by an all too common debacle—finding a cheap place to park. Fortunately, I live a mere five blocks away from the St. Charles streetcar line. Unfortunately, the last time I had actually ridden the streetcar, I was a little tyke with pigtails, sitting on my mom's lap, sticky fingers tapping the window as we rambled down the oak-covered avenue. But after learning the system as an adult, I soon became "a regular" on the streetcar route. A handful of familiar faces frequent my 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. commute —the lady who dons the wide-brimmed hat, black shift dress and glowing pearls, while demurely crossing her stockinged legs; the Civil War reenactor, glistening from head to toe in silver spray paint, who chats with the conductor; the gentleman wearing a three piece suit and pristine white Reeboks, who is always immersed in a book that screams suspense; the tattooed hipster with her ears ensconced in hot pink headphones, who softly bops her head, while her ruby red lips form a sublime smile; the occasional drunk who decides to stand in the center of the aisle and call out notable sights along the route - accurate or not, impossible to understand because of the slurs; and of course a handful of tourists. The garrulous one of the group taps me on the shoulder and asks, "Do you take the trolley often?" "Yep," I reply, and add - without sounding like a snob condemning a philistine for his mistake—"I love taking the streetcar. It's one of the best ways to experience this crazy and eclectic city that I call home"…or something to that effect. —Suzzanne Pfefferle

Best Dog Rescue New Orleans Fairy Tails 633 Toulouse St.

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

She saves one little life at a time. Marita is a one-woman animal rescue organization. Oh, she is quick to credit the volunteers who foster and make possible the rescue and ultimate placement of a dog into a loving family and the donations that enable the process. But this rescue service truly steps up to the plate when other larger and better-financed groups cannot. With due respect for all the other rescue organizations out there—as they are all guardian angels to desperate and needy animals-- I never cease to be amazed by the can-do spirit of this one woman and her volunteer foster parents. She catches the ones that fall between the cracks.

Rescue, health evaluations, spay, neuter, heartworm tests, shots, foster placement, rehabilitation (if needed), and placement in a loving and lasting home are made possible through the sales of the New Orleans Fairy Tails Canine Calendar Marita creates annually. Every dollar from these sales (as well as any donation) will go directly to the dogs. These calendars are a must for any dog lover, and they make great keepsakes for our visitors. Take home a souvenir that will give a home to a dog in need.

Calendars available at 633 Toulouse in the French Quarter, and for more info go to neworleansfairy-tails.com.—Debbie Lindsey

Best Bayou St. John Experience kayak-iti-Yat 3840 Bienville St.

Bayou St. John is one of our City's great treasures. This waterway is steeped in history, surrounded by our local culture and architecture, and absolutely flush with wildlife and flora. To truly experience our Bayou, I suggest kayaking. Your guides and "newbest-friends," Sara and Sonny, at Kayak-iti- Yat can make this a safe and memorable excursion.

They offer various excursions ranging from two to four hours, and cost per person starts at $40 and tops at $60 (as of this printing). My favorite tour was the 9 a.m. Pontchartrain Paddle that allowed time for a brief walk from the Bayou to Lake Pontchartrain for a swim. I learned more about this waterway and this area's history in the tour's four hours than in the 20-some-odd years I've lived here and walked its banks.

Sonny and Sara have put together an excellent website that not only offers upto-date price and schedule information but also a brief history on the bayou and wonderful photography. It will make you want to slather on some sunscreen and call them at 985-778-5034 or 512-964-9499 for your very own reservations.—Debbie Lindsey

Best Place to Get On Your Inner Crafter quarter Stitch 630 Chartres St.

The Chartres Street outpost for all things stitchery. Quarter Stitch has gorgeous textiles, yarns, needles and canvases to satisfy a need to create needle art. Clementine Hunter needlepoint kits (large and small) kill, the staff is helpful, and it's a great thing to grab a few peaceful minutes on a bench at Jackson Square take do some needlework while soaking up local color.—Lorin Gaudin

My Favorite Place to Watch the Game My House

There is nothing like a home-field advantage. I get to wear what I want to wear (unless the wife complains too much). I get to walk around wherever I want and not have to worry about being in someone's special room. And I don't have to check with the cook to see if there is a food that I'm allergic to.—Pierce Huff

Best Local Event Listing Website www.noladiy.org

There are so many websites that tell people everything that's happening aroundthe city every night. But one stands out as a good listing for alternative concerts and other events that you would normally just need to know people to find out about. The name of the site stands for NOLA Do-It-Yourself; and anyone can submit event information to be posted. Listings range from concerts of every genre to underground festivals, films, classes, swaps, the occasional house party and so much more. The front page has the events happening that night, but when you click on the link for all the listings, don't be surprised when you see results scheduled for months to come. The site is also advertisement-free, and is very low-key with a simple black background and white lettering to keep you focused on all of the offerings. You can find the most interesting, out-there, sometimes outrageous events happening that you may not hear about anywhere else.— Emily Hingle

Best Neighborhood for Halloween Faubourg Marigny

All of the competitors for this category are close, but you can't beat the crowds and music of Frenchmen Street on Halloween night.

It does get very, very crowded, but the array of costumes makes you want to get stuck in the crowd. This street has the best mixture of costumes, with locals wearing the most elaborate and funny outfits. You can also find a few balconies to hang out on, sometimes for free with few people on it, and no annoying cat calls to bare your chest. Every club has got a great lineup of brass, rap, rock, and the jazz that often pours out of the bars there. It's got the feel of Bourbon Street, but with better music and less oblivious tourists. If you do get weary of the massive amount of people but don't want to end your night, you can easily slip to a side street and visit another, not-so-packed bar like R Bar or The John. Where else are you going to see a boat parked on the street with the whole crew of Gilligan's Island dancing inside? — Emily Hingle

Best Place to Find a Hat Meyer the Hatter 120 Saint Charles Ave.

New Orleans now has am epidemic of foot massage parlors and hat store openings. I predict that soon all of our visitors will be wearing snappy brims with freshly groomed tootsies. BUT, us that consider ourselves above the norm, not only take care of our own feet but we go to Meyer The Hatter for our lids. Just ask the doctor, Dr. John, of course. Located at 120 St. Charles Ave. it's spitting distance from the French Quarter and is the South's largest hat store. Open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and closed on Sundays. You can't miss it; it is an emporium dedicated to caps, boaters, Panamas, fedoras and berets. From Kangol, Stetson, Bailey and Capas. The store is hardly ever empty and the prices are reasonable but not cheap; because as you know, you can buy a cheap hat, but that just makes you look….well. Tell them the Doctor sent you.—Phil LaMancusa

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