New Orleans is absolutely loaded with coffee houses and breakfast restaurants, and somehow I’ve always ended up missing the Who Dat Coffee Cafe. I had never managed to drive past it, and somehow, when I saw it in lists of restaurants, I suppose I always thought it was just a coffee house with maybe a few sandwiches. This time, I read the Yelp reviews, and came to realize that the Who Dat Coffee Cafe serves full breakfasts, and tremendous full breakfasts at that. And like all of the Crescent City’s better breakfast places, it has the charming interior decor, and the sidewalk seating as well. Of course the coffee is first-rate as well, and there are salads and lunch options too. Be sure to pay Who Dat Coffee Cafe a visit on your next trip to New Orleans.
Sunday nights at the Blue Nile have been a long-running regular set for the To Be Continued Brass Band (also known as the TBC Brass Band), who are one of New Orleans’ premiere brass bands. 2014 has been a stellar year for the band so far, as they just recently performed with the legendary Wailers tag the House of Blues, and at Jazz Fest. Even more impressive is the fact that, unlike many New Orleans brass bands these days, the TBC never uses the expedient of replacing the snare and bass drums with a set drummer, or of adding electric bass or guitar to the band when indoors. The combination of authenticity and youthful street swagger is what makes the TBC Band unique. Unfortunately, with Sunday evening being a holiday evening, the Blue Nile was filled far beyond the usual crowd level on a Sunday, and there was heavy drinking going on. Although the band was great as always, I soon found myself being bumped, then pushed, then showered with liquor from people around me trying to dance or second-line while they had cups in their hands. Working my way back from the stage didn’t work, because the place was filled far beyond capacity, so reluctantly I cut my losses and left.
Since the last time I had been in New Orleans, the great Louisiana Music Factory record store had moved from their longtime location on Decatur Street to new digs on the ground level of the building where Offbeat Magazine is headquartered at the foot of Frenchmen Street. While the new location is smaller (there’s no upstairs), there’s still plenty of selection. I can usually expect to spend about $100 in this store, and this trip was no exception. While vinyl and CD’s are the main attractions, don’t overlook the amazing book department, which is for the most part restricted to books about music or books about New Orleans (I’m especially partial to books that are about both). There’s also a fairly decent selection of DVD’s (mostly about Louisiana), some T-shirts, and an assortment of concert poster replicas. Don’t miss it.
Originally, the Money Wasters Social Aid and Pleasure Club was to have had a second-line on Sunday, May 25th, and when I planned my trip to New Orleans, I had planned to go on it. The previous year, they had rolled with my homeboys in the To Be Continued Brass Band, and it had been a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately, this year, something had happened, and the second-line was being reported as cancelled by WWOZ Radio. So, despite the beautiful weather, there was no second-line, so I parked on Elysian Fields and walked down Frenchmen Street toward the new location of Louisiana Music Factory record store. Frenchmen Street is a hotbed of night entertainment, and the best place to go for live music in New Orleans, but it is also attractive and colorful during the day as well.
Almost anyone who has been to the French Quarter has seen Buffa’s Lounge. After all, it’s been there since 1939, and it’s on Esplanade, which is one of the major thoroughfares leading into the Vieux Carre. I had passed it any number of times over the years, but of course New Orleans is a city full of food choices, and so it just never occurred to me to try Buffa’s until I read somewhere a couple of years ago that they stayed open 24 hours a day and had a decent burger and decent breakfast. They also started booking live music a few years ago, and feature live traditional jazz at brunch on Sundays. So I decided that this was the year I would try Buffa’s, and I am glad I did. Parking was somewhat difficult, as it always is in the Faubourg Marigny, but the weather was beautiful and I didn’t mind walking a couple of blocks. The restaurant is in the back behind the bar, and there was literally only one table left when I walked in. Soon there was a small crowd waiting outside the door for tables, while a jazz band called Some Like It Hot was playing on stage. Breakfast was the reason I had come, and I had a delightful bacon, cheese and mushroom omelette with homemade biscuits and coffee. Omelettes are huge, taking up half the plate, and the only thing better than a breakfast in New Orleans is a breakfast in New Orleans with live jazz going on. Brunch at Buffa’s is an experience not to be missed.
I have discussed discussed the Frenchmen Street entertainment district in much more detail elsewhere in this blog, but suffice it to say that Frenchmen Street has replaced Bourbon Street as the street for music fans to encounter some of the best live music New Orleans has to offer. Even at midnight, the street was still going strong, with a large outdoor art market not only open but relatively crowded. However, I was disappointed to see that the vacant lot at Chartres and Frenchmen, which had become a familiar performance space for the Young Fellaz Brass Band had been replaced by a new Dat Dog restaurant location, although at least the new building was designed to fit the existing look of the street. I was not able to determine when or where the Young Fellas perform in that area now, if they do at all.
I had invited my fellow Recording Academy chapter board member Reid Wicks to breakfast, and he recommended the New Orleans Cake Cafe, a place I had heard of but never been to. I would have expected it to be a dessert place, and they certainly have great desserts, but it is also an excellent place for relatively upscale breakfasts, including scrumptious omelettes. The place is rather small, but there is a fair amount of outdoor seating, at least in pretty weather, and the walls are covered with attractive local art works, as is so often the case in New Orleans restaurants. I loved my food, and plan on returning the next time I’m in New Orleans.
My homeboy Travis and I grabbed a dinner at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen on Saturday night with a couple of his clients, and then afterwards, we poked our heads in the Cutting Edge showcase at Vaso, and checked out the happenings on Frenchmen Street, which is always a cool place to hang out. It was kind of a great way to end this year’s Cutting Edge event.
I have discussed the superb breakfasts at the Ruby Slipper Cafe in New Orleans many times, most recently here, but they have now opened a location in the former Banks Cafe on Burgundy Street in the Marigny neighborhood. The building is a former location of the Canal Trust and Savings Bank, which was an institution that funded a canal whose turning basin led to the name Basin Street (the canal was filled in in the early 1930’s, and a proposed extension of it led to the name Canal Street, although the extension was never built). The food is good as always, just as it is at the other Ruby Slipper locations, but it’s great to see additional breakfast options opening on the east side of the Quarter.