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NOLA's top bartenders reveal the city's best everything

New Orleans

In New Orleans, it's not just about what's in your go-cup, it's about where you carry it. To make mastering the Big Easy a little, well, easier, we pinned down the dudes behind three of the city's hottest bars -- Neal Bodenheimer and Kirk Estopinal of Cure, Bellocq, and Perestroika at Pravda -- to point the way.

Favorite Restaurant Kirk: Pho Bang. They watch my baby while I eat and it's hands-down the best soup in the country. But for dinner dates, Domenica. Neal: Coquette. Chef Mike's food is fantastic and I just love the vibe of this place.

Best Late-Night Eats Neal: ROOT. It's one of New Orleans' best, even when it's not late. Given the fact that you can eat there until 2am on the weekends, it's THE go-to for an amazing late night meal. Kirk: ROOT on the weekends. In New Orleans, there's a real void of places to go for late-night food, and there's a void of interesting offerings as well. ROOT offers inventive cuisine 'til late, which I love!

Best Bar Snack Neal: It's a tie. Oysters en Brochette with Marchand du Vin Sauce, or Souffle Potatoes with Bearnaise, both at Arnaud's French 75 Bar. Might as well order both; then you can sample as many of Chris Hannah's cocktails as you'd like, which are also some of New Orleans' best. Kirk: Fried Brussels sprouts at Tivoli & Lee, because they remind me of my Grandpa who loved Brussels sprouts! It's a comfort to eat them.

Best Dish Kirk: Stracci at Domenica. It's chicken liver pasta and braised oxtail, and it's magical. There are crazy flavors layered in this dish. Neal: The grilled lamb ribs with green tomato relish at Patois are one of my favorite apps in the whole city.

Best for a Work Dinner Kirk: I usually go to Horinoya because it's close and you can eat a truly great meal relatively quickly. It's a calm environment, which is good for meetings, and they have the best raw and fresh fish. Plus their matcha green tea is incredible. Neal: La Petite Grocery has flawless food and service with a dining room that strikes a great balance between relaxation and business.

Gut-Busting Dish Kirk: No thanks! Neal: A Company Burger at The Company Burger is the best hamburger out there.

Most Local Food Neal: The Shell Beach Diet at Brigtsen's is a smorgasbord of all things New Orleans on one plate. Kirk: Salvo's Seafood, a boil spot in Plaquemines Parish. Everything's caught locally and it feels like you're dining at a friend's house.

Best Coffee Neal: Merchant's full of great coffee and jaw-dropping design. I also really like Spitfire, a new shop in the French Quarter. Kirk: Spitfire's a great new place in the Quarter full of young people interested in making good coffee.

Best Hotel Bar Neal: Excluding Bellocq? I'd say that a spin around the Carousel Bar is pretty hard to beat. Kirk: Well, I love Bellocq, but if I'm not working, I visit Sobou to see what Abigail's making.

Best Dive Bar Kirk: The Saint! It's dirty and really divey. Like, really divey. And I've been going there for a long time. A looooong time. Neal: Brothers Three. The dive bar is a dying breed when it comes to the genuine article. This is the genuine article.

Best Muffuletta Neal: Every bit is done in house at Cochon Butcher. Everything that Donald, Stephen, and the gang do at all of their restaurants (Herbsaint, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Peche) is for real. Kirk: It's all about the olive oil flavor at Central Grocery.

Best Oysters Neal: Casamento's had the best oysters when I was a kid, and guess what? They still have the best oysters. Just like they have since 1919. Kirk: Casamento's is a New Orleans institution, plus I love the oyster loaf.

Best Fried Chicken Kirk: Willie Mae's does fried chicken right: a double fry in beef fat. Neal: The Chick-Sylvain at Sylvain. Yes, it's a sandwich, but its still tops the category in my book.

Best Po Boy Kirk: They have killer po' boys at the Erin Rose. It's a chef-driven pop-up doing culinarily relevant po' boys in New Orleans. Neal: A dressed shrimp po' boy at Domilise's has many competitors that come close, but none are better. It's po' boy perfection.

Best Drink Kirk: In the Summer, it's the frozen Irish coffee from Molly's. Neal: It's got to be Kirk's Sea Dog. Kirk still consistently makes the best drinks that I've ever had.

Best Beer Kirk: Whatever Cantillon they've got at Avenue Pub. Neal: Avenue Pub, and Stein's for beer-shopping.

Locals Hangout Kirk: Crown & Anchor in historic Algiers Point. It's an English pub with a great cast of local characters at the bar -- an only-in-New Orleans experience. Neal: Molly's.

Best Place to Day Drink Kirk: All of New Orleans. You can still walk around drinking here. Why sit still when there are drinks everywhere? Neal: On a beautiful day it has to be the courtyard at La Fin du Monde on Magazine Street. Well-made drinks (and great food) with a serene setting.

Best Jukebox Kirk: Brothers Three is classic Americana with lots of old country. Neal: The Kingpin.

Easiest Place to Get Laid Kirk: I'm married, so... Neal: The Saint. Or at least it was in my single days.

