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JazzFest trip report (very long)

Nor'easter | Apr 27, 200508:55 PM

I just returned from a week in New Orleans and am pleased to report that we got some good eating in, including:

Tuesday lunch -- Uglesich's: In my 25 visits to New Orleans over the last 18 years (including 18 consecutive JazzFests), I had never tried Uggie's. Given its impending closing, I knew it was now or never. We landed at MSY at 10:30 and picked up our luggage and rental car and were at Uggie's by 11:30, early enough (especially because it was only Tuesday, when most of the JazzFest crowd had not arrived) to avoid a line (although by Thursday, I was told the 11:30 line was already over an hour long). We shared crawfish balls, firecracker shrimp, shrimp Italiano, stuffed crab, and an oyster/shrimp po-boy. I was very happy to have had the opportunity to try this place before it closed: we really enjoy the food and the atmoshpere, and will be sorry not to be able to return. As to the controversy that surrounds this place on this board, I will say that to non-native New Orleansians such as me, places like Uggie's definitely benefit from the elation I feel to be back in New Orleans, as well as an atmosphere that many of us don't find outside of New Orleans. So while the natives argue about whether this is a great place or an overhyped place, I will say that for most visitors, it is a wonderful place to soak up some local culture and feel like a local, even if many (perhaps most) of the people standing in the line are tourists, too.

Tuesday dinner -- Dick & Jenny's: I can't get enough of this place. We arrived at 6:00, early enough to be seated without a wait (although of all restaurants that routinely require a wait, I mind the wait at D&J's the least, since it typically involves enjoying a drink or bottle of wine on their patio). What impressed me most about this particular visit is that, after having learned on this board that D&J's has a children's menu, we brought our 5-year-old and had a wonderful family meal. And while adult entrees are in the $20 range, kid's meals are about $5, so you can bring your kids without feeling gouged.

Wednesday lunch -- New Orleans Grill: as part of our rate at the Windsor Court, we were entitled to one free lunch. The restaurant is lovely and the food is delicious, but it was just too formal and too "fine" for a JazzFest visit. I have nothing bad to say about the place, but I don't plan to go back except to claim future free meals.

Wednesday dinner -- Bayona: to celebrate my wife's 40th birthday, I had a carriage pick us up at the Windsor Court, take us through the French Quarter, and then deliver us to Bayona for dinner. The tour was hysterically bad: do others suspect, as I do, that a lot of French Quarter restaurants pay these carriage operators to tout their places? Our carriage driver must have pointed out every bad, tourist-trap restaurant in the Quarter: "On your right is the Hard Rock Cafe, where you can get some of the best food in New Orleans." Also, he had no idea where Bayona was, so I had to direct him. When we arrived he said, "Oh I know this place. They call it Galatoire's." I should have offered to buy him a new pair of glasses.

In any event, Bayona was lovely as usual, although I think I'm getting a little bored of it. I've always considered it one of my favorite places for fine dining in New Orleans, with great food without being as formal and stuffy as the New Orleans Grill, but it just lacks excitement for me. For those who have never been, I recommend it highly; for me, however, I think I've burned out on the place. Oh, and while the service was great for 90% of the dinner, after our waitress delivered our dessert menus, she ignored us for the next 20 minutes; we had to flag down one of her colleagues to order dessert.

Thursday dinner -- room service at the hotel. Long story, but we got stuck in for the night.

Friday dinner -- Brigsten's: I accidentally made reservations for both Herbsaint and Brigtsen's, and although I've never been to Herbsaint and have been to Brigtsen's many, many times, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to go back to Brigtsen's. And although I've been to Brigtsen's at least as often as I've been to Bayona, I am happy to report that I am not at all bored of the place. And while we have skipped Brigtsen's during some JazzFest visits because the waits, even with a reservation, can be ridiculously long, this time we were seated right on time for our 8:30 reservation and had a wonderful meal. After being supplanted for a few years by Bayona and Peristyle, Brigtsen's has reemerged as my favorite New Orleans restaurant.

Saturday dinner -- Dante's Kitchen: we slipped out of the Fest early and tried to go back to Dick & Jenny's, but there already was a substantial wait at 6:00, so we chose Dante's Kitchen as a reliable backup, and it did not let us down. It's hard to get all that excited about Dante's, but I think "reliable backup" sums it up well. In fact, my wife, who ordered duck four nights in a row -- at Bayona, Brigtsen's, Dante's and Jacques-Imo's -- claimed to like Dante's duck better than Bayona and Brigtsen's. (I disagree; I think the duck at Brigtsen's is much better.) Dante's also worked out well because there were 8 of us, including 2 young children, and they were able to give us our own room (the blue room at the top of the stairs).

Sunday dinner -- Jacques-Imo's: I think Jacques-Imo's benefits from the same hype that Uggie's does. Which is not a bad thing: it's just such a unique and only-in-New-Orleans kind of place, that everyone is inspired to report that the food is a lot better than it really is. The food legitimately is good, but it definitely gets notched up due to the lively and fun atmosphere, and by the quantity of alcohol that you inevitbly drink during an evening there.

Monday dinner -- Tacqueria Corona: after a week of non-stop eating, we just had to tone it down and walk over to the Warehouse District location of Tacqueria Corona for some reliable Mexican food (although the fish tacos were not as good as I remember them being). Anyhow, it was perfect for the occasion.

Another year, another Fest. See you all next year!

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