In just a few days, the streets of New Orleans will be full… of laughter, pride, girls trips, friendship gatherings, power couples, glam squads, beauty and fashion pop-up shops, mouth drenching food, endless parties, entrepreneurship, empowerment, music, and a plethora of tourists saying “N’awlins” while secretly rehearsing how to say “baby,” like the locals so that they feel like they’re home. This distinctive vibe happens once a year. Exclusively bred for New Orleans, Essence Fest is that time when all just want to “vote for everybody black.” We feel proud that New Orleans is the selected place chosen for thousands of black people in America who want to celebrate our culture. So, if you are visiting, welcome to my city and get your accent in effect! Plus, I hope you packed your walking shoes, a fan, blotting sheets, and lip balm, cause baaaaby….. IT’S HOT!
It is only in true nature and my duty to share with you some of my favorite eateries owned by US! I’ve included places not only you will love, but also feel like a local because most of them are off the beaten path. So get your Uber app ready OR better yet, download the RTA Mobile app and hop on a streetcar...It's a great way to take in the beauty of the city before you chow down.
1. SNO-LA- Let's face it. It's HOT!! And when it's hot, we run to snowball stands and air condition. There are a ton of snowballs stands around and honestly, it's hard to find one you won't like, but locals have their favorites. One of mine is called SNO-LA Uptown (there are two locations) Established in 2011, this is the home of the cheesecake stuffed snowball. Yes, you read correctly! Cheesecake stuffed snowball! There are a ton of unique flavors and some classics like strawberry, and pineapple. If you want a sweet fix and not feeling like some beignets, make your way to SNO-LA.
2. Sweet Vegan Soulfood- If you're vegan, you NEED to make your way to this place! Hell, even if you're not... go anyway! The food is incredibly and unbelievably “I can’t believe this vegan,” Delish! I fell in love with this place a few months ago when I stumbled on their IG page. All of their photos lured me in! One of the reasons that I connected to this place is because it’s family owned and you can taste the love prepared in each dish. My usual is the vegan nachos. They’re so flavorful and filling that I always save a little extra to munch on before dinner. BONUS: Show me the sweets. They had me at ice cream. Trust me.
3. Bennachin- I've been coming to this restaurant for years, so it is very near and dear to my heart. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising that this is the number one place I send everyone to who comes to visit! It is nestled on Royal Street which is located in a quiet area of the french quarters. They serve THE BEST African food in town. Small Disclaimer: There is only one cook, so be prepared for a little CPT! ….did I just say that? But the best meals come to those who wait, and if something is being made just for me with that much love, I’d pull out my patience card. My favorite dish is called the Sisay Singo, Baked Chicken, Sauteed spinach, plantains and coconut rice. You’re welcome.
4. Pressed- Ok ok ok... Shameless plug: These are my friends. GO TO THIS RESTAURANT! What you’ll find are dishes on the lighter side, salads, and sandwiches. They can be discovered just on the outskirts of the Central Business District. BONUS: A streetcar rides right by so you can hop on to your next adventure after you eat. My favorite sandwich is the Blake: Honey Turkey, Muenster Cheese, Pecan Pepper Jelly, and Granny-Smith Apples. So PRESS on and go!
5. Lil Dizzy's- This is basically the homeland of soul food in New Orleans. (IMO) Serving the community for decades, this decadent tasting gem is pinned on Esplanade Ave, steps away from the quarters. If you are looking for some good, ya grandma in the kitchen cookin, you won’t be disappointed.
6. Newyos- Another Soul Food fav! When the food is so good and becomes so popular, it forces you to move into a bigger building. Yep, they had to do that. Some things on the menu that you will not regret includes fried catfish, charbroiled oysters, and ya auntie’s holiday mac & cheese. As I said, it's a popular spot so get their early.
7. Backatown- An amazing little coffee shop that is also close to the french quarters. You know how coffee shop works...they attract creatives and young entrepreneurs strategizing on their next big move. If you want to be a part of that energy, just swing in and get a latte! Great coffee served by great people!
8. Hurst Family Restaurant- For those of you who are staying close to the airport or Kenner and Metairie. THIS IS A MUST! I was chatting with @Rudydafoodie, a local food blogger here in NOLA (Follow him for all things food) we started talking about soul food, and he reminded me of this gem! I was like OMG!!! HOW DID I FORGET! This family has some of the best-smothered pork chops I’ve ever had! Now, all dishes are prepared when you order so sit back and relax with some house made tea. It’s worth the wait! Also, its cash only.
As I was typing this I realized, I didn't want to just stop at food! I want to share more of my city’s diamonds in the rough.
A classic fav, Magazine Street is my go to when I want to pick up a few things, find something specific, or just shop around to see what’s hot now! This six-mile stretch from uptown to the garden district has everything from antique stores, coffee shops, spas, nail salons and trendy and affordable clothing boutiques. I discover something new every time I’m there. I recently fell in love with West London, a boutique with high-quality classic pieces. If you need something extra for one of your night outs or even a date night outfit, this is your destination.
We can’t talk about shopping without talking about glam, duh. Plus, if nothing else, every girl will have the most manicured hands whether they are waving to folks as they walk through the streets, holding a hand up because they’re catching “dat beat,” or just being prim and proper because it’s your norm to have your nails done! Southern Swings Nail Bar, will have you swinging to whatever reason your waving hands need. Unlike any other nail salon, you literally swing throughout every stroke of polish. While you sip on a glass of wine during your custom pedi, you get to feel the breeze of going back and forth on the porch swing provided and embrace your inner southern charm.
Destination Sak’s….OR Joseph’s! Just like a mini version of Sak’s, it has a ton of high-end designer brands! I had to look around because for a second I forgot I was on Magazine Street. This store is full of pieces from designers such as Gucci, Prada, and even Chanel.
Like I mentioned, this street is six miles, and lord knows I wish I could tell you about all the places to go, but I'll save that for another blog.
- July is a hot month here in New Orleans. When I say hot, it's borderline oppressive! So make sure you pack breathable clothing. Nice and loose! You don't want to look like a sweaty hot mess walking around. I would also stick to comfortable flats for walking during the day. I've seen so many beautiful women almost break their necks walking on our uneven NOLA streets in high heels. Save the heels for the concert. (pack some flats for that too, the Superdome is pretty big!
- Drink Responsibly! One of the reasons why you come here is because you know that we know how to party! There is no such thing as last call here and measuring alcohol is unheard of. With that said, pace yourself. Known for our great food and hospitality, we will more than likely welcome you with a drink. Therefore, you must learn how to sip because you don't want to be that girl walking down the street at 2pm with your girlfriends mad at you because you can't hold your liquor. Not a good look Sis!
- Find a local, we are pretty friendly. One thing we love to do is talk about our city, we love to tell you about all the great places to go and steer you away from tourist traps. :-)
As always, I'm here to point you in the right direction. Drop a line in my comments and let me know if you visit any of the places mentioned. I would love to hear about your experience. Remeber use my hashtag #traceyknows when you do. :-)