Monday, July 6, 2015

New Restaurant in Tremé

Sky over North Rocheblave Street, New Orleans, LA
It was the darnedest thing, but I saw an eruption of snakes out of one of the lagoons in City Park.  Don't ask me to explain it, words won't suffice.  Just imagine walking by a placid lagoon minding your own business and hearing a burbling out in the water. When you turn, there is an eruption of snakes out in the middle of the lagoon.  They went up in the air, then they went down, then they swam away an all directions.  I beat a hasty retreat away from the shoreline.  I've seen a lot of things in my life but I've never seen anything like that.  You never know what you'll see in New Orleans.
North Rocheblave Street from Orleans Avenue, New Orleans, LA
A new restaurant has opened up behind us, on the corner of Orleans Avenue and North Rocheblave Street.  When we first moved here, five years ago, the building was empty.  Just before Hurricane Isaac, three years ago, the building was renovated and opened as a market.  I know because I went to buy ice there after the hurricane. We had lost power and we had just opened for business ourselves.  The market didn't last long, unfortunately.  

A month or two ago, the building went back into commerce as a restaurant of sorts.  It's now Orleans Ave. Wok & Soul.
Orleans Ave. Wok & Soul, New Orleans, LA
I took the photo above early in the morning, but yes, indeed, it's now open.  Down in da Tremé with me and my baby.  Only the best Chinese!!!!  Fresh donuts, bacon and eggs, po-boys, burgers and hot dogs for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Dine in or take out.

Wok and soul, New Orleans style
Frau Schmitt and I haven't been yet.  It's on our list, like so many other restaurants that are in the city.  I'm waiting to get a review from one of our neighbors before I take the plunge.  Not that have any trepidation.  I'm sure it's better than any of the other Chinese food available in our neighborhood.  It's just that this seems more a place for neighborhood habitueés than visitors from out of town.  I may be wrong.  After all, it's only a two blocks from Willie Mae's Scotch House and two blocks from Dooky Chase's.  

You can ask us about it when you come visit.  Until then...

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A New Orleans Quickie

St. Joan of Arc in the French Market, New Orleans
I know it's hard to tell most days, but it does take me a significant chunk of time to put together these fascinating articles for your enjoyment.  Today, pressed for time, I am going to be uncharacteristically brief.  You see, we are going to the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO) social mixer at Auld Sweet Olive B&B, one of our favorite B&Bs in the city.  Check out their website.  

People ask, with +/- 140 B&Bs in New Orleans, if there is a lot of competition between innkeepers in the city.  I have to admit that the answer is, not really.  If there is any competition, it's only of the most friendliest kind.  [I know I just used a double positive.]

I think part of this is because among the kind of people who choose to stay in a B&B over a hotel, it's because they find that a boutique catered experience is the more better option. [See what I just did there?]

The number of B&B rooms available at any given time is dwarfed by the number of hotel rooms available.  Really, for some people, the hotel is the better option.  I'm not trying to be a snob when I say this, but some people prefer familiarity over adventure.  

I'n not trying to say that it's an adrenaline-tingling adventure to stay in a small boutique New Orleans B&B the way it is to rappel down a cliff.  I'm saying that when you stay at a B&B, it's not off the rack.  Being an innkeeper is the ultimate small scale business.  After all, innkeepers open their homes and their lives to their guests.  Sometimes, when I lead guests through our lobby, I like to say, "Welcome to our world."  Nobody working in a hotel ever said that, at least not in a good way.  

In a hotel, it's more like, "The manager is out to lunch right now and there's no one with the authority to solve your problem.  I know what to do, but I'm not allowed without prior approval.  I've only been here for two months and I'm still on probation and I don't want to lose this job.  Welcome to my world."  

That paragraph needs a smiling emoji at the end but I don't have any at hand.  You know what I mean. 
Bedroom in our Clio Suite
We take great care to decorate every room in each of our five, two-room suites with care and attention to detail, to make it seem homey, if your home is a dream come true.  The bedroom in the Clio Suite doesn't even look like the picture above.  The bed has a canopy now, and flowers, and fairy lights.  All of La Belle Esplanade is a constant work in progress as we try to make it better and more interesting for our guests.  

So far, we seem to be doing a good job.  For the last 15 months, we've been ranked the #1 B&B in New Orleans on Trip Advisor by our guests.  15 months.  That's longer than we ever imagined when we opened the doors in September 2012.  It's gratifying to learn we are doing something right.
Sitting room in our Clio Suite
People ask if I always wear a hat.  No, not always, not when I'm singing in the shower.  Whenever you see me, I'll bet you a dollar that I'll be wearing a hat, though.  I like hats.
Fall innkeeper uniform
I'll be wearing a hat tonight when Frau Schmitt and I hobnob with our fellow innkeepers.  They're a boisterous lot, full of joie de vivre and plump with facts about this city we call home.  You can stay in a hotel anywhere, and much of the time you don't have any choice. In New Orleans, you can stay in a licensed bed and breakfast.  Think it over.  Make your reservations early.  We tend to fill up long before the big chain hotels on Canal Street do.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Where Baptist Seminarians Eat in New Orleans

Corner of Orleans Avenue and N. Miro Street
I was at the campus of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) the other day.  I'm not going to be studying to be a Baptist pastor or anything, but I visit all sorts of places all over the city.  That's my job: to know as much as I can about every facet of New Orleans.  As usual, I didn't bring my camera, so we'll be using photos of unrelated restaurants in our neighborhood to illustrate this installment.  That old forgot-my-camera schtick never gets old, does it?

