You would think that after a lifetime, give or take, of living in New Orleans, I’d have the hosting thing down. And to some extent I do – even at age 7, I insisted on taking my lesbian “aunties” who were visiting from Chapel Hill out for beignets at Café du Monde and getting roast beef po’ boys and picnicking in City Park. By age 10, I was showing my aunt and uncle, in from Myrtle Beach, all the best food booths at Jazz Fest. In high school, I took all manner of exchange students, friends of friends who were home visiting from college, and random relatives on a whirlwind tour that always included Russell’s Marina Grill, drive-thru daiquiris, The Point out at Lake Pontchartrain, cheese fries with debris, Jackson Square, at least one cemetery, Brocato’s, beignets, crawfish/oysters (if in season), snowballs (preferably with condensed milk), live music, Bourbon Street if they insisted, the French Market, the ferry, City Park and gumbo.
That was, of course, all before Katrina, but really all that changed in my Highlights of NOLA Tour ™ after Katrina was that people started wanting to go see the more devastated parts of the city. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way because it seemed like disaster porn, but I usually agreed to do it anyway because visitors’ wishes should be honored.
When I first moved back home and I had just one kid, I was still at least kind of hip (to the extent that I have ever been hip). I knew the clubs on Frenchmen Street with the best music and drink specials; I knew the hot new restaurants.
Now, eight years and another kid later? I still get plenty of snowballs and beignets and Brocato’s gelato, but when a friend texted me last week to ask what nightspots she should be sure to hit when she visited New Orleans, I had to text my childless best friend to get answers for her. My social life is such that when a friend in Chicago emailed me to ask about the David Bowie second-line, I wrote back, with complete honesty, “I’m sorry; I was actually at a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s when that was happening.”
But today, I have a college friend coming into town who has never been to New Orleans before, and I really want to make sure he has a good time. In addition to the aforementioned issue of my lame mom-ness, I am hampered by the fact that my friend doesn’t drink alcohol and is a vegetarian (no, he doesn’t eat seafood; but yes, he does eat dairy). I’m so used to celebrating New Orleans as a food-and-booze-lovers’ paradise – “look, go-cups!”; “look, breakfast cocktails on a weekday!”; “look, delicious fried chicken and red meat and fried seafood!” – that I am kind of at a loss.
Where would you take a nondrinking vegetarian friend in town for a long weekend? Please tell me in the comments!