New Orleans is a city of stories. Now, a National Geographic Channel special airing Monday April 23 at 6 pm EST showcases some of the best when local storytellers reveal the secrets of what unfolds behind its courtyard walls and ornate facades. Keep reading to discover more of their recommendations of what to see and do in the Crescent City.
As founder and artistic director of New Orleans Society of Dance Baby Doll Ladies, Millisia White is committed to promoting culturally-centered dance in New Orleans. When she isn’t dancing, masking and chanting with her Baby Doll Ladies, Millisia is experiencing her favorite city in the world, New Orleans. Here’s where she likes to go:
Restaurant: Being a dancer, Millisia is a mindful eater, but she still wants good food. “My new favorite place is Mint on Freret, a modern Vietnamese eatery with a hint of Southern flair. I love the fried chicken and green tea waffle, lemongrass chicken vermicelli bowl and all of their soups.” For downhome New Orleans, nothing beats the buffet at Dooky Chase’s.
Bar: Although she’s not a big drinker, Millisia does love a New Orleans Original Daiquiri now and then. “My favorite flavor, when they have it around the holidays, is the eggnog daiquiri. Then again the mudslide and the pina colada are also really good!” Although the popular daiquiri chain has locations all over town, her go to is the shop where St. Charles meets Carrollton in the Riverbend neighborhood uptown. “It’s a quaint spot with a great neighborhood vibe.”
Music: Millisia recommends Tipitina’s Uptown, especially on Wednesday night. “They have a fabulous open mic night, the place to hear all kinds of new and emerging talent.” She also loves to chill at The Candlelight Lounge in the Treme. “If you’re looking for that intimate, in the heart of it feeling, a place where just regular neighborhood folks go for brass, this is it.”
Neighborhood: Once a blighted section of uptown, the Freret Street corridor is now one of Millisia’s favorite neighborhood destinations. “The change since Katrina is incredible. There are so many diverse shops, restaurants and bars, it’s become a real destination.” She also recommends the monthly Freret Market for original art and the annual Freret Street Festival in early April.
Culture: Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is a cultural district in Central City with historic ties to early jazz musicians as well as the local Civil Rights movement. “There’s so much going on there, the Jazz Market for music, the Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center, Zeitgeist for film, Southern Food and Beverage Museum, and lots of restaurants and bars too.” She also recommends the Backstreet Cultural Center in Treme as a place to learn about the Mardi Gras Indians, the Baby Dolls and the history of Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs.
Brandan “BMike” Odums
Visual artist and filmmaker Brandan “BMike” Odums creates art at the intersection of activism and community with eye-popping murals that tell stories and transform both viewers and city spaces. His appreciation of New Orleans is informed by a deep and abiding respect for the elders who came before him. Here’s where he likes to go:
Restaurant: Despite its name, Brandan likes Rollin Fatties food truck, parked most weekdays during lunch on Tulane Avenue in the Medical district. Get the chicken burrito. For the kind of home cooking he grew up with, it’s Neyow’s Creole Café in Mid-City. “That place feels like someone invited you into their home for dinner. The smothered chicken is a favorite.” For something different, Brandan recommends Bennachin Restaurant for West African specialties like Sisay Dourang, chicken and roasted peanuts in gravy over rice.
Bar: Although he doesn’t drink alcohol, Brandan supports his friends who own bars around town. Maison on Frenchmen Street is a regular choice. “The Maison is a great spot for drinks, dinner and live music.” Along the entertainment corridor on St. Claude Avenue in the Marigny, he likes the Hi-Ho Lounge.
Music: The New Orleans Jazz Market on OC Haley is one of the artist’s go-to spots. “Every Wednesday night there is a beautiful open mic night showcasing the next wave of New Orleans poets, singers, rappers and musicians. And the house band is amazing.”
Neighborhood: Bayou Road off Broad Street in Mid-City tops Brandan’s list for eclectic neighborhood experiences. “It’s an interesting cobblestoned street lined with independent businesses including Community Book Center, one of the oldest black-owned book stores, a great place for conversations. There’s also Domino Records and Club Caribbean for reggae music.”
Culture: Along Esplanade Avenue, Brandan recommends taking a tour of Le Musee de f.p.c., a historic house dedicated to the history of free people of color in New Orleans. He’s also a huge fan of the Ashe’ Cultural Center on OC Haley. “It’s a place where I can sit at the feet of my elders and just listen.”
Award winning bartender Abigail Gullo embraces New Orleans culture with gusto, the same passion she pours into every cocktail she creates at the lively bar at Compere Lapin. Here are a few of her picks:
Restaurant: When she travels away from her adopted city, the first place she hits when she gets back is Bacchanal in the Bywater. “It’s exactly like drinking wine and eating fabulous food in somebody’s magical backyard.” She appreciates that the management supports staff with a pooled tip program. “And I think they do the best cheese plate in town.”
Bar: Abigail loves to patronize great bartenders. “New Orleans is full of bartenders who just want to please, without pretention.” In the French Quarter, the intimate bar at Angeline’s is one pick, and the tiki scene at Latitude 29 is another. ‘That’s a transporting place, very strict about classic tiki drinks. It’s also great for communal drinking. You need eight people to order the Plutocracy punch.”
Music: New Orleans is a city of music festivals, many of them free. Her favorite is French Quarter Fest in April. “It’s one of my favorites for local music. I love Cajun music for dancing, which we don’t get much of here. The Cajun music stage is where I hang out. For dancing on Frenchmen, I go to the Spotted Cat and d.b.a.”
Neighborhood: When she wants to have a vacation in her own city, Abigail heads to the Riverbend neighborhood uptown. “There is so much to do up there. I like to get a sandwich at Simone’s Market and go to The Fly (a public greenspace near Audubon Park that overlooks the Mississippi River) to eat it by the river. I love the Po-Boy Festival that happens on up there on Oak Street every year.”
Culture: Abigail recommends a visit to the Whitney Plantation Museum, the only plantation devoted to the history of slavery in the South. “I like it because it forces you to think, not only about history and where you come from, but how we have treated other people to get there and how it’s still affecting us today.”
Alex Geriner and his company Doorman Designs create new furniture from historic timber, which he recycles from across New Orleans. The 25-year-old has a millennial take on what makes New Orleans historic and fun.
Restaurant: Alex tends to shy away from heavier traditional New Orleans fare like crawfish etoufee and po-boys. “I love Vietnamese food, especially at Dong Phuong in New Orleans East.” In his neighborhood on the West Bank, he recommends Nine Roses. “I also love Rosedale off Canal Street, [where Chef] Susan Spicer creates amazing New Orleans food without making it overcomplicated.”
Bar: When he’s drinking beer, Alex loves the selection at Bulldog in Mid-City. Also in that area, Pearl Wine Bar is good for sipping. “For a quintessential New Orleans dive, I love Sidney’s on St. Bernard in the 7th Ward. Great spot for people watching.”
Music: Like many locals, Alex is drawn to the diverse line up of clubs and music on St. Claude Avenue. “I like the Allways Lounge for music and burlesque, Siberia has good bounce music, Kajun’s for the crazy karaoke scene. And you never know what’s up at the Saturn Bar.”
Neighborhood: The second largest neighborhood in the city (next to the 9th Ward), the 7th Ward is home to historic architecture along with funky bars and restaurants. “Biking along Esplanade Avenue towards City Park is a fun way to explore and go in and out of the residential streets.”
Culture: Alex is a big fan of the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. “I really enjoy the Sculpture Garden behind the museum, and it’s free of charge.” He also recommends the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in the Warehouse Arts District, a fun place to visit on Thursdays when there is live music after hours.
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