Tops of the Town 2013

Our Readers’ Picks in a Range of Categories

We heard that there was some sort of other election in 2012, but the one that was most far-ranging in decision-making was when our readers were asked to pick the Tops of the Town.

A self-addressed postage-paid ballot was published in our October 2012 issue. The ballot also appeared on our website. More than 150 were returned.

Winners listed had to receive a certain cluster of votes based on the overall number of votes cast. In categories where the votes were too dispersed to show a clear choice the category was eliminated. Second and third places were included whenever the vote totals fell within the cluster. Wherever there seemed to be an overt case of ballot stuffing, the votes were eliminated. (Fortunately, there was not much of that.) The end product is our annual list of readers’ picks. Some win every year; some are new to the list. All reflect what’s on the mind of our readers. To us they are all Tops of the Town.


Some say he’s a fox. Others say he’s a saint. He has certainly created a lot of buzz. And, no doubt, he’s a towering figure.

Tom Benson is all of those things. Best known as the owner of the Saints, Benson doubled his professional holdings in 2012 by buying the NBA’s Hornets (and most likely saving the franchise for the city). Both the Saints and the Hornets now play within the shadow of the renamed Benson Tower and, if you missed these stories, you can hear about them on WVUE-TV, aka FOX 8, which Benson also owns.

No local businessperson has ever amassed such a collection of high-profile properties as Benson has. To buy is one thing, to do something worthy with them is another, and here, too, Benson’s organization has had a solid reputation for management.

Not all was rosy for Benson in 2012. Allegations of a bounty scandal rocked the Saints organization. Severe sanctions were issued though sports commissioners don’t have the same burden of proof that the court system mandates. The debate continues.

No one blamed Benson though, and in February Benson and NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell will at some point stand side by side as New Orleans hosts Super Bowl XLVII, a tourism plum that wouldn’t be possible were it not for the Saints franchise.

Less visible but even more saintly is the elegant cancer recovery center that Benson and his wife Gale funded at the Ochsner hospital main campus. (We have known people who have used its services and who are high in its praise.)

Tom Benson is a local guy who worked his way to the top and along the way provided further proof that genius can rise from the back streets of New Orleans. This city made Tom Benson, and, in many ways, he’s remaking the city.

– Errol Laborde

(Except on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday)

While the Newhouse family of New Jersey gets to read the daily New York Times, they have decided that we, and literate folks in other cities where they own newspapers, do not need a daily paper. The strategy is to dazzle us with digital media while sacrificing the unique hold that a daily newspaper has in its market. Meanwhile there are many other digital dazzlers online, so the Newhouses have taken their product from being a community leader to another website among many. We can read all about it in The New York Times.








Our readers really like Mayor Mitch Landrieu and newly elected councilmember-at-large Stacy Head. Both lead their respective categories by large numbers. Curiously, they don’t always seem to like each other so much.

There has been noticeable tension between the mayor and Head – a rising star in local politics.

Part of the tension could be Head’s penchant for asking tough, sometimes exasperating questions. The good news, though, is that Landrieu and his staff usually have the answers – a reversal from Head’s early days on the council when questions were aimed at the helpless administration of Ray Nagin.

Some people tsk-tsk tension among elected officials, but that’s the way democracy works and far better than if everyone marched to the same tune.

What is important is that Landrieu and Head are two of the brightest minds in local politics. There integrity is unchallenged; their intelligence is unquestioned.

As councilmember-at-large, Head rotates annually as council president with her co-at-large member, and in that capacity fills in for the mayor when needed. Landrieu will be beginning the last full year of his first term in 2013, but seems like a lock for reelection. Barring some sort of political bounce, Landrieu and Head seem likely to be overseeing City Hall for at least the next five years. Tension is not always bad, but maybe every so often there can be a hug.  

– E.L.


As a post-Katrina reform, New Orleans reduced the number of assessors from seven to one. That, however, shouldn’t mean that the line at City Hall should be seven times as long. With homestead exemptions in mind, homeowners had to spend their day in the halls of City Hall as though they were waiting for Black Friday at Walmart. Here is hoping that the assessor’s office becomes seven times more efficient.