I picked up a flyer at one of the desks in the student union building entitled, "The Unofficial Guide NOBTS Guide to Where to Eat in New Orleans."  Here's what the rest of the front of the flyer says:  "New Orleans is known for its abundance of quality restaurants.  We polled the NOBTS family for its favorite places; hopefully, you will enjoy these recommendations, and come back with some of your own!"
Corner of St. Anne and N. Tonti Streets
I've got some recommendations that aren't endorsed by the NOBTS family.  I've got nothing against their suggestions, and I am not going to list them all here.  A lot of them are out in the suburbs.  A lot of them are in trendy neighborhoods within the city that are out of the way for most visitors who don't have a car.  Freret Street is heavily represented, and, while the restaurants are good on Freret Street, you can find something similar in your home town.  You don't come to New Orleans for pizza or for sandwiches (or maybe you do).  I would never dream of going to most of the restaurants recommended, and I have a car; and, there are plenty that I've never heard of.  [Gasp!]

Frau Schmitt and I like to think we know most places to eat in the city, even the places our guests are never going to be interested in or to be able to find.  We visit them just in case.  We never know who is going to walk through our front door and what their interests will be.

NOBTS has a leg up on us.  I asked Frau Schmitt to take a look at their restaurant list.  "Are these places still open?" she asked.  I had no idea.  We asked Tammie the Housekeeper.  She shrugged.  "Beats me," she said.  Tammie has lived most of her life in New Orleans or just outside of the city.  None of us are elitist snobs, far from it.  My favorite lunch place is Sammy's.
Tammie the Housekeeper
I will share the Top 4 List that's on page three of the brochure: "The Favorites.  Our Most Recommended Restaurants."  Okay, here we go:

No. 1.  New Orleans Food and Spirits at 210 Hammond Hwy in Metarie.  We've never been here.  Never heard of it.  It has three locations, one on the West Bank (the Best Bank), one in Covington (across Lake Pontchartrain) and one in Bucktown (the Hammond Hwy location).  Maybe it's good.  If people want to go to Bucktown, we send them to Deannie's Seafood in Bucktown.  There's a Deannie's Seafood in the French Quarter, but don't go there.  Most people say it's not as good.  Go to the Bucktown original.  Or, you can go to New Orleans Food and Spirits, apparently.  You could, of course, stay closer to home base and eat at just about anywhere else.

Corner of Bienville Street and N. Jefferson Davis Parkway

No. 2.  Drago's at 2 Poydras Street or at 3232 N. Arnold Rd, Metarie.  Drago's is the birthplace of charbroiled oysters.  The original location, in Metarie, is located in a part of Metarie called Fat City.  I am not going to bore you with a history of Fat City, which is mildly interesting, but I will tell you that it's a very weird place.  The location on Poydras street is on the ground floor off the Hilton Hotel lobby close to the Convention Center.  That's why it's there, because it's close to the Convention Center.  If you're attending a convention, consider Drago's.  I don't give it much thought, myself.  This past January, we attended a professional innkeepers convention in that very same Hilton.  We didn't go to Drago's.

No. 3.  Russell's Marina Grill at 8555 Pontchartrain Blvd.  There are a couple of seafood restaurants on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  We've been to two of them and, frankly, they were enough to satisfy our appetite.  Now that I've pulled up Russell's website, I know where we're talking about.  We haven't eaten here.  We'll add it to our list of places to eventually visit.  According to their website, it's home to the Original Onion Mumm.  I have no idea what that is.  I haven't seen any copycat onion mumms on any menus around the city.  Again, this is far away.  You may as well go to Bucktown.
Corner of Bienville and N. Telemachus Streets
No. 4.  Dat Dog at 5030 Freret Street or at 3336 Magazine Street.  People who stay with us typically stumble across the Dat Dog branch on Frenchmen Street.  There is also Dis and Dat, which offers Dat Dogs and hamburgers on Banks Street, and there's a Dat Dog located in the Lakeside Mall in Metarie.  Did you come to New Orleans for a hot dog?  If you have a hankering for a hot dog, we do encourage you to visit Dat Dog on Frenchmen or Magazine Street.  Don't be tempted to try a Lucky Dog from a cart in the French Quarter.  Don't be tempted to try a Lucky Dog from a cart in the French Quarter.  I didn't type that last sentence twice by accident---I did it for emphasis, then I went back and italicized it to make sure you get my drift.  How about a third time?  Don't be tempted to try a Lucky Dog from a cart in the French Quarter.  Know what I'm saying?
Corner of Iberville and North Telemachus Streets
I have nothing against the NOBTS restaurant recommendations.  Some of my best friends are Baptists.  It's just that someone studying theology in New Orleans might miss out on some of the better cultural cuisine the city has to offer.  As innkeepers, we meet people from all over the world, from all walks of life, all with different expectations of what New Orleans has to offer and they carry different images of what New Orleans is in their heads.  

Let me just say that I was surprised that these four restaurants made the top four.  They are so far off my map, they wouldn't even be in my bottom four.  They wouldn't even be mentioned.  To each his own, ce sera, sera and all that jazz, live and let live.  

When we meet you, we try to figure out what you are interested in and what will appeal to you.  Then, we give you recommendations. Sometimes, there are so many that it can seem like we turned on a fire hose.  No worries.  It is very hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans.  It's a place that takes its food seriously even while everyone is having a good time.

We tried The Franklin last night for dinner to see if we can recommend it.  We can recommend it.  That's all I choose to say.  It depends on what you're looking for.

Dat Dog held a jingle contest in recently memory.  The winner was a folk song.  I much prefer the runner-up by the New Orleans Youth Sound Experience.

If you are interested in Sammy's Food Service and Deli:

I warn you, Sammy's is a bit out of the way.

À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.
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