Thursday, April 19, 2018

N is for: New Orleans {bachelorette party planning checklist}

Last month, I attended the bachelorette party of my good friend Kristen in New Orleans. It was my first visit there since my senior year in college (pre-Katrina if that gives you an idea of how old I am.)

Back then, I was there working the Sugar Bowl, and I couldn't even tell you one thing I ate. Not. One. Thing. This time around, the focus was just as much on the food as it was the partying, partly because the bride specifically asked me to help with the food and restaurant planning.

I debated whether or not to blog the trip for a couple of reasons... 1) I mostly just took iPhone photos, 2) I didn't get to explore as much of the city as I normally would if I was there on my own and 3) many of our food options were limited because we had such a large group of girls (17 to be exact.)

But in the end, I decided it might be helpful for future bachelorette party planners out there reading my blog, so here's a quick "checklist" if you are planning an upcoming visit to NOLA (and specifically if it involves a large group!)

To help set the tone for what our weekend entailed, I put together a little recap video. Once you've watched that, read on for more specifics on our weekend!

Dine al fresco in the French Quarter: Cafe Amelie
There are plenty of places to dine outside in New Orleans, and specifically the French Quarter. But you'd be hard pressed to find a more charming courtyard than Cafe Amelie. This place was recommended to me by several people, and I can see why. Aside from the gorgeous courtyard, the food is top notch. I highly recommend ordering a few appetizers and sharing... the shrimp 'n grits and cajun poutine are not to be missed! We went here with a smaller group of six girls (before everyone else arrived), and it was perfect. They can accommodate larger parties, but any party size over 12 will require a fixed menu and cannot guarantee that the tables are together, so we passed on it for the larger group dinner. Definitely make a reservation, as there was over an hour wait for lunch when we arrived (thankfully we had one!)

And if you want more recommendations on where to dine outside in the city, check out this comprehensive list from Eater.

Do a mini-food crawl through the French Quarter: 
After lunch at Cafe Amelie, I had compiled a list of the iconic New Orleans food items and where to get them in the French Quarter. I even mapped it out so we could go everywhere in succession. However, we only made it to two stops as we all started drinking (that tends to happen in this city) and eventually had to get back to the rental house for our catered fried chicken dinner (more on that next!) But in case you want to attempt my food crawl yourself... I'm listing all my stops below for reference. You could definitely take your time... start around lunchtime and end with dinner at Mr. B's and post dinner drinks at Carousel Bar.

1.) Central Grocery & Deli: known for inventing the mufuletta sandwich which includes salami, ham, swiss, provolone, mortadella and their special olive spread on Italian Muffuletta bread. The full size muffuletta is $19.95 but it's HUGE and split into four (above photo is 1/4 of our sandwich.) It's cash only.
2.) Cafe du Monde: the iconic cafe for coffee & beignets (pillowy French donuts topped with a mountain of powdered sugar), and a must-go for any first timers in New Orleans. It can get quite busy, but the line moves faster than you'd think. It's also open 24 hours a day. Cash only. (also pictured above)
3.) Gumbo Shop: for gumbo, obvi (could skip if you get it at another restaurant, like Mr. B's, listed later in this crawl.)
4.) Johnny’s Po’ Boys: there are other spots in the city that are more well-known for Po' Boys, but this one is conveniently located in the French Quarter.
5.) Brennan’s:  known for inventing Bananas Foster, which is prepared tableside
6.) Arnaud’s: known for their French 75 cocktail & their pillowy crunchy Soufflé potatoes (thrillist calls it the “perfect pairing of cocktail & bar snack, period”) Sit at the bar unless you are planning to have a full sit-down fancy dinner.
7.) Mr. B’s Bistro: This restaurant is known for their BBQ shrimp (my friend Liz says it’s her fave shrimp dish ever) and also their “gumbo ya ya.”
8.) Carousel Bar: Not so much a food stop as a drink stop, but the bar is a actually a carousel that slowly rotates around the restaurant.

Order in: Willie Mae's Scotch House
The bride wanted one "chill" night where we all just hung at the house, drank rosé and ordered in. Instead of doing something like pizza, I decided to look into getting some authentic New Orleans food delivered. Willie Mae's Scotch House is a little hole in the wall place that serves up some seriously delicious (and seriously spicy) fried chicken. It's considered some of the best in the country and even has a James Beard award to prove it. Best part... they offer catering! And if you spend at least $200, they will even deliver. We ordered fried chicken, fried chicken tenders, mac n cheese, corn bread muffins, green beans and mashed sweet potatoes all for less than $300 including tip. Not only was it enough to feed us that night, but it also served as great drunk food leftovers for the rest of the weekend. You can also eat at the restaurant, but for a large group I recommend ordering in. (Just make sure to confirm your order with them the day before, as it doesn't seem to be the most organized of processes.)

