Most times when folks visit New Orleans, they head for gastronomical places like the Big 5 as I like to call them -Antoine’s, Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, Galatoire's & K Paul’s ... oh, I know there are so many more like Broussard’s, Emeril's, Arnaud’s, the Rib Room, any of Dickie B's, Jacques-Imo, as well as my favorite hautes like the the Gumbo Shop, Central, Maspero's and Red Fish Grill.
This time, our mini vacation was about our little Max as we decided on this trip we would not leave him alone in the hotel while we enjoyed any of the 4 or 5 star eateries mentioned above. Now, he did pick his favorite hotel, the Royal Orleans. I think he gets a kick from all the fuss the doorman makes over him and the fact that everyone knows his name. So our food ventures were a limited to dog-friendly establishments which by law means outdoors as in places that serve more food than alcohol and indoors for a few of the bars (yea). He also likes this hotel 'cause it's fairly close to Riverview Park with lots and lots of green space, a rarity in the French Quarter.
First stop into the city was to check out a top beer establishment also voted the best beer selection in the city 4 years running, The Bulldog, (dog friendly of course) on Magazine St in the Garden District. They also have pretty darn good grub too as we each enjoyed a bite to eat, respectfully a spicy grilled chicken sammie dressed with avocados, a blackened chicken sammie fully dressed, a delicious milkbone medley and a few really cold ones before heading into the French Quarter. You can see in the photo the top of a waterfall made from some of the many beer spouts that form the waterfall and is the backdrop to the patio seating. Shaded under trees and with the help of fans, Max thought this was a pretty cool place to start.
Next stop was the hotel, and boy was Max glad to see Leroy and I think he was glad to see Max too. A quick stop up to our room (must have been the beers for us) and Max was ready to hit the park. He had a lot of catching up to do, a lot of news to read if you know what I mean. No bush left unnoticed I'm here to tell ya. Then it was back to see Leroy - Hawkins is is last name and he's been at the Royal Orleans for nearly 40 years. He never forgets a face, no matter how small nor how low down you are, Leroy is a super nice guy that knows a thing or two about respect for the little things in life.
After a little rest, a refreshng shower, we headed out for some tastes of New Orleans. Now I had my mind on one thing, Max really didn't care. If I had my rathers, I would have headed toward places like Domilise's, Johnny's, the Parkway Bakery & Tavern or maybe Mother's, but that is where Max would have drawn the line, no dogs allowed... so off we went and through marvels of the iphone, we searched for roast beef po-boy and found a rated one just around the corner, Chartres House Cafe, billed as 'where the locals eat' yet we found it to be more touristy and the patio courtyard was a bit run down, almost lacked of any care, I suppose in the heat of the summer, no one but dogs sit out there. Nevertheless, we ordered and watched as the staff went to and from the front dining area to the kitchen through the open courtyard, (strange as it sounds, many NOLA restaurants do the same). We started with a crab and corn bisque 'Blue Louisiana crabmeat and corn in a cream based soup. You will love it!' read the menu. It was more like canned corn and crab mess, enough said... Then came my po-boy, 'Hot roast beef and brown gravy served on French bread. Warning! It’s a mess, but it’s also the best! Awesome with cheese!', at least they warned me. Actually, it tasted pretty good, nice tasting brown gravy, tender meat and good, fresh bread only found in New Orleans. The red beans served over rice with smoked sausage was just ruin of the meal, so to speak. Oh, Max enjoyed a bowl of ice water, more doggie treats and a little bite of roast beef. He actually thought it was lip smacking. We headed out for our nightly stroll and then it was time for bedtime. Yup, all three of us tired pups.
The morning greeted us with cloudy skies and drops of rain and the park seemed further away for little Max and then there was that insane Mockingbird that did bomber dives after him as we crossed the streetcar tracks. Every single time we crossed the tracks there she was, I'm sure protecting her nest, Max couldn't care less of the reason. All he wanted was his stroll and then on to his breakfast and as you can see, he waited patiently as we ate ours which consisted of pastries, omelets, grits, french toast, bacon and of course, little treats for him outside a cafe on Royal Street and just a few blocks down toward Canal Street. Max seemed to get a lot of attention although I sometimes I think it annoys him.
