It’s probably a cliche to call the city of New Orleans unique. So I won’t. I’ll call it “particular” or “singular” or even “distinctive.” (Thanks, Merriam-Webster!) It exists as a place of contradictions. Even though it’s located in the geographical and cultural South, much about it flies in direct contrast to traditional Southern mores. Unlike the puritanical blue laws of Southern (and plenty of Northern) states, many bars in New Orleans are open 24 hours. It’s also the only place in the United States where open plastic containers of alcohol are permitted throughout the entire city (not in motor vehicles, though) at any time; there’s nothing like taking your $14 cocktail to go in a see-through Dixie cup. Though people were friendly, there was no over-the-top stereotypical Southern politeness. In fact, there was no stereotypical anything. New Orleans felt much like New York City–an amalgamation of multiple cultures, people and even accents. The dialects vary widely neighborhood to neighborhood. In an interesting NYC parallel, Irish and Italian residents speak in a dialect known as “Yat,” a recognizable Brooklyn-style squawk. The locals have an enormous sense of pride in the unique culture of the city, which was ruled by France, then Spain, then France again, before being sold to the U.S. by Napoleon as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The wide variety of food speaks to that–the Creole meats and Cajun po’boys–but so does the music, with its brass-heavy jazz beats and wailing blues. It booms and ricochets off the wrought-iron balconies and lush courtyards night after night. It’s a city with no inhibitions, a place that’s not ashamed of itself, a town where, on any given night, anything can happen.
From top: Sazeracs, the official city cocktail at the original Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel; $.50 Gulf oysters at Lüke; a view of the stately mansions on St. Charles Avenue from the Streetcar; homestyle cooking at Jacques-Imo’s; beignets at the 24-hour Cafe Du Monde; the St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square; Faulkner House Books in the French Quarter; Boutique du Vampyre in the Quarter; shrimp and oyster po’boys at Johnny’s Po-Boys; New Orleans Museum of Art Sculpture Garden; Walter “Wolfman” Washington preforming with his band at d.b.a. on Frenchman St.; shrimp and grits at Commander’s Palace; bread pudding soufflé at Commander’s Palace; the exterior of Commander’s Palace; bead decorations on Magazine St.; wine and music at Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits; late-night fried chicken and a to-go Hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon St.; an exterior of Cafe Beignet; craftsmen at Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights; Pimm’s Cup and Sazerac at the historic Napoleon House; the Napoleon House courtyard; an amazing musical duo off Royal St.; Bourbon St. action