Koubi’s Louisiana Visitors Guide
A List of Suggestions for Wedding Guests
Dear Friends and Family,
As part of our wedding invitation, we would also like to invite you to visit the Louisiana that Erin and I love so much. There’s so much to do in this state, and time will certainly be short for most of you. But for those of you who do want to take the opportunity to explore, here are some suggestions for what to do in the region.
Country Roads Magazine’s Favorite Things in the Greater Mississippi Delta Region
Includes things to do, see, and consume “from Natchez to New Orleans,” but based in Baton Rouge.
Part 1: Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge is the state capital of Louisiana, and is also home to my alma mater, Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge is kind of the step sister of South Louisiana cities, wedged roughly between New Orleans and Lafayette and splitting the cultural difference between the two. Still, state government and LSU have made it a place to check out and visit if you have the time.
Where to Stay:
Baton Rouge’s hotels will be super-busy the weekend of the wedding due to a country music festival happening at LSU’s stadium that whole weekend. Use our block rooms if you can, but otherwise, good luck!
Food and Drink:
The Chimes – Highland Rd. near LSU
The Chimes is the bar and restaurant most-associated with LSU. I had pints there between study sessions for finals my senior year, and it’s still, despite many price hikes on the food menu, a perennial favorite for reunions with friends. I still think the Chimes has the best gumbo (smoked duck and sausage) in the city if not the state. They pride themselves on having a fine beer selection on tap.
Chelsea’s Café – Perkins Road
Erin and I probably go out to Chelsea’s more than any other restaurant in town, mostly because it’s not only good but has an excellent vegetarian selection. Chelsea’s also has live music almost every Thursday – Saturday. I strongly recommend many of their dishes: The chicken fried chicken, the grilled cheese sandwich on focacia, and the fried calamari po-boy.
Sammy’s Grill – Highland Rd. near Staring Lane
The good news is that it should be crawfish season during the wedding. If you want to try this Louisiana delicacy, the boiled crawfish at Sammy’s are top notch and noted by locals for being the only ones in town spiced hot enough to be considered as good as ones you boil yourself. If that’s not your flavor, the prime rib po-boy is my favorite sandwich in the world.
Beausoleil – Bocage Village at Corporate/Old Hammond and Jefferson
One of Baton Rouge’s newest and favorite restaurants featuring a wonderful Cajun and Creole fusion menu and excellent signature cocktails. If you are not going to New Orleans and want to experience fine, locally sourced, Louisiana food, make Beausoleil a priority.
Juban’s – Perkins and Acadian/Stanford
One of Baton Rouge’s oldest fine-dining experiences, Juban’s is a Creole restaurant that harkens to some of the best foods that New Orleans has to offer. Their signature dish, the fried, soft-shell “Hallelujah Crab,” is the stuff of billboards. Their courtyard bar was recently named a favorite watering hole in the city by a guest writer for Country Roads magazine who works with me on a weekly events publication we put out.
Louie’s Café – State St. near LSU
Louie’s is one of Baton Rouge’s oldest restaurants, having opened in 1941. Famous for being a 24/7 greasy spoon and their Cajun hasbrowns, Louie’s is a great place for breakfast or a burger.
Tsunami Sushi – In the Shaw Center for the Arts on Lafayette St., Downtown
Tsunami doesn’t have the best sushi in town, but it does have the best view of any restaurant. It’s located on the 6th floor of a new, modern building built next to the river, and there is no better view of the sunset to be had in Baton Rouge.
Delpit’s Chicken Shack – North Acadian and Laurel
Baton Rouge’s oldest restaurant, operating since 1935. If you like Southern-style fried chicken, go to Delpit’s.
Slinky’s – Chimes St. near LSU
Slinky’s is my old stand-by dive bar. It’s just a bar. The owner, Pam, is a quirky and vociferous women who has an opinion on everything, and the beer selection is excellent for a bar its size. Pam raised money for some projects I was doing while in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, and there is still a poster signed by the kids I worked with stapled to the ceiling above the bar thanking her. The “Lunch Box” is Slinky’s signature drink, and is done in a boiler-maker style where you drop a shot into the beer and chug. It’s a little intimidating to think about, but is actually pretty fruity and delicious.
Teddy’s Juke Joint – Outside of Town on Highway 61
Juke Joints are a Southern thing most popular in Mississippi, and are respected as authentic places to hear live Blues music. Teddy’s is one of the only authentic ones in Louisiana, and is a short trip out of town and worth the experience if you’re not going to actually go to Mississippi to do it up out there. If Teddy is doing one of his “old time record spins,” it’s worth the trip even without a band playing, though be prepared for Teddy’s always irreverent and often raunchy interjections during the songs.
