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NOLA suggestions from a cajun

ARTO’s Aaron Dugas shares some suggestions for TSP-goers while in the Big Easy

Aaron Dugas, Vice President of Sales, ARTO

With Total Solutions Plus in New Orleans, La. (October 22-24, 2023) and assuming some of you have never been or only briefly visited the Big Easy, I thought I would offer some suggestions.

If you weren’t already aware Dugas (do-ga) is a French name and I am a descendant of the French migration into the U.S. Most French people migrated to Nova Scotia and other parts of eastern Canada. Many stayed, but some migrated further to Louisiana. These people were called Acadians, which over timed developed into the slang term Cajun. A few generations have passed and I made it all the way from farming sugar cane to selling cooked dirt for a living. I’m sure they are proud. 

Here are some tips for your trip to Total Solutions

  • It’s pronounced New Ah lens. The marketing tells people to use N’awlins and make it one word, but if you are from out of town, it looks like you are trying too hard. Anything except New Orleans with a hard E. It should never rhyme with beans. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes and forget about dressing up. It is a lot of walking and the streets are uneven and mostly unclean. It’s humid and a rain shower could pop up at any time. Dress for the Big Easy. 
  • Stay where you belong, especially at night. The tourist areas are well patrolled since that is the city’s main source of income, but not a great city to explore down dark alleys. 
  • Be flexible if things don’t go as planned. You might walk up to a restaurant you have a reservation to just to get a sign that says “Closed. Cook didn’t show!” or wander into a bar and nobody comes out to help for an hour. Roll with it to the next spot. It’s called the Big Easy for a reason and laissez-faire is a way of life. 
  • Carry cash. Some spots are cash only. 
  • Take time to stop and watch the street performers and bands. Lots of kids with bottle caps on the bottom of their shoes tap dancing, and some really top-notch brass instrument players. Tip them some of that cash. 

Here are some spots I’ve gotten to know over the years

Café Du Monde
  • Café Du Monde – A must do if you have never been. It is located in the ideal place to start your day. It’s next to the French Market and Jackson Square. Tile people will appreciate their business model as the menu has only one food item on it. One order of 3 beignets for a couple of bucks. Deep-fried sweet bread with an ungodly amount of powdered sugar. On a windy day you will walk out looking like a scene from Scarface. I recommend the Café Au Lait to drink – sweet coffee. 
  • The French Market – Just down the way from Café Du Monde. If you are going to spend the day walking around the French Quarter it is worth a peek. A hundred vendor booths selling everything from T-shirts, to trinkets, to vegetables. 
Central Grocery, Home of the Original Muffaleta
  • Central Grocery – In the same area as the above two places. It is a very small city grocery store that is famous for being the birthplace of the Muffaletta. The main drawback is it’s tight with very little seating. It’s all about getting your hands on that sandwich. The funny thing is this sandwich is known as a NOLA original which is true, but there is nothing French about it. It was invented by a Sicilian and consists of marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, Swiss cheese, ham and provolone. The sandwich is a circle with a diameter of about 12 inches and 5-6 inches thick. Just get a quarter or a half. They are premade sitting behind the counter so they hand them to you on the spot and hope you find a place at the counter. Voodoo style Zapp’s chips are the go-to side. It’s how Cajuns do potato chips. 
  • Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral – Lots of street performers, psychics and artists are around the square. The centerpiece is the St. Louis Cathedral. One of the oldest churches in the country that allows people to look around or do tours. 
Saint Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square in the French Quarter New Orleans
  • Vacherie – If you are walking around Bourbon St. and want to get off the main strip, this is a little spot in the St. Marie hotel. Small bar and seating during the day with good food and stiff drinks. In the morning they do a really great breakfast. There is a grab and go on one side or you can sit in the dining room and have a really good start to your day. Nothing fancy, but I always enjoy the breakfast. 
  • Peche – This restaurant is in the warehouse or arts district. A cool area of the city in general. More adult and without the drunk college kids. Lots of museums. Peche has great seafood, oysters and all the Louisiana things. I try to go every time I am in the city. Sometimes twice. Make a reservation.
Antoine’s Restaurant
  • Antoine’s – You made it! This is New Orleans at its finest. Historic and beautiful. This is where the haves go. Actors and elites dine here to get the best of what the city has to offer. Birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller. Dress a little nicer and make a reservation. 
  • Carousel Bar – It is appropriately named because it is a full carousel inside a hotel lobby (and the bar literally spins – a subtle rotation that takes about 15 minutes to go all the way around). Surreal spot to have a drink in the famous Hotel Monteleone. Live music of course. 

Why is it all food Aaron? 

New Orleans is almost all eating and drinking while being entertained. When you leave, you will want to drink water and eat salad for a week! It is a weekend city like Vegas, but with lots of butter and salt mixed in with the alcohol.

Here are some other things: 

The National World War II Museum
  • World War II Museum – A large museum with a movie theater intro by Tom Hanks. Worth doing if you are interested in WWII history. If you look at the buildings around you, you will see some still have stone watering troughs on the front that were built for people riding up on their horses. It’s an old city. 
  • Audubon Zoo – If you bring the kids or just dig the zoo, it is considered the second best in the country behind San Diego. Albino Crocodiles! 
  • Preservation Hall – Very small and very old with no frills. It is a living piece of history that was, and still is, an integral part of Jazz. One of the few American born artforms. They do not serve drinks and they do not use amps. It is a primitive, stripped-down experience where you will see and hear the best Jazz in the city. With all the other things stripped away, you can experience Jazz the way it was originally intended. Your money helps keep the arts alive as well. Robert Plant recently popped in and performed, unexpectedly. 
  • Frenchman Street – This is an adult version of Bourbon St. A smaller version of bars and restaurants with less twenty somethings. Food and music not too far off the strip. 
  • Cigar Factory New Orleans – If you like stogies, you can watch them be made in front of you. A taste of Cuba in the bayou.
  • Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo – Small shop in the French Quarter that sells voodoo dolls and other similar items. You can buy one that looks like your worst factory rep to stick pins into every time they raise prices or ship late. 

Hope that is helpful. New Orleans is a love it or hate it city, mostly, so I try to help people love the good things about it. Laissez les bons temps rouler! 

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