About 4 months ago we began planning to tour several of the gulf coast’s casinos. We wanted to pair the gambling with an array of dining and other entertainment options (Drinking). However, ultimately we wanted to stick pretty close to the best gambling houses in each of the given areas. So after sketching out the trip, we decided to spend half of our vacation near Harrah’s in New Orleans and the other half in close proximity to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. This blog will focus on the New Orleans leg of the DDB Southern Gambling tour.
After a very short flight from DFW, we landed in the sultry and just dang humid city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, we hopped a flat fee cab to downtown. At 15 dollars a person, the cab ride was a bargain. I had arranged accommodations at the Harrah’s hotel, and I have to say I was extremely impressed with the hotel.
With a modest 20 dollar bribe at the front desk, I was upgraded to one of their premium suites, and it was absolutely beautiful (Note to travelers: You will likely be offered the smoking rooms, but there was little to no smoke smell in the room). It was really large with a long marble laden main entryway that led directly to the wet bar and siting area. The living room was at least 300 square feet and had ample seating for eight. The bedroom was separated from the living area by a full size door. The bedroom was ample in size and had a great view of the river. The bathroom was a standout for me. It had beautiful tile work and granite counters. The large soaking tub was a nice treat after a long day of drinking and gambling. It also had a separate stand up shower that was in proportion with the other amenities of this suite. Overall the room was very well maintained. I would highly recommend a stay at this property if you are looking to do some gambling in New Orleans. After getting settled in to the hotel, I made the short walk over to the casino. One of the added benefits for me is that Harrah’s is part of the total rewards network. This allowed me to accrue some points on my player’s card that I could use later in Vegas. This New Orleans land-based casino is a very large property with nearly every imaginable variety of table and slot game. The DDB team stuck pretty close to the 8/5 video poker, $10 blackjack tables, Magic Lamp slot machines and Pai Gow poker.
In addition to the previously listed games, we also played a lot of video poker. We love this game generally because of its low house edge and its proximity to the bar. During our sessions, we hit numerous hands of 4 of kind. Those moderate payoffs really helped to keep us from digging into the wallets too often.
The DDB crew also managed a few nice Black Jack runs as well as modest slot payouts. The gambling was a lot of fun but it was really only half of the reason for this trip. As they say, man cannot live on gamble and drink alone (Although we made a good run at it.)
New Orleans Culinary Treats:
New Orleans is known for a lot of things, but most conversations will inevitably gravitate back toward food. Having grown up in South Louisiana, I learned very quickly that good food is at the core of all events, activities and or gatherings. When you are in New Orleans, your senses are bombarded with many scents. Some pleasurable and other well, let’s just say hard living is strewn about the streets in the morning. I digress. In regard to dining options, we were within a few blocks of both amazing street food and fine dining places. Although our group tends to have a penchant for high end things, the simplicity and delectability of street fare is not lost on us. In exploring the culinary spectrum, we decided on three main stops: Galatoires, Felix’s and Acme.
Our first stop was Galatoire’s which is a very well known creole restaurant located at 209 Bourbon Street. This place has been in business for about 100 years and was the brain child of Jean Galatoire. This humble entrepreneur wanted to bring family style French dining to this infamous address.
Upon entering Galatoires, you are immediately made aware that the service will be above average. Once we checked in, we were directed to the bar to await our seating time. Fortified with a delicious and refreshing mimosa, the wait time seemed to fly by. Once seated in this somewhat stuffy French styled restaurant, we were quickly provided with fresh baked bread and delicious pats of softened and salted butter.
After perusing the menu, we decided on a few appetizers. I had the fried eggplant which came with a romelaude and powdered sugar dipping sauce. The eggplant was fresh, but the batter on it was very soggy and somewhat lifeless. Overall, this dish was just average.
Edwin had the oysters wrapped in bacon and deep fried. It was an interesting dish served up on a skewer. The oysters were fried perfectly, but the seasoning was lacking. The star of the appetizer menu was most certainly Sparkles’ escargot dish. Those snails were very large, tender and soaking in a delicious butter, garlic and wine sauce.
