With Voodoo Music Experience 2013 coming up this weekend, we can't wait to get back to New Orleans and see Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Paramore and a ton of other incredible bands. We also can't wait to start eating and partying in the Big Easy, one of the most vibrant cities in America.
To get the most out of NOLA, we spoke with bounce music diva Big Freedia—the inimitable star of Fuse's own Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce—and got her advice on the best late-night eats, bars and strip clubs. We're already salivating (...because of the food!)
Let's start with what you do on weekends. What are you up to on a Friday or Saturday?
Usually on Friday I go to hang out with a few of my friends and we go to Club Continental, which is on Downman Road. Then maybe after that we'll go down to the strip club or walk around on Bourbon Street and see the sights. That's usually what my Fridays entail. Saturday's I'm usually partying at Jay's on the West Bank. And we'll do the same thing: If we're not ready to go inside, we'll take ourselves a ride somewhere or go to Bourbon or downtown, because something is always happening.
Some locals say Bourbon Street is too tourist-y, but you like it?
Definitely. Sh-t, you get to see tourists, people that live in the city, and that's where all the good strips clubs are. The best one is Little Darlings.
Any other favorite spots you hit up at night?
On a weekend, we may get down to Siberia or AllWays Lounge or any of those bars in the Bywater area. For dancing, it don't matter what club I'm in. If I feel like dancing, there's no specific club I go to just to dance. If I feel the moment, I'll dance at any club I feel good at.
What about the casino scene?
Get to Harrah's Casino right off Canal Street. Definitely go there. And just walk up Canal Street, Bourbon or walk around the river bend. On Frenchmen Street, in the Bywater area, there's a lot of great bars to hang out in and see the conga lines and jazz bands.
What about places to see live jazz, or do you not go for that kind of music?
Not really. Not so much. And I usually am working so much I don’t have a chance to go and sit down and enjoy music as much as I'd like to. But I get to hear it at the Second Line, which is the miniature street parade that happens in New Orleans on Sundays. They have the jazz band play throughout the whole town and I'll follow them sometimes. That's how we get our jazz: Directly in the streets of New Orleans.
Any places that stand out for great late-night eats?
Gene's Po-Boys: You can grab you a wonderful po' boy from there. Gene's is one of those spots where you can get [your sandwich] half and half. So I usually do hot sausage and cheeseburger or ham and cheese and hot sausage. Sh-t, we got so many different good spots in New Orleans. There's this one place, 13 Monaghan, it sells these wonderful tater tots and they come fully loaded. It's on Frenchmen, right across the street from one of the clubs I hang out at. I usually grab me a po' boy, though.
For first-timers, what kind of food do they absolutely have to eat in New Orleans?
You gotta get the jambalaya, shrimp etouffee and the gumbo. These are things that our tourists need to try. And crawfish. Or anything fried, meaning fish, shrimp and oysters. Really, anything in the seafood [realm], because we have the best seafood in the world. Right on the French Quarter, the Oceana Grill can really give you a flavorful meal that represents New Orleans the right way. And then we got the Cajun seafood at Broadview. And there are little shops that sell you crawfish, hot turkey necks, pickled pig feet, corn and potatoes, all of that. They have really good gumbo at the little mom-and-pop stores.
What's a good spot in New Orleans for breakfast?
My house [laughs]. Although I usually don’t do breakfast. But if I do want it, we may just go to the Waffle House or IHOP for the sit-down breakfast.
Any romantic spots in New Orleans you'd recommend?
To chill and get away from everybody, you can go to the lakefront. It's really peaceful to see the water and deal with nature. Or at City Park you can have a nice little picnic with one of your significant others. Also by the river, you can take a walk by Café Du Monde and walk along the river bank, where you get to see the boats. There are some really cool, romantic places depending on what you like.
After you've been traveling, what's the first place you go to in New Orleans, other than your own home?
My mom's house. To see my mom and see what she cooked for me as my "welcome home" meal. My favorite is cabbage with pickled meats and cornbread, but she'll cook whatever I want. Bell peppers, meatloaf, spaghetti. She'll do a roast, whole chicken, turkey wings, whatever. We eat it all.
Do you cook?
Oh, most definitely.
What's your specialty?
My favorite thing to make? I call it my ghetto lasagna. Meat, cheese, Ragu sauce, spaghetti, and it's all mixed up together with some different herbs and spices. You put it in the pan, layer cheese on top of it, put it in the oven. You will love it.