Day 2: Muriel’s and More

Sigh.

I reserved our dinner on the second day for a second post. We actually made a mistake on this day–we went to Muriel’s for dinner on the same day as The Commander’s Palace lunch. We just didn’t think about what it would be like to have both of these restaurants on the same day. Both are the type of full dining experience that one should reserve for a single meal a day, but we didn’t know that going in.

So this is how I found myself sitting at a table at Muriel’s for dinner, spying a delicious looking shrimp and grits entrée on the menu after just having had this dish for lunch. I decided to order it anyway. The two different restaurants clearly had diverse interpretations of the same dish, evidenced by the descriptions in their menus. Both are very nice restaurants. Both have excellent gluten-free options. But in the realm of gluten-free, Muriel’s pulls it out in a new way by juuuust a hair. Why? They have a designated GF menu.

They has a standard set of GF options for what I saw in New Orleans.

I ordered the shrimp and grits despite the similar dish ordered for lunch. I wanted to see their spin on it, and a very different spin it was. We had pimento cheese this time, and it was very good. My friend ordered the same dish, and my plating design was different to mark the allergen concern (my heart does a little happy dance when places do that). It tasted wonderful, truly a southern flavor. It was a large plate as well, and because of our rich meal earlier, I wasn’t able to finish–especially since I wanted to try a dessert. So it was goodbye to a perfectly good leftover portion of shrimp and grits, and hello to a slice of the flourless chocolate cake. I enjoyed this as well; it was flavorful and less bitter than others I’ve had. It was finished with fresh raspberries.

I actually loved this dinner, but I think I would have enjoyed it more had we placed it on a day when it could have our full attention. Definitely come to Muriel’s–but save it for a night when you can enjoy everything it has to offer.

Oh, and definitely call ahead for a reservation. The quality of the meal, beautiful setting, and excellent service make this a very popular spot for evening French Quarter diners.

Overall Rating: 5/5

I rated The Commander’s Palace a high score for a tasty meal coupled with a beautiful experience. Muriel’s elegant atmosphere boasts a very historically significant building, but the restaurant alone doesn’t quite have the nostalgia or history that some others do. However, the food alone is outstanding and it is located on a beautiful corner of Jackson Square. Absolutely a must-go for GF diners!

Bourbon Street Awakening

Up until this point, we had not seen a large share of truly authentic New Orleans music. Upon speaking with locals, many of the jazz, blues, and zydeco musicians left with everyone else when the population of the city proper was displaced at the happening of Hurricane Katrina. When it was time to move back into the city, new musicians established themselves–bringing in a new setting of rock, karaoke, and other not-so-New Orleans-ish music with them. Wandering down Bourbon Street at night, there was little to hear other than strains of “Sweet Caroline” and general 80’s hair smashing music.

The exceptions are present, but you must seek them out. Maison Bourbon is a sweet little jazz spot with open doors and a requirement of one drink per set–standard for better clubs on the stretch. We heard a number of excellent jazz musicians here, and frequented the place often. A standard selection of drinks was available, and again, I’m not sure of the GF beer options available. But you must hit this place when you go. It’s easily accessible and plays true jazz.

However, my very favorite place is neither a bar or restaurant; in fact they will tell you upon ticket purchase that there is not only no food or beverage for sale, but no bathroom, either. However, the musical experience promises to be worth everything that makes it most exclusive. And that place, friends, is Preservation Hall.

This little bitty music hall is located directly next to Pat O’Brian’s bar from my earlier post, New Orleans: Day 1, and almost right on the corner across from Maison Bourbon. It’s not on Bourbon, but directly off from it on Saint Peter Street. Drinks are allowed, just not sold there, so grab one from Pat’s, Maison, or any other bar around and bring it in if you like. Now, we discuss how to get into the place.

If you purchase general admission tickets, you will wait in a line outside that stretches from the door, past Pat O’Brian’s, and almost down to Royal Street. Folks wait in line to get into the next available performance that has room for them. They run at 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10 p.m. (No 7:00 showing is ever available). You have to show up early to ensure you’ll get in at all. In theory, you could be waiting in line for quite a while (but sooo worth it).

Your other option is to look at performances online, email or call their number, and pre-order tickets. They call it “Big Shot” seating, and it costs a bit more. However, you do get to go in without having to wait in line for very long, and I consider it to be a worthy place to support. The site can be found at http://preservationhall.com/hall/. Below is a screenshot of the info from their website:

When I say that @PresHall is little bitty, I mean it. It’s located in a room off the entrance of a carriage way off the street, and is barely big enough for the few rows of benches it provides. My Big-Shot seat was a few rows back, but I chose to move to the front, seating myself on the row of mats on the floor directly in front of the band. Phone/camera use during the performance is strictly forbidden. Seriously, people. I think they’d throw you out if they even saw you texting. So we all took some photos of the place before the band came out.

The place was converted to the music hall in 1961, but you can tell it gets its look from years far before then. You’re sitting on cypress benches that date back to who knows how long ago. Really, though. Sitting there on that hollow-sounding floor and feeling the voices of musicians decades before, it was beautiful. No way would I ever believe they should change it.

Out came the band members. After talking with us a bit, they took up their instruments and began their opening number, “Sho’ Been Good to Me.” The evening’s music moved through the still thoughts of the Mississippi, to the high-rolling, foot-tapping strikes of a trumpet, to the thought of lights on the city streets. And after they’d played a few bits, they invited a play-a-song with music by request. Usual requests cost $5, all the way up to “When the Saints Go Marching In” for $20. And after 45 minutes, they tipped their hats and shook our hands as we made our way out for the next group.

The brown age of the walls, the strains of the instruments, and the spirit of the place cemented a new idea of music for me in my heart that will never be erased. One local cab driver called it “the Spot.” I believe it was. If money and time had allowed, I would have sat there every night on that cypress floor and never left. I think part of my heart is still there. And honestly, I hope part of yours does, too.

We stepped out to the street, back out to the rock music and neon signs and people calling to their buddies to join them in the next bar. Late into the night, that’s when you get the view of the Bourbon Street that its reputation suggests–characters, girls dancing in their, well, whatever, etc. I was propositioned a few times. We pretty much went back to the hotel by midnight, though it’s all part of the world of the French Quarter at night. Do be careful, but find yourself the time to seek out that music somewhere and let the original soul of that place reach you.

No score needed for this one, friends. ❤️

So be safe, take it in, drink responsibly, have fun, and get that experience for yourself. Time has its way of going slowly, but all too fast, when you’re in New Orleans.

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