New Orleans for Lent is a special experience. Founded by the French, then owned by the Spanish, New Orleans is a primarily Catholic city. Many traditions and celebrations come from this legacy, including and especially Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday’s original purpose was to enjoy things that one would give up the following day, Ash Wednesday, which begins the 40 day period of Lent. Many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during this season, a practice supposed to involve sacrifice. Seafood, however, is not considered meat. Likewise eggs, fat and cheese are not restricted. This means the New Orleans Catholic has no shortage of good food to choose from during the Lenten season.
Start off at the well known Breakfast at Brennan’s. There you will find plenty of choices to fit the season’s religious restrictions. The church says nothing about alcohol, so start your meal with a Caribbean milk punch. This drink, made with rum, bourbon, and heavy cream, is often associated with the Mardi Gras season, but is delightfully refreshing anytime. If you are abstaining from alcohol, or feel it is too early in the day, they serve french pressed coffee with or without the traditional New Orleans chicory.
For your meal try Eggs Sardou. A popular local alternative to Eggs Benedict, this dish features artichoke hearts and creamed spinach atop a poached egg. Or you may prefer the rock shrimp and cauliflower omelette, made with leek puree and lime butter.
Afterward take a walk to St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, less than half a mile away. The cathedral, where Catholics have worshiped since 1727, is open for visitors daily as well as having regular worship services. Adjacent to this building is the Cabildo. The site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer, the structure is now a museum that chronicles the city’s rich history.
For a more structured activity go for a bit of sightseeing. Two Chicks Walking Tours has plenty of options to choose from including excursions through the French Quarter, the Garden District, or the Cemeteries.
For lunch grab something small at a bakery such as Croissant D’Or or La Boulangerie. Save room for dinner because New Orleans has no shortage of fabulous seafood along with chefs who know how to prepare it.
For some of the best oysters in town check out Casamento’s. They’ve been serving them up raw, deep fried and stewed for almost 100 years. There’s a reason they have quite a following.
Another great choice is Drago’s. This seafood restaurant soared in popularity in the 1990’s with their charbroiled oysters, smothered with cheese, butter and garlic. If oysters aren’t your thing, try the shrimp and eggplant, stacked high and topped with a creamy tomato sauce. Or go back to the basics with a fried catfish platter sure to put a smile on your face.
At the end of the day there’s no restriction on music, and New Orleans has plenty to choose from. For some of the best jazz in town try Snug Harbor or, for a more traditional flavor, Preservation Hall. For something more eclectic check out the line up at the Maple Leaf Bar. Or for a more intimate feel see what’s happening at the Neutral Ground. Wherever you turn one thing is for sure. Lent in New Orleans is unlike anywhere else.