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The Big Easy a city of dining splendour


Richard Ouzounian

New Orleans —With the possible exception of New York, this is probably the most celebratory city in North America in which to spend Christmas. And The Big Easy has many advantages over The Big Apple including lower hotel rates, warmer climate and bargain dining opportunities. All the details about "Papa Noel" rates for your lodging, "Réveillon Meals" and a world of holiday delights can be found at the city's excellent website, www.neworleansonline.com (follow the link to "Christmas New Orleans Style.")

Now, trying to isolate six meals in this city of dining splendour is almost a lost cause, but here are some of my favourites that should give you a good cross-section of dining in this still-amazing city.


Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St. 504-525-2021)

Plunge right in with one of the archetypal food experiences this city has to offer. Galatoire's has been the watering hole for all New Orleans for more than a century. Jackets are required for men, some local families have had the same waiter for years, the atmosphere is unique and the food sublime. Start with a Sazerac Cocktail, then try the Fried Eggplant & Soufflé Potatoes Béarnaise, move on to the grilled Pompano served with lump crab and end with their legendary Banana Bread Pudding. You'll feel like a stuffed but happy native.


Stanley (1031 Decatur St. 504-593-0006)

This was the first restaurant to open after Katrina, when Scott Boswell needed someplace to feed the people working to save the city. He opened this cheap and cheerful alternative to his high-end Stella! (note the symmetry of the names from A Streetcar Named Desire) and saw it become a popular casual dining spot. It's light, bright, sunny and blessed with fine breakfast food. My favourite is the Eggs Stanley, where fried oysters replace the traditional back bacon, and a touch of Tabasco enlivens the hollandaise sauce.


The Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St. 504-522-5973)

Since 1910, this has been the place to come for oysters. Tourists ask for tables, but regulars sit at the bar and watch the shuckers as they work. Order a dozen raw oysters to start, then switch to a pound of spicy crayfish and if you're still hungry, order "The Peacemaker," a giant Poor Bo' sandwich of fried oysters and shrimp that wayward New Orleans hubbies used to bring home to calm down their distraught wives.


Upperline (1413 Upperline St. 504-891-9822)

This is a unique destination, stamped with the personality of its wonderful owner JoAnn Clevenger. Nestled in the Cemetery District, away from the hubbub of the Quarter, it's a joyous place filled with local art on the walls and fine smells from the kitchen. Chef Ken Smith's Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade are the best version of that classic dish I've ever tasted and his Roast Duck in Ginger Peach sauce is a thing of beauty. If you can, save room for the unmatched pecan pie.


Café du Monde (800 Decatur St. 504-525-4544)

It's part of New Orleans history and it's open 24 hours a day. This is where you come for strong chicory coffee and beignets drenched in powdered sugar, whether you're winding up a long evening or starting a new day. The beignets are the best, the coffee will kick-start your heart and the people-watching is first-rate.


Arnaud's (813 Rue Bienville. 504-523-5433)

Sunday brunch here is a quintessential part of dining in this city. The ceiling fans all turn in lazy unison, the sun pours through the leaded windows and the waiters move in graceful precision while a jazz combo plays your favourites. The four-course brunch may include such delights as Shrimp Arnaud, Eggs Sardou and Bananas Foster but whatever you choose, it will be prepared with a fine sense of quality and tradition. After this meal, you will know what it means to miss New Orleans.





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