People who say you can never have too much of a good thing just haven’t tried hard enough. It is Saturday night, and instead of lying in your bed as peaceful as a dolly in a box, you want to savor the flavor of the night. Where to go? The moon is full and the air is cool and crisp. October brings Halloween and the first kiss of autumn; it is an invigorating time of year, ripe with promise.
If you are in New Orleans, head to the Bombay Club on Conti Street in the French Quarter, where live jazz starts at 9 pm each weekend. You may hear Tim Laughlin and his trio, Brazilian jazz crooner Ricardo Crepo, or the very entertaining Johnny Angel and his Swingin’ Demons performing tunes from the ’40s and ’50s (Angel lives the part, donning ’50s attire even when off set). An elegant bar and restaurant, the Bombay Club attracts sophisticated locals, many who have been going there for years. It specializes in more than 150 goblet-size martinis; try the James Bond 007 or the bloody martini designed with Absolut pepper and citron vodka enlivened with Tabasco olives. Better yet, you can create your own martini and choose from a selection of specialty olives to bring out the flavor of whatever poison you desire.
For dinner, start with the Louisiana shrimp martini glossed with a tangy remoulade, flash fried Asian calamari, or oysters Rockefeller. The mussels are also recommended, sautéed with bacon and garlic, laced with cream, and garnished with a wispy heap of fries. A nice transition into the main course is the blueberry, Stilton, and spiced pecan salad. The Cajun grilled New York sirloin (at 12 ounces) is a fine steak, enhanced with tomato-lime salsa, horseradish sour cream, and fried Vidalia onions. Try the duck duet, which melts in the mouth, designed with a leg of confit combined with a seared boneless breast and a raspberry reduction sauce. Some opt for the homey goodness of chicken Provencal with potato dumplings, while others prefer sampling the more elegant pancetta-wrapped Maine diver scallops served with grilled asparagus risotto. This is one of those places where you can have a conversation (the noise level is fine) and meet interesting people, while also enjoying good food and music simultaneously.
Snug Harbor, in the “back of the Quarter” on Frenchman Street has earned a reputation as the city’s most prestigious jazz club. It is separated into three spaces: a casual restaurant, a dark-wood bar area, and a performance club with intimate seating (there is usually a cover charge in the performance area). You cannot have dinner and hear music at the same time; the two rooms are separate. Legendary jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis has anchored the line-up for many years. Charmaine Neville (Charles Neville‘s daughter) hits the high notes, while other female vocalists including Leah Chase and Germaine Bazzle attract serious jazz buffs. Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO Jam will get your toes tapping. The brilliant Steve Masakowsky and his custom seven-string Sal Giardina guitar grace the stage on select evenings. Snug is the perfect spot for listening to music instead of dancing to it.
The cozy restaurant serves casual fare, including appetizers such as shrimp cocktail and fried mushrooms, a very good grilled chicken salad in addition to seafood offerings such as blackened fish, fried oysters, broiled shrimp, and yellowfin tuna grilled with lemon butter. Steaks, fried chicken, and sandwiches round out the menu. After doing Snug Harbor, cruise on down Frenchman and catch a set at the Spotted Cat or Café Brazil and dance the night away.
If you have been out hearing music, it is really late, and you want to get a good burger or a great omelette, head to the recently reopened Camellia Grill on South Carollton Avenue. Serving locals and visitors since 1946, this classic diner is a bit different from the others: it has a maitre d‘ and very entertaining waiters at the counter. It isn’t hard to get a seat late at night at the counter with swivel stools (it stays open until around 2 am, sometimes later), but forget about trying to get in right away on the weekend for breakfast, since long lines start forming around 9 am.
Camellia Grill closed after Katrina and just reopened in April. Patrons posted love notes on the building inquiring when their beloved diner would return, if ever. The same great service, superior three-egg omelettes, hefty burgers, and chocolate freezes are back. You can spend an hour here and be entertained by the waiters after a big night of partying. The convivial atmosphere makes it easy to meet those seated next to you. Don’t walk out of there without trying the pecan pie.
In Baton Rouge, a good place to go for a late-night bite when everything else is closed is Louie’s Café on W. State Street. The classic diner is popular with the college crowd and night owls, and offers good burgers and omelettes, fluffy pancakes, crispy hash browns, and buttery biscuits. In Lafayette, check out Artmosphere downtown on Johnston Street, where there is live entertainment nightly and food served late. This combination hookah lounge, art gallery, and restaurant showcases the work of local artists. So get going; the night is young.