My friend Sarah is heading to New Orleans in a bit and she asked me to put together some recommendations for when she heads down there. I know some of these suggestions are terribly touristy and cliché, but let's face it - they are cliché for a reason, in that most of them are awesome.
John Boutte, Treme Song.
1. If you haven't seen the HBO series Treme, I would highly recommend watching it before you go. It's shot almost entirely on location in New Orleans, using a lot of local musicians (Kermit Ruffins for one) and places. In the first or second episode the Steve Zahn character directs some college kids out of the Quarter and to a brunch place that does exist and is amazing.
2. For some pre-trip / pre-flight reading, I can recommend Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans and The World That Made New Orleans : From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.
3. A po'boy. I had fried shrimp, I don't even like shrimp that much and it was amazing. I went to Parkway but it might be hard to get to without a car and if you're staying downtown.
4. Ride a streetcar (bonus points if it's the "Desire" one) and walk around the Garden District. Attempt to find the home you would pick if money was no problem.
5. A muffuletta at Central Grocery in the French Quarter. It comes with this olive spread on top of the meat, I hate green olives and it was amazing. (I know this is a reoccurring theme, but trust me).
6. Beignets and a Cafe au Lait at Cafe du Monde. When we walked by during the day it was super crowded. I went back around 1 am and it was the perfect drunk food. The moral of the story - they are open late if you're up late, if not it's worth waiting for them during the day or super early in the morning as you watch them clean the streets of the French Quarter.
7. Bread pudding from anywhere, bonus points if it has a whiskey or rum sauce on top.
8. If you're eating dinner anywhere that has alligator sausage on the menu, order it. As Roy Blount Junior says in Feet on the Street : "They say anything will grow here, and everything eats it."
9. Walk around Jackson Square and look at the local art for sale.
10. Embrace the open container laws, walk around the French Quarter in the sun with a drink in hand.