Claiming a wealth of celebrities among their past clientele, The World Famous Cats Meow gives songbirds and wannabe rock stars a chance to work their vocal cords and stocks a full bar with a varied roster of liquid courage. The Bourbon Street bar plunks casual crooners into the center of attention by placing them on a glossy wooden stage, separating them from the throngs of new fans and Ed Sullivan booking agents with a low yellow barricade. Vocalists pull songs from a chart-topping list that reaches back to the 1950s before bypassing lines and leaping right on stage with their Head of the Line pass. Between tune-bending sessions, sing-along stars can rehydrate parched throats by knocking back one of 15 Jello shots or one of seven drinks from the well-stocked bar, such as a bubbly Abita beer, a premium cocktail, or a fruity 32-ounce hurricane. An included DVD of the event lets singers watch, critique, and improve their performances in much the same way boxers watch match tapes to hone their jabs or the Kool-Aid Man watches his own commercials to master his wall-smashing skills.
As chefs simmer authentic New Orleans shrimp étouffée and watch gulf shrimp blacken, chicken and andouille-sausage gumbo bubbles in a pot nearby, filling the kitchen with a spicy aroma. Marigny Brasserie’s menu earned a "good to very good rating" across the board from Zagat, thanks in part to its menu of creole favorites and its wine list. Diners at the bar can peer over at a stained-glass inset of the Marigny Triangle, while those who choose to eat outside can catch a glimpse of Frenchmen Street in person. On some nights, guests can taste spicy shrimp while listening to musicians tune guitars and fill their maracas with fresh bees.
The Cajun kitchen at Dry Dock Café unleashes an extensive menu of authentic New Orleans cuisine, including po boys, crawfish, and oyster entrees. A free, nearby ferry from the French Quarter transports hollow legs to a location within steps of a plate of grilled alligator and pork sausage paired with honey-mustard dressing ($7.25). Crispy crawfish tails doused in a creamy parmesan sauce enlist in a pasta tug-of-war in the crawfish maureeenica plate ($12.95), and brazen red beans transform a mound of fluffy rice into New Orleans’ classic piquant dish ($6.95). Hungry fingers choose from eight po boy sandwiches, including three varieties of sea candy: oysters ($10.95), shrimp ($9.95), or catfish ($8.95)—each brushed with mayonnaise and guarded with Cajun potato spears.
Though its name implies a quick chug or hurried meal, most customers tend to linger at Down the Hatch. That’s because the bar and grill offers scads of activities and creative Cajun-inspired bites to keep loungers happy long into the night. Most evenings here start at a dining room table, where alligator po-boys, smoky pulled pork, and Angus beef burgers are some of the menu’s biggest crowd-pleasers. As the food disappears from plates and more drinks get ordered, crowds diverge onto the brick patio or linger around the bar or jukebox. Amid the festive groups, there are even folks getting work done courtesy of the free Wi-Fi and the belief that the best writers are inspired by whiskey.
Friendly bartenders have been serving up pints of Guinness to sports enthusiasts since Tracey's Original Irish Channel Bar first opened its doors in 1949. Decades of Irish paraphernalia line the exposed brick walls, which envelop guests as they sip brews at the lengthy wooden bar or bite into seafood-studded poboys and corned-beef sandwiches in vinyl booths. While 20 televisions document the progress of the day’s sporting events, diners can snag chalk from the pool table to prep their cues for a game of eight ball or to draw a mournful outline around an empty basket of fried okra.
To learn a new style, take in a performance, apply to a festival, or learn how to pitch one's work, a comic need only spend some time at La Nuit Comedy Theater. La Nuit not only houses a ComedySportz training center and troupe, but runs its own, unaffiliated conservatory, whose curriculum includes improv and writing. The laughter hub's blog tracks the shows that cycle past the stage's chalkboard wall, along with the workshops, open mic nights, and festivals that help launch NOLA comics toward their goals. Two full-service bars and private comedy shows help make events–from birthdays to bachelor parties to Flat Earth Society meetings–more memorable.
In 1977, Professor Longhair didn't have long to live. As a human bridge connecting early 20th century blues, traditional Big Easy jazz, and Cuban funk, the now legendary musician changed the soundtrack to the city, paving the way for acts such as Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Perhaps most notably, he penned the ubiquitous carnival anthem "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." But when it looked like his time was up, the NOLA community wasn't going to let him fade away. A group of fans, dubbed "The Fabulous Fo'teen," sought out a spot for the "Fess" to play at until his dying day. And that's exactly what he did at Tipitina's. They even named the place after one of his songs.
Proof that a former gambling parlor and cathouse can change its ways, Tipitina's century-old building has earned a reputation as one of New Orleans's finest music venues. Within its hallowed walls, many famous Crescent City acts have launched to stardom, from funk collectives such as The Neville Brothers and The Meters to rockers like Better than Ezra and the Radiators. All of these names grace the outdoor Walk of Fame, and the club also attracts national artists such as Wilco and Nine Inch Nails. However, the venue's immersion in the musical community goes beyond just shows—it also hosts music lessons for kids, weekly Cajun dance parties, and a retirement home for senior citizen horns. But as much as Tipitina's has expanded over time, it pays respect to the Longhair of its namesake every year with the appropriately punned "Fess Jazztival."