Watch out New Orleans, the Krewe of Muses is celebrating becoming a teenager this Carnival season. First parading in 2001, the Muses organization is comprised of more than 1,700 members (more than 1,000 of whom will be riding this year) who strive to “tap into and recognize the local artistic and cultural resources of the community and incorporate them into a Muses Mardi Gras tradition.”  

When it rolled for the first time with 610 members, this all-female organization was the first of its kind to show this kind of enthusiasm, and that visual phenomenon has become one of Mardi Gras’ darlings, in part due to its humorous, though sometimes biting, parade themes.

While satirical themes can take a parade far, it’s their yearlong philanthropic efforts that set the Muses apart. The krewe organizes shoe drives and “Thirsty Thursday” fundraisers; even the cups that they throw from their floats are designed by a student in a New Orleans public school art program.

Speaking of throws, these ladies are known for the inventiveness of their throws, from terrycloth headbands sporting the Muses logo to miniature versions of the huge “moon” light that helps start the parade.

This year on Thurs., Feb. 7, at about 6:30 p.m. (if all goes according to plan), the Muses will start at Magazine and Jefferson streets, proceeding down Magazine Street to Napoleon Avenue, where they fall in behind the Knights of Babylon and Krewe of Chaos, and then follow the St. Charles Avenue parade route. Get your hands up and open your eyes, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a shoe.

– Morgan Packard
(Full disclosure: happily a member of Muses)


Galatoire’s prides itself in tradition. It is perhaps the only fine-dining restaurant left that still requires jackets for dinner. For more than 100 years Galatoire’s has been serving impeccable French Creole cuisine with an ambience that encourages table-hopping, conversation and some of the best people-watching.

Founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, who brought with him recipes and traditions inspired by the dining styles of the small village of Pardies, France, where he grew up. The restaurant is in its fourth generation of family guidance. Today, Galatoire’s is overseen by chief operating officer Melvin Rodrigue, who works in close conjunction with David Gooch (Galatoire’s grandson), Billy Clark and executive chef Michael Sichel.

Though customs still hold strong (for instance, every woman who celebrates her birthday at the restaurant is either “18” or “21,” and many regulars request their favorite waiter) changes are slowly coming, including the restaurant’s plans to expand with the purchase of 215 Bourbon St. next door.

You can now make reservations to dine on the second floor and pay with a credit card; your waiter doesn’t hand-chip the ice for your drinks, but Galatoire’s seems destined to remain much the same for the next 100 years of its lauded and favored existence.

Galatoire’s, 209 Bourbon St., 525-2021,
– M.P.







New Orleanians seem to like their little dose of Willy Wonka, especially now that it has two locations.

Sucré, the brainchild of co-owner Joel Dondis and head pastry chef and co-owner Tariq Hanna – serves macarons, artisan chocolates, King Cakes, gelato, marshmallows, drinking chocolate, candied pecans, coffee, chocolate bars, cupcakes, barks, shakes, gift sets and umbrellas. They even have a free iPad/iPhone game called “Sucré Macaron Madness.”

Often when one tries to do too many things, everything suffers. But with Sucré, the more options they add, the sweeter the taste becomes.

In addition to all of this, the chefs at Sucré create petit fours and one-of-a-kind sculptured cakes for weddings and events, as well as catering dessert receptions and creating unforgettable favors.

As if the tastes weren’t enough, Sucré boasts airy spaces decorated with cheerful, almost mod colors, desserts that seem too pretty to eat presented elegantly and packaging that’s well considered and almost as addicting as their macarons. And, if you can’t make to one of their locations, you can order from their website.

Sucré, 3025 Magazine St., 520-8311; Lakeside Mall, 3301 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, 834-2277;

– M.P.


There are lots of joke possibilities to the notion of a pie factory burning, but we choose to make none of them as we mourn the destruction of the Hubig’s Pie factory in Marigny. (Hubig’s symbol was a corpulent baker named Savory Simon.) The owners say they will rebuild. We will do the same with our appetites.







New Orleanian of the Year
1) Tom Benson
2) Drew Brees

New Orleanian I Admire Most (male)
1) Drew Brees
2) Tom Benson

New Orleanian I admire most (female)
1) Stacy Head
2) Sally-Ann Roberts

Favorite Politician
1) Mitch Landrieu
2) Bobby Jindal

Favorite New Orleans Musician (living in
the city)
1) Kermit Ruffins
2) Dr. John

Favorite New Orleans Musician (living outside the city)
1) Harry Connick Jr.

