2017-02-16 / Opinions

America’s most unique city is where waiters can make $100,000

By LORAN SMITH
columnist

NEW ORLEANS – The Crescent City literally drips with tradition and age – like Savannah and Charleston, but on a larger scale. If it weren’t for the Superdome (which, at 42, ain’t no spring chicken when it comes to skyline structures), the architecture, in some places, would make you think that you might be at the Alhambra.

After all, it was the Spanish who influenced the look of the Vieux Carre which many know as the French Quarter. Even with the scars of Katrina, which pretty much have healed, you can literally lose yourself in the moss draped oaks which date back to the times when Thomas Jefferson took advantage of Napoleon in the greatest real estate deal in the history of our country – $15,000,000 or three cents an acre for 524,800,000 acres which literally changed the face of the U.S.

You might get some argument from descendants of William S. Seward, the Secretary of State under Lincoln and Johnson (not Lyndon) who organized the fleecing of the Russians by purchasing Alaska for 2.5 cents per acre. (You do the math on the $24.00 the Dutch paid the Lenape tribe for the island of Manhattan, 33.6 square miles). The Louisiana Purchase gave the upstart Americans wide ranging status in the world, with is impactful space and resources, and furthered the irrelevance of the English on this side of the Atlantic.

With the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans (May 7, 1718), coming up next year, these and other factoids, are stimulating a lot of anticipatory conversation these days Likely there will be 15,000,000 hurricanes sold at Pat O’Brien’s next spring.

It had been a while since there was a visit here, but prominent in the memory banks are Bourbon Street, where on occasion, you can literally see everything and everybody. I remember running in a 5 mile race down Canal Street in my cross country days at Georgia. I remember the French Quarter was loud and less crowded. I remember Georgia’s multiple visits to old Tulane Stadium and the Superdome for six Sugar Bowls. High times and down times.

The history of the city and the French Quarter traffic, always at a crawl, unless it is 5:00 a.m., remind you that New Orleans is a place where everybody can find a niche for whatever they prefer: Food, Jazz and Dixieland, among other things, where Saints and reprobates alike go marching in.

You can be dining in an upscale restaurant that slick magazines rate with the best and four or five blocks away there is a den of inequity beckoning you to observe painted girls dancing in their underwear, or what could pass for such, loud music and barkers enticing you to collaborate with the Devil. Beads, trinkets, and souvenirs galore. If you want a signature headache the morning after, no better place than New Orleans to accommodate that.

Called by many as America’s most unique city, New Orleans has overwhelmed foodies for years. For the best in dining you can’t top this metropolis which straddles the mighty Mississippi.

The ambience and the white table cloths at Galatoires, the favorite of the locals, appeal to those bent on dining up. The soufflé potatoes at Antione’s, the barbecue shrimp at Pascal’s Manale, and Arnaud’s (naturally the best place for shrimp arnaud). Thumbs up at every address! Breakfast is still enticing at Brennan’s which seems to have survived family infighting. Acme doesn’t have to advertise that it is the best place for shucked oysters (the long lines and subsequent wait confirms its over-the-top popularity and staying power). Commander’s Palace out in the Garden District is the only heralded venue for fine dining, where there is no traffic or parking challenge.

All of these seasoned and electric places of cuisine repute are where waiters can make more than $100,000 a year and where you might meet a sports or other celebrity while you satiate your palate. When your hosts are Vernon and Patricia Brinson, you can sample many of the aforementioned addresses and interact with a member of the Archie Manning family on a long weekend and still have time for a smashing country style breakfast at Patricia’s kitchen or lunch at the New Orleans Country Club where the most emotionally overwhelming moss draped oak seems to extend its limbs three counties away. Such a soothing view to go with the club’s incomparable gumbo.

All of this and not a word about the incomparable World War II museum. Stay tuned. New Orleans is like Paris. You best come here with a fortnight in mind.

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