Photos by Zave Smith
D is for drinks. Did I mention that all bars in New Orleans offer drinks to go? I did, didn’t I? Moving on. D is also for Dooky Chase, a cajun/creole restaurant that opened in 1941. It has all the down-home flavor you could imagine, courtesy of Leah Chase, the spicy spitfire of a chef who still holds it down in the kitchen. She has hosted everyone from George W. Bush to Bill Clinton at her famous restaurant. During Mardi Gras, Dooky Chase is even more special, opening late at night to play host to attendees of the Bunch Ball, one of two African-American black-tie affairs that occur during Mardi Gras, well away from the tourist hot spots.
E is for Endymion Parade. Last year, I saw this parade, which had the theme “Tales of Sleep and Dreams.” Just to give you a sense of scale, there were 24 monstrous floats in this one parade with more than 2,400 people in costume slinging throws. Endymion is reported to have thrown millions of beads and other throws in 2009 alone. Hard to fathom, isn’t it? By the way, Kid Rock was Endymion’s special celebrity guest.
F is for floats. There are a number of floats per parade. They are huge tractor-pulled rigs of complex design and multiple platforms, with hooks and shelves for storing beads, and, in our case, a DJ on the top level. Usually the King and Queen of a Krewe ride in the first float in a particular Krewe’s parade. At the beginning of the route, the float is quiet and overflowing with bags of beads and trinkets to throw. By midday, most of the beads have been thrown and the bead tossers can move around freely.
G is for Gallier Hall. If more people knew that you could get box seats at Mardi Gras, I’m sure attendance would skyrocket. No, you don’t have to sit on the curb and fight for a little elbow room. You can have box seats right behind to the mayor, complete with a bar, food, and—this is critical for first-timers—inside space to sit and get away from it all.
H is for The Hubbard Mansion. A swanky black-owned bed-and-breakfast. Owned by a husband and wife team, this home away from home is off the beaten path but close to everything you want to get to. With quaint old-style rooms and a detached duplex, Hubbard has become the place to go for a few A-list celebrities who shall, of course, remain nameless.
I is for International House. A luxury boutique hotel with dark, seductive rooms located two blocks from the French Quarter, the International house was created by local real estate developer Sean Cummings. Actor Hill Harper is one of the primary investors in International House, which is said to be New Orleans’ first boutique hotel.