Favorite Local Band
1) Rebirth Brass Band

Favorite Local New Orleans Actor/Actress
1) Becky Allen
2) Bryan Batt

Favorite Saints Player
1) Drew Brees

Favorite Hornets Player
1) Anthony Davis

Favorite Local TV

News Anchor
1) Angela Hill

Favorite TV

Sports Reporter
1) Jim Henderson

Favorite TV Meterologist
1) Bob Breck
2) Carl Arredondo

Favorite Local Radio Personality
1) John “Spud” McConnell
2) Bobby Hebert

Favorite Local Writer
1) Chris Rose
2) Errol Laborde


Favorite Grocery Store/Deli
1) Rouses Supermarket
2) Whole Foods Market

Favorite Gym
1) Elmwood Fitness Center
2) Anytime Fitness

Favorite Day Spa
1) Belladonna Day Spa
2) H2O Salon & Spa

Favorite Boutique
1) Fleurty Girl

Favorite Antiques Store
1) M.S. Rau Antiques

Favorite Florist
1) Villere’s Florist

Favorite Lawn/Garden Supply
1) Perino’s Garden Center
2) Harold’s Indoor Outdoor Plants

Favorite Movie Theater
1) Prytania Theatre
2) AMC Elmwood Palace 20

Favorite Place to Hear Live Music
1) House of Blues New Orleans
2) Tipitina’s

Favorite Happy Hour
1) Columns Hotel

Favorite Jazz Club
1) Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

Favorite Museum
1) New Orleans Museum of Art
2) Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Favorite Historical Landmark
1) Jackson Square

Favorite Remodeled/Renovated Building
1) The Roosevelt New Orleans

Favorite Place to Spot Celebrities
1) French Quarter

Favorite Place to Play Hookey
1) French Quarter

Favorite Golf Course
1) Audubon Park Golf Course
2) English Turn Golf & Country Club

Favorite Weekend Getaway
1) Gulf Shores, Ala.
2) Biloxi, Miss.

Favorite Up-and-Coming Neighborhood
1) Lakeview
2) Bywater

Favorite Neighborhood in Which to Raise a Family
1) Lakeview
2) Metairie
3) Tremé

Favorite Place to Buy a Wedding Dress
1) Town and Country Bridal Salon & Ladies Apparel
2) Yvonne LaFleur

Favorite Place to Place Your Bets
1) Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Favorite Hotel
1) Hotel Monteleone
2) Windsor Court Hotel

Favorite Bed & Breakfast
1) Cornstalk Hotel


Favorite Decision New Orleans Made This Year
1) To fix streets in the French Quarter

Least Favorite Decision New Orleans Made This Year
1) Cutting back The Times-Picayune
2) Raising property taxes

Favorite Local Event Open to the Public
1) French Quarter Festival
2) New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Favorite Work by a Charity, Organization or Group
1) Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana
2) Rau for Art Foundation

Favorite New Orleans Song
1) “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”
2) “Walking to New Orleans”
3) “They All Asked For You”

Favorite Local
Radio Station

Favorite Local TV Station
1) WWL-TV Channel 4

Favorite Festival
1) New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
2) Gretna Heritage Festival

Favorite Carnival Parade
1) Muses
2) Bacchus

Favorite Live Theater
1) Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré
2) Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre

Favorite New Book About New Orleans
1) The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, by Lawrence N. Powell

Favorite “Treme” Character
1) Antoine Batiste, played by Wendell Pierce

Favorite Charter School
1) Lusher Charter New Orleans

Favorite Private Elementary School
1) St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School
2) Louise S. McGehee School

Favorite Private Secondary/High School
1) Jesuit High School
2) Mount Carmel Academy


Favorite Place to Buy King Cakes
1) Manny Randazzo King Cakes
2) Rouses Supermarket

Favorite Takeout
1) Five Happiness

Favorite Gourmet Takeout
1)Whole Foods Market

Favorite Fried Chicken
1) Popeyes
2) Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Favorite Poor Boys
1) Parkway Bakery & Tavern
2) Domilise’s Po-Boys