Stuff to Do:
LSU is where I went to university. The campus is gorgeous. The wedding is in spring, which means that the campus will be in full bloom under the care of our prestigious Landscape Architecture department. The building architecture is done in the style of the Italian High Renaissance, specifically following the stylings of Andre Palladio, who is famous for his villas in the Venice area. Be sure to check out the main quadrangle and our live tiger habitat in particular. Mike the Tiger VI, our live mascot, lives in a wonderful enclosure where visitors can watch him play from a safe distance. The current Mike is a Bengali-Siberian hybrid and weighs nearly 500 pounds.
Louisiana State Capitol
We have the tallest state capitol building in the nation, and it also features an observation deck from which you can view most of the city. Tours will also highlight the assassination of former governor and then senator Huey Long, who is also buried in the surrounding gardens and was a populist figure during the American depression.
Downtown Baton Rouge offers multiple museum options, including the Louisiana State Museum, the Old State Capitol, the Old Governor’s Mansion, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, and the LSU Museum of Art. The State Museum has a great exhibit on Louisiana History and the Mississippi River. The Old State Capitol, which looks like a white castle on the banks of the river, is dedicated to the political history of Louisiana and features an animatronic statue of Huey Long that will lecture you on his story outside of a room dedicated to the story of his assassination. The Old State Capitol has art and a history tour. The Louisiana Arts and Science Museum has a planetarium and science area, as well an excellent art gallery with interesting rotating exhibits. The LSU Museum of Art also has an interesting collection, and is located in the Shaw Center for the Arts.
The Manship Theatre
The Manship Theatre is a great art-house theatre where Michael bartends some nights. He’s seen some great shows there, including recent performances by Steve Martin and his bluegrass band and George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. The theatre doesn’t do just music, though, but features dance companies, theatre troupes, and movie showings.
Part 2: New Orleans
There is a bus service that runs between Baton Rouge and New Orleans called the Louisiana Swift. For $5, you can ride from Downtown Baton Rouge to Downtown New Orleans, including a NOLA stop near enough to the airport that a cab ride will be affordable. There is also a stop near the French Quarter.
Brief intro to geography:
NOLA is hard to get your bearings in. It follows the bends of the river and the lake, and straight streets are few. The Crescent City indeed. Lakeside is north, riverside is south (generally). Likewise, upriver is west, downriver is east. The neighborhoods you’ll care about, following the river’s flow, are Uptown, the Garden District, the Central Business District, the French Quarter, and the Marigny. It’s pretty easy to get around with trollies or busses, at least when a Mardi Gras parade doesn’t mess with the routes. There are lots of other neighborhoods, or fabourgs as they’re called locally, but you probably will only explore this main strip of them.
New Orleans street names are weird. Calliope St. is cal-ee-ope (as in hope), Chartes St. is “charters”, and Girod St. and Park is “jai-rod”. You’ll also scratch your head at Tchoupitoulas (chop-uh-two-luss). You’ll figure it out as you go, but it could make communicating with cabs difficult.
Anyway, without further ado, here is an all too scattered and brief list of “musts,” knowing that there are so many you can’t do them all.
Where to Stay:
New Orleans has plenty of fancy hotels, roach motels, and in between. Personal favorites of mine are the R Street Inn (which is located in the Marigny and is also a bar – you are given two free drink tokens each night!) and Hotel Storyville (on the border street between the Quarter and the Marigny and has a seaside theme to the décor). Both are locally owned and operated.
I would also recommend checking out couchsurfing.com to find a place to stay. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s basically an online community where you can stay in peoples’ guests rooms or on their couches for free instead of paying for a hotel. Participants are in it for the community and the sense of sharing. You get to stay for free and get the insight of a local into wherever you’re staying. New Orleans has a strong community, and you’d find a place to stay easily.
Sazerak – Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel – Royal Street in the Quarter
Any and every decent bar in New Orleans will serve a good Sazerak, the official cocktail of Louisiana, and some say the oldest known coctail recipe. However, since Carousel bar is a great place to get a drink and has no specific drink they do as a tradition, it’s a good drink to get there on a bar hop. Carousel Bar is knows as such because the bar literally spins around like a carousel (albeit very slowly), bar stools included.
Gin Fizz – Hotel Roosevelt’s Sazerac Bar – Canal St. just by the Quarter
Just as fun to watch made as drink. Known for being Huey Long’s (famous former governor and senator) favorite drink, he often ordered them when rendezvousing with his political cronies or mistresses at the hotel. He once flew the bartender to New York to teach a New York barman how to make the drink.