Verti Marte: If you'd prefer to order in Po' Boy sandwiches, Verti Marte is open 24 hours and also supposedly delivers (though I cannot fully confirm since we did not end up ordering from here.) They have a famous sandwich called "All That Jazz" with ham, turkey, shrimp, cheese, mushrooms & “wow” sauce that's supposed to be insane (and also sounds like a heart attack on bread, but hey... when in NOLA.)

Attend a Jazz Brunch:
One of Kristen's requests for the weekend was a New Orleans Jazz brunch. Jazz brunch is exactly what it sounds like... brunch with live a live Jazz band playing. The one caveat: most of the time, Jazz brunch is more of a Sunday affair. My challenge was to find one that is offered on Saturdays. We chose Broussard's for a number of reasons. It's centrally located in the French Quarter and they also serve a lot of the traditional Creole dishes (like shrimp & grits, turtle soup & gumbo), in addition to more "brunchy" items like egg dishes and a burger. And finally, (and perhaps most importantly for a bachelorette party).... they offered bottomless sparkling rosé and mimosas for $12 per person. Everyone seemed pretty happy with their food, but I will say... the gumbo and the crab cake benedict (pictured above) seemed to be favorites at our end of the table. I would definitely recommend this spot (especially for a large group) but just for reference, I'm including my full research list of Saturday jazz brunch options.

New Orleans Jazz brunches offered on Saturdays:
Atchafalaya: Boasts a famous Bloody Mary Bar with pickled vegetables (starting at $8), entrees range from $14-22. Located Uptown (I ended up going here for dinner with my friends who live in New Orleans, and I can vouch for the fact that it was awesome, so I can only imagine what it's like for brunch, which is what they are famous for. This would've been my pick if visiting on my own.) 
Broussards: Located in the French Quarter near Bourbon Street. They have a bottomless mimosa OR sparkling rosé option for $12. Entrees range from $16 to $34. Lots of New Orleans favorites, as well as egg dishes. They also have a cute courtyard if you prefer to sit outside. (As mentioned above, this is where we ended up going and we were very happy with it. Total cost with tax/tip ended up being around $60 pp)
Tableau: Located on Jackson Square in French quarter. You can add bottomless mimosas for $15 with the purchase of a brunch entree. (Entrees range from $14-$26)
Court of Two Sisters: Traditional Jazz Brunch buffet in the French Quarter, brunch is served everyday, (pretty formal sounds like... there's a dress code) $32 buffet with hot and cold items and traditional New Orleans dishes (alcohol is additional)
Commander's Palace: Home to the "Original Jazz Brunch." Also has a dress code, and probably the most expensive of the list. Brunch includes a starter, entree and dessert... prices vary depending on the entree choice, ranges from $37-$45. (Side note: they're also famous for their 25 cent martinis on weekdays during lunch. YES... really.)

Get out of the French Quarter!: Petite Grocery 
If I was to visit New Orleans on my own, sans the big group of girls, I honestly wouldn't spend much time in the French Quarter. While it's cool to see and fun for a few hours, there is soooo much more to New Orleans than Bourbon Street and the surrounding area. Fortunately, one of my very best friends from high school lives in New Orleans, so I actually stayed and extra night with Eric and his fiancée Johanna. They live Uptown, which is home to some wonderful, award winning restaurants. One of them is Petite Grocery (pictured above.) Eric and I visited for Sunday brunch and I was in love with just about everything we ordered. That said, the blue crab beignets are a MUST no matter what meal you visit. I wish I had taken a photo once cut open, as they are stuffed with a creamy blue crab concoction, and I could've eaten a couple plates of these all to myself and licked the plate clean.

Bacchanal Wine- Another awesome non-French Quarter spot is a place called Bacchanal Wine, which is self described as "NOLA's backyard party." I'm sort of obsessed with this place. From the outside, you would have no idea there's a James Beard Award nominated wine bar inside. As you walk in, it looks like a normal wine shop. You can select whichever bottle you would like to enjoy or simply order by the glass at the counter. They have a really cool concept for their cheese board... sort of a DIY situation where you select your types of cheeses from the refrigerator, and they will plate them for you along with bread, olives and jams. They also offer a menu of delicious small plates you can share (the steak was one of our faves.) I went here on my final day in New Orleans with my friends Eric & Johanna, which happened to be a Monday, when they offer half price on some of their wines. They also offer live music every day of the week... both during the day and at night. (Check the website for the music schedule.) The outdoor seating is first come, first served, so it might be tough with a large group, but definitely worth checking out if you're down to venture out of the Quarter!

As for some other non-French Quarter spots that I had my eye on... I'll again pass along my research to you!
Cochon- modern Creole cuisine
Cochon Butcher- sister restaurant to Cochon, and more of a lunch/sandwich place. I reaaalllly wanted to go here, but ran out of time (and my stomach probably couldn't take much more heavy food TBH.)
Coquettemodern southern, with several James Beard Awards
Shayamodern Israeili, named one of best new restaurants in the country last year
Upperline- Nominated for a James Beard Award this year, and my friend Eric's "favorite meal in NOLA," which is saying a lot!

