So it’s your third or fourth day in New Orleans, and you want to do something miles away from Bourbon Street in spirit — where to go?
If it’s imbibing you want, away from the boisterous rowdiness of Bourbon, turn up St. Peter Street to find a low-key little locals spot called Boondock Saint. No frills, but also no hawkers standing outside trying to pack the place with partiers. And partiers would flock if they saw the prices here. “We’re a local bar with local prices,” the sweet-faced bartender told me. That meant $3.75 vodka sodas at 2:30 a.m. Who needs a happy hour or hawkers with prices like that?
For a food and music fix, try the way-off-the-beaten-path destination Vaughan’s Lounge and Restaurant, at the edge of the Bywater neighborhood. If a bit of peeling paint adds character to a building, Vaughan’s has personality for days. Worn and creaky-looking, the place isn’t there for visitors’ aesthetic pleasure — it’s there for music. Every Thursday night, local jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his Barbecue Swingers band take over Vaughan’s for soul-moving music and tummy-filling food. Ruffins is famous for cooking for his shows — and he generally cooks too much, and guests get to share in the spoils.
Off the beaten menu — and maybe it really IS beaten — is a list posted outside of the various animals that Vaughan’s will hunt down for you and skin for your culinary usage (although you’re also welcome to bring your own catch and have them skin it for you). Included are alligator, snapping turtle, nutria and raccoon; the sign notes that every coon’s foot fur is left on — the better for you to tell it’s a coon and not a cat. Yowza!
Another curious sign posted near the front door:
Finally, if you want to leave the French Quarter altogether and see how and where the locals live, I highly recommend a Confederacy of Cruisers bike tour. For $45, a NO native (ask for Nick) will lead you through the city for three hours, pointing out all manner of interesting sites and landmarks. Yes, three hours sounds like a lot, but the pace is leisurely and the terrain blessedly flat. There’s even a stop for a fine Bloody Mary at a locals bar!
Our tour’s highlights also included a laundromat where rock ‘n’ roll’s earliest hits were recorded; a music history mini-lesson at Louis Armstrong Park; rides past the breathtaking architecture of onetime Creole enclaves the Bywater, Faubourg-Marigny, and the Treme. In addition to the Creole history tour I took, CoC also offers a drinking bike tour, a culinary bike tour and a Lower 9th Ward tour.
Farah Fleurima is the original DallasDiva and friend to craveDFW.