Hurricane – Pat O’Brian’s – Off Bourbon St. in the Quarter
Pat O’s, as it’s known locally, serves the original New Orleans Hurricane Cocktail. My own Mardi Gras, if I happen to be in the Quarter on Fat Tuesday, is simply not complete without a Pat O’s Hurricane.
Pimm’s Cup – Napoleon House – Chatres St. in the Quarter
Not sure why Napoleon House is famous for serving this drink; it just is.
Mint Julep – Columns Bar – St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District
The mint julep, while most closely associated with horse racing, is still a southern classic cocktail, and Columns bar does them best.
Hand Grenade – Tropical Café – Multiple Locations on Bourbon St. in the Quarter
Famous for being “New Orleans Strongest Cocktail,” this neon green concoction comes in a long, plastic flute shaped like a pineapple grenade with a straw. If you’re doing a tour of drinks and bars, I suggest either skipping or sharing this one, since aside from being a Bourbon St. staple, it has no real history. Still, it’s worth it to say you had one.
Other bars of note:
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – Down on Bourbon St. in the Quarter, well past the other bars
Yes, this is the original building that housed the blacksmith shop of the famous Louisiana pirate, Jean Lafitte, famous for helping us defeat the Brits during the War of 1812 in the Battle of New Orleans (which was, of course, fought after the peace had been signed!). Anyway, great bar with a piano player. Good for a drink on your barhop and a story.
Fritzel’s – Bourbon St. in the Quarter
Great live music, but has a two-drink minimum to come in. Worth it for the usual array of authentic New Orleans Jazz
Anywhere on Frenchman St. – The Marigny, just downriver from the Quarter
Frenchman St. is the epicenter of local nightlife for New Orleans. The Marigny is the most bohemian of neighborhoods in the city, and while some say it’s being overtaken by hipsters, it’s still an awesome place full of music and expression. Mardi Gras in the Marigny is just as crowded as it is in the Quarter, but it feels more like a costume, independent art, and “the band my neighbor’s in” type of experience. I’d recommend the Spotted Cat or DBA. If you confirm that the New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings or Linnzi Zaorski are playing, do go see them. They’re two of my local favorites.
Mimi’s in the Marigny – The Marigny (duh)
A local Marigny favorite. Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk review at least used to have a weekly gig there worth seeing. I love that band. They play old western and and Texas Swing stuff. Good dancing music.
Maple Leaf Bar – Magazine St. Uptown
Great live music, and right next door to Jacques Imo’s, which would be a great dinner option while you’re there.
New Orleans is, if anything, a food city. I’d recommend you do some reading on New Orleans cuisine before approaching it, just to get your bearing. Here’s a good place to start. Below are some recommendations from my own experience, but there are so many fantastic restaurants that I can’t even begin to list them all.
There are many, many more, but these are the oldest flag ships of the city.
Jacques Imo’s – Magazine St. Uptown
Great and eclectic menu of creole-cajun fusion.
Croissant D’Or – Ursuline St. in the Quarter
Great little patisserie for a morning crescent and coffee. I go almost every time I stay overnight.
Camellia Grill – Two Locations (Quarter and Garden District – go for the Garden District location on St. Charles)
New Orleans’s original greasy spoon breakfast joint.
Cafe Du Monde – French Market in the Quarter
Expect to wait in line, but you’ll never have a more authentic New Orleans experience than getting begneits here before walking through the market, the river walk, and the quarter.
Central Grocery – Decatur St. in the Quarter
Home of the original Muffuletta sandwich. Get one there and it’s enough for people.
Parkway Bakery – Bayou St. John
Po-Boys. That’s all one really needs to say about Parkway, because they basically serve the best. While everyone swears by this place or that for a specific sandwich, Parkway is the neutral ground everyone meets at. They also have zip-lock bags hanging all around the place showing the water line from Katrina when they flooded. It’s also right by the New Orleans Museum of Art and would be a good lunch stop before or after the museum.
Cochon – Central Business District, right by the WWII Museum
Great farm to table food with a focus of pork dishes. I went there recently and was very impressed, though the deserts were lackluster.
Slim Goodies – Magazine St. Uptown
First place to reopen to feed the people after Katrina. It served nothing but hamburgers from frozen patties for weeks, a menu item it retains to this day in memory of the storm. Great greasy spoon diner.
La Divina – Magazine St. Uptown
Best gelato in the city.
Sucre – Magazine St. Uptown
Best chocolate in the city.
There a lot more places, obviously, but these are the one’s I like to go to. There are lots of others I’ve been meaning to try, including a place called Stella, but there’s only so much time and so many places.