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! 
If you ARE planning a bachelor or bachelorette party, you're probably thinking right about now "Ok Jaymee, that's great and all, but we probably aren't going to leave the French Quarter." Fair. We didn't really either. If that's the case, you may as well embrace it! Grab some beads and a super touristy drink. Pictured above: the famed Hurricane from Pat O'briens and the Shark Attack from Tropical Isle (also the home of the hand grenade drinks you'll see everyone carrying.) A word to the wise... these drinks are sugary AF, so I wouldn't recommend more than one or two.

Avoid trying to book a nice French Quarter restaurant for 17 people, but if you do, here's a great option: Angeline
Finding a restaurant to accommodate a group of 17 girls for dinner in the French Quarter proved more challenging than I anticipated. Many were simply too small and wouldn't even take a group our size (i.e. Mr. B's Bistro.) Others couldn't guarantee that we would sit together (i.e. Cafe Amelie.) Others that were large enough required a minimum spend that was above our budget (any number of spots.) I stumbled upon Angeline when looking at a Thrillist list for best places to eat right now in New Orleans.  It's a newer restaurant that mixes southern cuisine with Mediterranean, which is a really unique combo, and Thrillist named chef Alex Harrell chef of the year in 2016. They were very accommodating and worked with me to create a special prix fixe menu for our group within our budget, which included the chef's take on shrimp & grits: a corn flour bucatini with corn buttermilk, bacon, and shrimp (pictured above.) They are also known for their crispy cauliflower, which was delicious and also included as one of the appetizer options on our menu. Another awesome feature to this place... it was a short walk to Frenchmen Street, where we bar hopped after dinner to different places featuring live music! (The Spotted Cat Music Club, 30/90 & Maison just to name a few...)

Wrestle an alligator: Airboat Adventures
I realize this was mostly a food-related post, but if you are looking for a fun group activity during your New Orleans stay, we had a lot of fun on our swamp tour. I had no part in researching this, so I can't share that process of selecting Airboat Adventures, but I can tell you that the company the maid of honor chose was awesome. We had a private tour and Captain Danny was a phenomenal guide (he even caught a young alligator for us to view up close!) Another major key: they allow you to bring booze on board, as long as it's in cans and you clean up after yourselves. Our only critique was it was a *tad* too long... but other than that, definitely recommend!

Kristen's wedding is actually coming up next weekend, and I couldn't be happier for her. We had a fabulous time celebrating her in NOLA, and can't wait to do the same in Cape May! Please comment with any questions, recommendations or input you have so I can bookmark for my next visit. (Hopefully without a 16 year gap in between.)


  1. Was in NOLA for a bachelor party the weekend before you! Followed along on your IG story to see if we hit the same places. We had slightly lower standards for food (shocking I know for a bunch of dudes) but hit some great spots as well. Had a blast on Frenchman street and spent the good majority of our last night at the Spotted Cat. Cafe Du Monde was a hit. Went to a great fried chicken place, Man Chu and Coops near Frenchman for a mixed plate of gumbo, jambalaya and fried chicken. Glad you blogged this one! Great one!

    1. Haha the bride's fiancé attended a bachelor party in NOLA and they only ate food from a local gas station, hahahaha. Loved Spotted Cat, but it was a little tight for our large group so we spent most of the night at Spotted Cat.

    2. Oops... that made no sense... I meant we spent most the night at 30/90, haha.

  2. I have bookmarked this post and basically every one within it. THANK YOU!

    1. You're very welcome! Please hit me up if you have any questions when you visit... either here or Instagram!

  3. NOLA is supremely underrated as a food city! We ate so well and I had the best oysters possibly that exist on this earth there. Also, Maison was my favorite bar there. Just felt like authentic NOLA. Jazz, an old-fashioned, and a good crowd/vibe. Great post! Got me itching to go back...

    1. Not as underrated as you'd think... check out the nominations list for this year's James Beard Awards!! Regardless, we had a fantastic time and ate very well! The bride is allergic to oysters, so I didn't get to partake as much in that as I'd like. Where did you get your oysters?

  4. Awesome write up Jaymee! We have 13 of us coming from Northern California to Nola next week for a birthday celebration and have a number of your recommendations booked! I may try your food crawl one day and I love the idea of Willie Mae’s Scotch House to order in one night! I’ll report back next week and will do my best to avoid too many of the sugary drinks (I laughed out loud on your comment). Thanks for taking the time to write this!

    1. So glad you have some of these spots booked, Scott! You will have a great time. Such an awesome food city. Definitely attempt the food crawl but don't get discouraged if it gets off track, ha. I highly recommend Wille Mae's! Sooo good and such a great deal for a large group when ordering in. And yes.. just trying to help people avoid major hangovers! hahahaha

  5. Sounds like an awesome food city. I live by Buffalo and we take food very seriously. Ever had a beef on weck? Keep up the awesome posts.


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