Next up was the soup and salad course which was turtle soup. In my humble opinion, it was well past its prime. I truly believe that we were served the dregs of the batch. It was so thick that it nearly congealed while we were trying to eat it. There were very few signs that turtle meat ever existed in this dish. It looked like they tried to salvage the batch by supplementing with tiny ground up bits of Andouille sausage. It was awful. I ate two bites and pushed it aside.
Sparkles had the crab salad and it was heaped with delicious and sweet lump crab meat. It was very fresh and had a lovely dressing with it. Sparkles again won on the soup/salad course of the meal.
For the main course I had the Crab Yvonne which was a very small and fresh dish that was prepared with butter, garlic and wine. It had fresh mushrooms and green onions and was decent, but definitely under seasoned. The crab and mushrooms had great texture and exuded of freshness, but unfortunately the dish lacked any pizazz. It struck me as a dish that anyone could prepare in about 10 minutes.
Edwin had the stuffed eggplant, which was a mound of crabmeat and bread crumb served on a fresh piece of eggplant. It had little finesse, needed seasoning and looked like something that had been stored in a fridge for hours then warmed through. Sparkles had the Shrimp Au Vin.
She was 3 for 3 because this was the best dish of the entrees, and that was only because Edwin and I’s dishes were just average. We really were disappointed with the food here. We had such high hopes and wanted it to be great, but alas it was just o.k.
Overall, we would give Galatoires 3 stars for food, 4 stars for service and 3 stars for ambiance and 2 stars for value. There are many better places to eat in the city. Spend your money elsewhere.
So with this lack luster meal of the behind us, I will give a brief shout out to Café Du Monde. I love that place. They have great beignets and café o lait. Just remember it is cash only there.
The next up on our New Orleans food tour was the battle royale between Felixs and Acme Oyster bars. Felix’s is located at 739 Iberville St in the French Quarter area. As you walk into this tiny little place, you may be a bit put off by the less than refined tables and bar seating. However, do not let the looks of the place deter you. They are pumping out some good dishes and have fresh oysters. We pushed up the bar and ordered a couple dozen raw oysters as well as some of the char grilled ones. The oysters were fresh, had a little brininess to them and were of average size for this time of year. The char grilled ones were cooked well, but their cooking process didn’t add much to the flavor profile of the oysters. Felix’s oyster house is a good spot, and if you are in the area you should check it out. Food 3 stars ambience 2 stars, service 3 stars, value 3 stars.
Acme oyster house is almost directly across the street from Felix’s at 724 Iberville St. As you work your way through the long dining area to the back room, you are greeted with friendly servers that are ready to get a beer in your hand with speed. Once seated and plied with a few local beers we received our first round of raw oysters and an order of the fried oysters with remoulade sauce. The raw oysters were much larger and had a lot more of the sumptuous brine that I love so much. They had a very fresh taste, and I really thought that it couldn’t get much better than that. However, things were about to get a whole hell of a lot better as the char grilled oysters were served. Without a doubt these were some of the best damn char grilled oysters that I have ever eaten in my life. They were of a good size and the combination of butter, garlic and parmesan cheese toppings was like foodie catnip. I could not stop eating these things and would go back to New Orleans just to eat at this place again. Overall review: Food 5 stars, ambience 3 stars service 4 stars, value 4 stars. It was definitely the hands down winner of this oyster challenge!
Having grown up near New Orleans, I have an interesting relationship with this town. I’ve been very vocal in the past regarding my general discontent with the city. However, after this trip I have to say that my resolve has softened somewhat. All of the things that bothered me about the city are still there, but as I view the city through somewhat more mature eyes I can’t help but appreciate the history and culture that envelopes you. The re-emergence of the cigar rolling and gambling industries certainly enhances its overall appeal for me. After such a meaningful trip out there, there is no doubt that I will be back.