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Summer in the City

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New Orleans is abuzz after the sun goes down

kingpin.jpgNo two ways about it. Summer in New Orleans is hot. Sweltering, even. But that just makes nightlife here even more enticing. The setting sun signals the start of the more civilized part of the day, when one can feel safe venturing out without an extra stick of deodorant tucked into a pocketbook. Yes, most of us have become quite adept at making the most of the handful of unheated hours allotted us each night. Sometimes the only question is, Where to start?

Oh, happy hour. Oh, happy heart.
The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue is a fine place to have a drink at dusk. But with such a well-chaired, welcoming porch, you may never make it inside to check out the bar’s grand floor-to-ceiling doors and coveted nook table. If a good nook is what you’re looking for, try Loa, the bar at the International House Hotel, which has more than its fair share. But if you want a little more action, you need go no further than the Hotel Monteleone, whose revolving and charming Carousel Bar will take it from there, starting with “the Goodie,” the bar’s signature cocktail, featuring light rums and fruit juices — perfect for summer sipping.

D’ja eat?
We all know the woes that come to those who imbibe on an empty stomach. And there is no excuse in this town, even post-K. I mean, look at some of the great new restaurants that have opened since the storm. There’s Iris, where chef Ian Schnoebelen’s Thai-like mussels will leave you smiling with coconut broth dripping from your chin. And Alberta, where you might have to send your plate back for a second helping of chef Melody Pate’s scallops and risotto. Have you been to Cochon, yet? Have you tried the fried boudin with pickled peppers? Kudos to Donald Link who has succeeded deliciously in bringing the flavors of his native southwestern Louisiana to New Orleans with Cochon.

And never before has there been such excitement over restaurants re-opening than we saw last fall when we evacuees began trickling home, hungry for the dishes from our past life. Et voila! They were back. And now we order with certitude! At Antoine’s, the hearts of artichoke Bayard. At Lilette, the white truffle parmigiano toast. At Dominiques, the goat cheese and onion galette. At La Petit Grocery, the wild mushroom tart. At the Pelican Club, the Maine lobster, crab and shrimp martini.

Yes, yes, friends, you can come home again! So, pull up a chair.
Late, not usual
So, now the night has gotten away from you. It’s 11:30. You never made it to dinner and can’t bear to go home to your bare Frigidaire. Take courage (and forget Taco Bell). Head to Mimi’s in the Marigny, go straight upstairs to the tapas bar and ask for a menu. Though there may be no white tablecloth under your plate, there is a little fine dining going on between your fork and your mouth. You’ll find more fine fare at the Delachaise on St. Charles Avenue. And don’t forget, you can always stop in to Cooter Brown’s for a big, juicy burger or an oyster po-boy that’s sure to hit the spot.

At this hour, a good meal will either do you in or give you a second wind. For instructional purposes, let’s say you’re feeling revived and not yet ready to end the night. Based on what you ate and where you ate it (proximity is key!), you might try one of these late night spots. From Cooter Browns, head down to South Peters to Republic where all the kids dance with abandon. From the Delachaise, go to the Saint to play pinball beneath an electric light waterfall. From Mimi’s, head to One Eyed Jacks on Toulouse, where you can probably still catch the last set of whatever cool band is onstage that night.

What to do, What to do!
Well, here’s a week’s worth of what’s doing around town!
Tuesday — 6:30, Sip ’N Spin at Sip Wine Market (Wine tasting + DJ), 390-5227
Wednesday — 8:30, Swing Night at Mid City Lanes Rock ‘N’ Bowl, 482-3133
Thursday — 6, Ogden After Hours with live music and wine at the museum, 539-9600
Friday — $10 bottles of wine at Kingpin, 891-2373
Saturday — Bust Out Burlesque at Tipitina’s French Quarter
Sunday — 5:30, Live music and cookout cuisine at Bacchanal in the Bywater
Monday — Don’t you ever stay home?

Giving them the business
Of course we all want to support local businesses this summer, to help energize the local economy. It’s time to get out there and get things moving, people! Here are a few concrete suggestions, for the unorganized or otherwise uninspired — small things, but if we all do at least one or two, we could make a big difference for New Orleans businesses.

Get off-line. Suspend (or at least cut back on) your online shopping. Yes, I know, it’s very retro, but you can do it. Put down the mouse and get out of the house. Visit your favorite shops and discover new ones. This is where you live, so make sure the money you spend goes back into the community and not into cyberspace.

Make the call.
All of us have friends living in other parts of the country who have long been envious of our big, easy lifestyle. Well, pick up the phone and invite them down for a visit. Help them see that there’s still a lot to be envious of down here. Show them a good time and ask them to spread the word when they get home.
Be a tourist in your own home town. You know that hotel pool you’ve been crashing for the past few summers? Well, here’s a novel idea: Get a room! This year, spend some vacation money right here at home. Fake a Minnesota accent, don a straw hat and take a day to explore the French Quarter.

Talk it up! We’ve all been through a lot over the past year, and many of us have every right to complain. But what if, from now on, we made a real effort to stay positive? What if we make a point to be openly optimistic and audibly upbeat? What if our new attitude catches on and creates real momentum, a wave of enthusiasm more powerful than hurricane floodwaters and negative naysayers?