When faced with time off after graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University, Maggie DiMaggio took to baking cake after cake in her own kitchen. Seeing the potential in her baked treats, she soon began taking weekly pilgrimages to the Mandeville farmers' market to sell her cupcakes and fine breads. As the popularity of her creations grew, the special orders began pouring in—so many, in fact, that she had to open a storefront just to manage the demand.
That storefront soon evolved from its humble beginnings into The Chocolate Vine, a European-style bakery that also houses an intimate café. To foster a cozy, inviting atmosphere, Maggie furnishes the small eatery with tables and chairs from local antique stores and regularly applies a fresh coat of buttercream icing to the walls. When not crafting almond-, strawberry-, and chocolate-infused cakes , she cooks light lunches with fruits and vegetables from a local produce stand. Maggie also graciously opens up her wine cellar for regular tastings, during which guests sip on eight glasses of her finest reserves.
O'Henrys has served baskets of complimentary salted peanuts to guests since its founding in 1982, and the floors remain whimsically festooned with shells to this day. Owner Rhonda Conley, with more than 20 years at O'Henry's under her belt, works to keep the tradition of the restaurant alive at both locations. Waiters crunch across dining rooms from midday to midnight, bearing plates of freshly ground filet mignon burgers, hearty steaks, and signature Monica cream sauce dishes. Outside, an outdoor balcony scattered with tabletops wraps around the restaurant. The eatery boasts private dining rooms for parties of up to 25 people. It also treats guests to a free new york strip steak if they can prove it's their birthday with a valid ID or by showing video tapes of them not celebrating their birthday the previous 364 days.
In the Krewe of Kringle pub crawl, revelers dressed as Santas, elves, reindeer, and a multitude of other holiday figures set out to conquer numerous area bars. Participants get free Abita beer at each location, and can take advantage of drink and shot specials.
NOLA stocks nearly 40 varieties of melon, berry, and citrus wines that span from drier drinkables to dessert varieties and lack the bitter taste of tannic acids. The traditional and rare Sinfully Noble dry muscadine wine pairs well with steaks and heavy sauces due to a deeply rich smokiness ($26.99), and the semi-sweet Florida Banana white wine can be enjoyed alone or mixed in a cocktail to entertain visiting Floridians ($25.99). Wine smoothies blended with real fruit range in flavor from a Key Limen and pineapple combo to an Eleganta red raspberry mix, and various wine accessories and gifts bedecked with fleur-de-lis include a chartreuse-colored wine-glass coozie ($6.99) and an adapter that transforms an empty wine bottle into a chic candelabra, an ideal source of light for studying for mid-terms after a night of drinking ($19.99).
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones—Gordon Biersch began with the modest mission of pairing handcrafted beer with made-from-scratch food. Twenty years later, this blueprint has spawned more than 30 Gordon Biersch locations that span the U.S. and Pacific. At most locations, on-site breweries blend Gordon Biersch’s award-winning beers and serve them in 22-ounce glasses, which hold more beer than a pint glass or 100 sewing thimbles. Most batches include seasonal brews and signature brews such as the German Schwarzbier, a dark lager with a light body and a dry-roasted-coffee finish.
To complement the brews, chefs prepare an expansive menu of elevated American cuisine that includes dishes such as pasta jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, ham, and Andouille sausage, and cedar-plank pecan-crusted salmon topped with a honey-pecan crust and a dill cream sauce. Mixologists also serve up specialty cocktails and an extensive list of wines.
Operating out of New Orleans’s Arts and Warehouse District, Crawl Nola orchestrates 2.5-hour jaunts that let guests mingle with fellow pub-crawlers and experience new restaurants and bars. Each excursion features three or four stops at local eateries, breweries, and pubs that welcome guests with a complimentary craft brew or specialty cocktail. Guests learn about New Orleans' unique culture and architecture during historical tours or sample mouthwatering Louisiana gumbo and seafood during culinary tours. The outings can be ideal for friends and coworkers or provide sightseers with a better way to get to know the city than sifting through its mail.