Stuff to Do:
There is really a lot. Here are my top suggestions, no particular order:
The French Quarter – Just walking around, especially along Royal Street and Jackson Square. Check out a street performance at the ampitheatre across from the square, and remember to tip. It keeps the performers, as one acrobatic troupe once said, “out of the po’ house and out of yo’ house!” If you’re lucky enough, you can catch an excited second-line after a wedding in the cathedral in the square.
Magazine St. – A street full of shops, bars, and restaurants. I recently overheard a horse carriage tour guide state that he hadn’t Christmas shopped in a mall for over a decade because he just goes to Magazine St. Make sure to go to Storyville, a great shop for tee-shirt souvenirs, all designed by locals and not your standard “and all I got was this tee-shirt” fare.
New Orleans Museum of Art – Great permanent collections of local and French artists, including a good bit of Degas, who lived in New Orleans for a period, as well as other impressionists and Ancien Regime French portraiture.
Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, and Insectarium – All amazing, and you can get a pass for all three at once. You can even ride a riverboat ferry between them along the river.
National WWII Museum – GO. It’s amazing. Make sure you see the film, Beyond All Boundaries while there. If you can get a show at the American Canteen while there, do that too. The Victory Belles do 40’s music from the war (think the Andrew’s Sisters), and there’s a running big-band show and one where they have folks doing old Bob Hope USO-style shows.
St. Charles Trolly – Used by commuters and day trippers alike. It’s a great way to see the Garden District (and the beautiful homes and universities there) without worrying about driving or the long walk.
Shops at Canal Place – A small, high-dollar mall. Has a Brooks Brothers and a Neiman Marcus.
Way to much to cover here, especially since you never know what’s in town. Check out WWOZ’s Livewire calendar leading up to the visit. They have EVERYTHING going on. http://www.wwoz.org/new-orleans-community/music-calendar There are too many people to list here that I could say to go see, but Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band, Gal Holiday, the New Orleans BINGO! Show, and the Cottonmouth Kings are some of my local favorites. If you remind me when you’re about to come in, I can do a scan of the calendar and pick some out for you.
I will say that you must go to Preservation Jazz Hall. It’s one of the last redoubts of traditional New Orleans Jazz, and the musicians there are amazing. Palm Court Jazz Café and Fritzels (mentioned above) are also great nightly sources of local jazz.
Part 3: Outside of the Cities
Louisiana’s history of large-scale agriculture has left it with some of the most beautiful ante-bellum homes in America. Plantations homes, architectural gems from the by-gone era of King Cotton, are also a grim reminder of the wealth built upon the backs of slave labor. While there are dozens of these in the area, below are some of the most interesting and beautiful. Each is unique in their own way, but all will offer beautiful antique furnishings, good restaurants, and tours of the home featuring its history through the years, the story of its restoration, and how the plantation operated as a business in its active years. Some will even have signature drinks on offer. All are within about an hour’s drive from Baton Rouge.
Featuring a “quarter-mile canopy of giant live oak trees, believed to be nearly 300 years old, [that] forms an impressive avenue leading to the classic Greek-revival style antebellum home.”
The South’s largest remaining ante-bellum mansion.
Known as “the Sugar Palace,” and featuring 38 acres of gardens.
Known as one of America’s most-haunted homes.
There are many swamp tours on offer throughout Louisiana, but what is arguably the best place to take a tour is Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge, and the best person to lead that tour is arguably Norbert Leblanc. Norbert is an old Cajun man with a long, white beard. He knows the swamp better than anyone and can lead tours for up to 14 guests. If a larger group assembles, he can partner with other tour boats to accommodate a group as large as 50. Norbert LeBlanc Swamp Tours.
Cajun and Zydeco Dancing
Cajun and Zydeco music are almost indiscernible from one another to the untrained ear, but both are alive in Louisiana and provide the beat for a lot of hot-stepping on the bayou. The two best places to go are in Breaux Bridge and Henderson.
Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge
Café Des Amis is famous for its Saturday morning Zydeco Brunch. From 8:30 to 11:30 hot music pumps out of the band. Once you finish your food, guests are expected to get up and dance in order to free up the table
Angelle’s Whiskey River Landing in Henderson
Angelle’s is as “on the bayou” as you can get, literally. To get there, you have to go over the levee to where the bar stands on the edge of the Atchafalaya River’s basin. Every Sunday from 4pm-8pm they have a Cajun or Zydeco band. The focus of Angelle’s is the music and the dancing, so don’t expect a nice sit-down meal here like at Café Des Amis. Make sure to ask Michael or Erin about the bar fight Michael helped end the first time he took Erin there.