Favorite Tacos
1) Felipe’s Taqueria
2) Taqueria Corona

Favorite Sushi
1) Sake Café
2) Little Tokyo Japanese Restaurant

Favorite Wings
1) WOW Café & Wingery
2) Buffalo Wild Wings

Favorite Onion Rings
1) Ye Old College Inn
2) Mandina’s Restaurant

Favorite Snow Balls
1) Plum Street Snoball
2) Sal’s Sno-Ball Stand
3) Hansen’s Sno-Bliz


Favorite Place for Cajun Food
1) Cochon Restaurant
2) Jacque-Imo’s Café

Favorite Place for Creole Food
1) Galatoire’s Restaurant


Favorite Middle Eastern Restaurant
1) Byblos Restaurant
2) Lebanon’s Cafe

Favorite Italian Restaurant
1) Vincent’s Italian Cuisine
2) Irene’s Cuisine (tie)
2) The Italian Barrel (tie)

Favorite Asian Restaurant
1) Five Happiness

Favorite Indian Restaurant
1) Nirvana

Favorite Mexican/Southwest Restaurant
1) Superior Grill
2) Juan’s Flying Burrito


Favorite Seafood Restaurant
1) Drago’s Seafood Restaurant
2) Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill
3) GW Fins
4) The Galley Seafood Restaurant
5) Acme Oyster House

Favorite Place to Get Raw Oysters
1) Acme Oyster House
2) Casamento’s Restaurant

Favorite Place to Get Boiled Crawfish
1) Rouses Supermarket
2) Dennis’ Seafood


Favorite Pizza Restaurant
1) Reginelli’s
2) Slice
Favorite Pizza Topping
1) Pepperoni
2) Cheese


Favorite Restaurant for Steaks
1) Ruth’s Chris Steak House
2) Crescent City Steak House

Favorite Burger
1) Phil’s Grill
2) Yo Mama’s Bar & Grill
3) Cowbell
4) Tru Burger (tie)
4) Port of Call (tie)


Favorite Place for Gumbo
1) Gumbo Shop
2) Commander’s Palace

Favorite Place for Turtle Soup
1) Commander’s Palace
2) Ralph’s on the Park


Favorite Coffeehouse
1) PJ’s Coffee
2) Café Du Monde

Favorite Coffeehouse for Food
1) Caffe! Caffe!
2) Royal Blend Coffee and Tea House
Favorite Dessert Menu
1) Commander’s Palace
2) Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro (tie)
2) Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor (tie)

Favorite Bakery
1) Haydel’s Bakery
2) Maurice’s French Pastries
3) Manny Randazzo
King Cakes

Favorite Sweet Shop
1) Sucré
2) Blue Frog Chocolates

Favorite Ice Cream/Gelato Shop
1) Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor
2) Sucré


Favorite Restaurant for Fine Dining
1) Galatoire’s

Favorite Casual Restaurant
1) Smashburger

Favorite Outdoor Dining
1) Martinique Bistro
2) The Court of Two Sisters

Favorite Restaurant for a Power Lunch
1) Mr. B’s Bistro
2) Ruth’s Chris Steak House (tie)
2) Galatoire’s (tie)


Favorite House Specialty Drink
1) Sazerac at Sazerac Bar
2) Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House

Favorite place for a Margarita
1) Superior Grill
2) Felipe’s Taqueria
3) Juan’s Flying Burrito

Favorite Wine List
1) Antoine’s

Favorite Sports Bar
1) Walk-On’s
2) Cooter Brown’s Tavern, Grill & Oyster Bar

Favorite Hotel Bar
1) Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone
2) Columns Hotel

Favorite Local Beer
1) Abita Amber


Favorite French Bread
1) Leidenheimer’s

Favorite Place for a Salad
1) Houston’s Restaurant

Favorite Place for Vegetarian Dishes
1) Green Goddess

Favorite Place for Breakfast or Brunch
1) Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar
2) The Court of Two Sisters

Favorite Place for Late-night Dining
1) Camellia Grill  

Cleanest Restaurant
1) Ralph’s on the Park


Favorite Caterer
1) Pigéon Catering

Favorite Chef
1) John Besh

Favorite Restaurant
1) Galatoire’s
2) Ralph’s on the Park

Favorite Restaurant Opened in 2012
1) R’evolution

Favorite Restaurant Worth the Drive
1) Middendorf’s


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