Hot Fried Dough, Duplo and Confusing Spinach: How to not spend too much money on an afternoon in New Orleans (of course, it will still include drinking).
The Yorkshire Alien is back on the very top of the earth’s firm mantle, staring sea level square in the face on the streets of New Orleans.
The Galactic Committee of Saving (the one that exists in the brain of every functioning Yorkshireman) was highly concerned about the cost of NOLA.
Who can blame them?
The committee has every right to be concerned. So magnetic is the appeal of New Orleans that it feels very possible, even likely, that one will slosh around chunks of life savings in a wanton fit of revelry.
However, a good time without committing subsequent credit card fraud is possible. To help you go forth and achieve this, I have devised a small afternoon itinerary. Hopefully, it will help the casual day tripper wrestle with their temptations and survive those long vacation afternoons underneath the Louisiana sky. Onwards to New Orleans! Or, as I like to call it, the City of Smashed Baubles!
(WARNING — for maximum value, the itinerary must be carried out on a weekday so you can access a sweet, sweet happy hour)
First things first, before you leave your hotel (if you are in one, you have already made a value mistake), Airbnb (sage, the people’s choice) or hostel (don’t be a hero, Rambo) then you must download the RTA app and get yourself a ‘Jazzy Pass’.
Incredible name, even better value!
Being there for 5 days, I purchased a 5-day jazzy pass for a measly $15 — unlimited trams and buses — so Jazzed! A 1-day pass is $3 (hmm, so I made no saving on buying a whole 5 days — slightly less jazzed).
With a jazzy pass downloaded on your hand held device, you are ready to transport yourself — time to get out there and get some dough! Beignet dough that is.
Most of the earth dwellers who flock to New Orleans hope to get their hands on a starchy mound of hot fried dough. Why not get some in for a nutritious vacation breakfast?
Many go to NOLA and come back a self-anointed beignet expert. These insufferable people will assert that you simply must get your dough from the stylish Cafe Du Monde situated right by the Mississippi.
I am going to assert right here and now that getting dough from Cafe Du Monde is not necessary. This assertion is not based on cost but on something much more valuable: earth minutes.
In your short human lives, ask yourself if it is really worth spending at least 30 minutes queuing for your personal mound of hot fried dough?
Walk a few 5 minutes down the street and get beignets from the equally charming Cafe Beignet on Decataur Street.
3 lumps of hot Beignet at Cafe Beignet are $4 and coffees are the usual coffee prices (always slightly more than I want them to be).
So, with a coffee and one and a half beignets, you spend roughly $5.5 per person with tip. I think, roughly — let’s not get too bogged down in exactitude here, the main point being, don’t spend too much of your fleeting time on planet Earth queuing for sugary dough lumps.
After consuming these sweet artery-clogging pillows of sustenance, you must stare blankly at the awkward hours in which drinking does not quite feel socially acceptable.
Don’t worry, the great thing about NOLA is that drinking is always socially acceptable!
If you wanted to start imbibing early, nobody would bat an eyelid in these roister filled avenues. This town was built for ‘getting on it’ early.
But, if you are prepared to let last night’s head fuzz clear a little first, then I suggest taking a walk.
Next to Cafe Beignet (or Du Monde if you simply had to), is the Mississippi river front. Take a stroll — nobody can charge you for that! You may even get to hear a sensationally cheery and protracted steamboat tune blasting from a little steam boat.
Whip out the Jazzy Pass again and jump on one of the pleasantly antiquated trams. A tram west can take you to one of the many above-ground graveyards. Just don’t go there on a national holiday, like me, as it will be closed.
Even without fully gawping at the tombs’ of the long dead, my trundle westwards was laden with enough visual stimuli. In these plush neighbourhoods were several extravagant homesteads to ogle at and then privately condemn for their ornate plantation era vibe.
After a brief stroll, it’s possible the stomach has twigged on to the fact that beignets are not a real breakfast. Get jazzy again and take the tram back to Decautur street for more value.
Opposite the Jazz Museum is a red arrow entitled ‘Small Mart’ and a sandwich board promising bagels.
The sandwich board does not lie.
Small Mart seemed to fill a niche market. In an area drummed by copious footfall, it was one of the few places that one could, simply, pick up a hot drink and some food (that has not been barbecued). A self poured tea and a cream cheese and pesto on sesame seed bagel came to just $4.5 — Mmmmm, bargain.
Dollar check: $14 down. You have sat on a bus, sat on a tram; contemplated life by staring at the deceased; lamented history by staring at the opulent and consumed dough, both fried and toasted. Go you! Go meeee!
By now, you must be acutely aware that drinking hours sway temptingly close.
However, you might still have some time to fill before starting the happy hour foray at Dat Dog (beginning 4pm sharp).You could mosey around the Palace Market (an outdoor art emporium) or Second Line Arts and Antiques (an indoor one). In fact, there is plenty to mosey around at in New Orleans so do some moseying. I am in no position to tell people how to mosey. Moseying is also handy because it can be so easily interspersed with fervent clock checking and once 4pm Louisiana time hits, you’ll be ready to make a b-line for Dat Dog on Frenchman Street.
Furnished like a bright canteen constructed from Duplo, Dat Dog’s bar area shouts Club Tropicana at you loudly and slightly desperately.
As its name sort of suggests, Dat Dog sells hot dogs. How far you can go with hot dogs, I’m not that sure, certainly not to the dizzying heights of $8 which is their usual price. But, during weekdays, Dat Dog runs a happy hour from 4–7pm — And this includes tha dogzzz! At $5 a dog in happy hour, they’re an affordable, agreeable, booze-soaking morsel.
Also on the Happy Hour list is well drinks — woo hoo!
As soon as I saw this, I thought to myself, “What the f is a ‘well drink’?”
Some sort of spinach based smoothie?
My concerns were quashed instantly by the barman. He filed through a range of semi-respectable hard booze bottles, “Actually, our well drinks are pretty good…” he said casually and yet held on a little too long to the bottle in his hand. He managed to pour only the drinks we had asked for, 2 whisky cokes at $2.50 a pop — mmmm, highly reasonable.
Adding to the charm of Dat Dog’s oddities, was a solid selection of music. A quality array of studio recorded tunes may come as welcome respite — down the rest of Frenchman street, live music seeps loudly from every other bar. Nothing wrong with live music, sometimes, however, you just want your ears to be occupied without having to activate your pleasant ‘I’m listening’ face towards performing humans.
Sippin’ on Dat Dog’s well drinks, basking in the prevening hours and beckoning the twilight ones, is where our not-too-expensive Louisiana afternoon comes to a close.
If you followed these steps, you will have gotten up, eaten stuff, seen stuff and had some drinks. And all for around $25 — not too shabby.
You can now career into the New Orlean’s night to undo all of your saving on drunken extravagances — this is positively encouraged. But, at least you started cautiously.
You used frugal navigation on your vacation!
Are their bargains lurking in the twilight hours you ask?
The answer is yes. I will be exploring some of them next time. I will also be pondering the question posed by the Baha Men all those years ago while Jack Sparrow and Gustavo Fring bring me rather underwhelming fried chicken.
Until then, stay savvy and always remember, value is out there.