Max spent much of the morning doing what he does best, wandering the streets, window shopping and greeting passersby folks all while dodging puddles in the streets. After a few hours of panting, our paws were tired and we landed a spot in the shade at The Market Cafe for a cold refresher (or two) and a little dixieland jazz. Max even got into the spirit a little and enjoyed doing a little people watching before settling down. Here's a short clip.
Just down from there, more walking and shopping, this time an ice cream treat for Max in the French Market. People got a kick out of him sitting on a stool enjoying one of summer's pleasure. Strolling through the aisles of merchants, browsing the venders for nick-knacks and a few spices here and there, we managed to get to the other end without being stepped on. Then it was time to head around the block and check out another joint we remember from a few years ago, a local favorite that at the time had some of the best home cooked meals like crusted fried chicken and pork chops with mashed potatoes laden with thick, saucy brown gravy. We had read some pretty poor reviews of late, but ya know, talking it out loud, most folks only leave bad comments, few take the time to rave about a place. Besides, a joint can't be everything to everybody and we knew eating there years ago this ain't no 5-star. Florella's is just fine with us, I remember it having one of the better roast beef sandwiches a while back, country style cooking and lots of it for the price. So that is where we landed for lunch and we are glad we did, the chicken was just as good as we remembered, the chops smaller but tasted mighty fine especially covered in all that gravy along side the large pile of homemade taters. A medley of steamed veggies came with it, something new as I remember sides like collards before, but times do change I suppose. In all, we would give it a good 4 out of 5 and only the negative because of the change.
After such a big lunch, we needed to do a little more walking around, and we did. Max led us back down Decatur street and over to Royal street. We sensed he was on a trail to something big and low and behold, he found it. Just Dogs! Gourmet, a bakery store and more chocked full of clothing, toys, leashes for people to hang on, all types of gourmet treats for the picky finicky eaters. Max picked out a few treats asking for several packaged goodies to take back to Mobile.
Then it was on toward Jackson Square. He had his eyes on several of those mules lining the street. He just loved to sneak up behind them and give out a quick bark or two, never missing a step in heading toward the next one. In all, he must have startled at least a dozen. Yep, he got a real kick of it.
Now, I am not sure what all they yelp and conversed about, but I think Max had a pretty good time in this pub.
I knew it was getting late in the afternoon and none of us had even thought of our afternoon nap, I mean, without one, we were going to be some tired puppies by night time. So we finally pried Max from the bar and he then relentlessly led us back to the hotel.
After an hour or maybe two of napping, hey, we're on vacation, it was time for another constitutional walk before preparing for diner. It was a toss up between really good Creole or something off the wall and Max led us back across the French Quarter down to almost Esplanade to a restaurant he just knew we would love. Sure enough, we did.
El Gato Negro is Mexican, fresh and absolutely a gem in the Quarter. I found their house salsa to be fantastic, somewhat smoky, fruity with just enough heat to balance the sweetness of the tomato base. We started with the El Gato Negro Dip consisting of beans, chorizo, habanero and asadero cheese. A sampling of their menu: homemade tortillas, pulled pork tamales, black angus ribeye with chorizo salsa, lobster tacos, big fat burritos, enchiladas, molé poblano chicken, pan seared wild salmon and my choice, a well seasoned sauteed fillet of red snapper with a to-die-for creamy pico de gallo, tequila and garlic butter sauce. Good food for sure, should have called a cab but we managed to waddle back to the hotel.
After a good night sleep, Max was ready to visit the park again, to see if anyone had left new mail. The mockingbird was out in full force as usual and dipped down at Max just as before, but he could care less. The park was wet, again, most of the news had washed away, or maybe by the time he got there is was too old to read, I don't know but Max turned around ready to go back to greet Leroy.
Now for those of you still with us, I leave you a little jazz I found on youtube - Enjoy!
April 2011 - Steamboat Willie Jazz Band performing at Cafe Beignet, 311 Bourbon Street, New Orleans. Steamboat Willie-trumpet, Leslie Martin-piano, Doug Potter-bass, Brian Hills(guest)-clarinet, Freddie Staehle-drums, sitting-in trombone man (unknown)