Best Go-Cup Filler Neal: A Fruit Cup (which is like a Pimm's Cup) made with Bittermen's secret fruit cup cordial. It's going to knock the world over when it goes live. Kirk: On a hot day I like to visit Sidney's on Decatur. Beer, wine, and spirits to buy and go-cups on the counter.

Best Way to Spend a Rainy Day Kirk: Sit out on your porch or balcony and just sip a drink. Or stay in a B&B when you visit, so you have that porch option. It rains here a lot. Neal: Drinking a Pimm's Cup and watching the rain from the Napoleon House is a transporting experience.

Best Sazerac Kirk: My house, but if I don't answer the door, you should have Chris Hannah at French 75 make you one. Neal: Cure. Sorry to be homer, but in my humble opinion, we make a pretty awesome Sazerac.

Best Strip Club Kirk: Little Darlings, without hesitation. Neal: Penthouse Club... always the best talent.

Best Shave Kirk: Aidan Gill takes great care of his customers, and it's an excellent place for a leisurely cut, good conversation, and a drink. Neal: Aidan Gill for Men. Aidan started the revolution, and if you don't believe me, just look him up. He's a living legend.

Best Way to Exercise Kirk: Bicycling on the levee. Neal: Running through the Garden District.

Best Hangover Cure Kirk: Sleep or pho. Or sleep and pho. Neal: Ramos Gin Fizz.

Best Live Music Kirk: One-Eyed Jack's or Siberia. What can I say? I'm a hipster and they book all the Pitchfork darlings. Neal: There is nothing like a good show at Tipitina's. It's just a New Orleans classic and a non-profit to boot. But check out Publiq House & Gasa Gasa on Freret if you want to experience NOLA's two newest music venues.

Coolest Street Neal: I'm biased, but Freret Street has it going on! Kirk: Freret Street's the one street in New Orleans that's happening right now. And it's been great to see it grow.

If you have one free hour in NOLA... Kirk: Sit on the levee. Drink a beer. Watch the ships go by. Neal: I know it's cliché, but beignets & coffee at Cafe Du Monde is about as good as it gets in an hour. On a beautiful day, it's hard not to at least get a glimpse of what makes New Orleans special as you sip coffee, eat beignets, and watch life go by.

If you have two free hours in NOLA... Kirk: Ride the Canal St ferry and lunch at Dry Dock in Algiers. Then sit on the levee. Watch life go by. Neal: Walk up and down Magazine Street from Felicity to Napoleon and pop into shops. Meander through the Garden District and check out the architecture on your way back from Napoleon Ave.

If you have one free afternoon in NOLA... Neal: Get sh*t-faced at lunch at Galatoire's. It's an all-afternoon affair that is bound to get you in some trouble. Kirk: Get a coffee at Spitfire. Go to Lucullus Culinary Antiques and the Kitchen Witch cookbook store while guzzling up a Pimm's Cup in-between at Napoleon House. Walk Royal Street a bit to look at the buildings and old things in the windows. Eat lunch when you get hungry somewhere!

Don't leave without... Kirk: Driving a few hours out west of New Orleans a few hours to eat fried Boudin balls somewhere in Scott, LA. I like Billy's with the melted pepper jack cheese center. Neal: Eating, drinking, and enjoying life. One day the world will realize that New Orleans has the market on quality of life cornered.

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1. Coquette 2800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Coquette serves innovative southern cuisine made with local ingredients, and offers an extensive drink selection of wine, cocktails, and beer. Try the $20 3-course lunch for a delicious dining experience that won't break the bank.

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2. Root 200 Julia St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Located in NOLA's Warehouse District, Root offers house-made charcuterie and sausages, signature southern dishes like Louisiana Pickled Shrimp, and Ménage à Foie -- a special daily preparation of foie gras three ways. Oh yeah, and they're open late-night, so you can have your Ménage à Foie followed by your ménage à trois.

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3. Arnaud's French 75 Bar 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Originally designated as a "gentlemen only area" in NOLA's early days, this cocktail bar located within Arnaud's Restaurant features cocktails like the Pisco Derby (that's pisco, lavender honey syrup, lime, and grapefruit) and bar snacks like Oysters en Brochette (translation: oysters wrapped with bacon and deep fried).

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4. Tivoli and Lee 2 Lee Circle, New Orleans, LA 70130

This sleek neighborhood bistro focuses on southern favorites like fried oysters, andouille tater tots, and pork belly. If you're into American whiskey, check out their flights of the day and cocktail specials.

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5. Domenica 123 Baronne St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Meaning Sunday in Italian, this spot in the CBD's Roosevelt Hotel is meant to evoke feelings of dinner at your nonna's casa. The pies here are the show-stoppers, with crowd favorites like the prosciutto and wild mushroom pizza.

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6. Patois 6078 Laurel St, New Orleans, LA 70118

At Patois, Chef Aaron Burgau plates traditional French fare with a local twist. You'll find boudin-stuffed Mississippi rabbit, sweet tea brined short rib with Worcestershire sauce, and chicken fried sweetbreads amid a changing roster of seasonal salads and soups on the menu.

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7. La Petite Grocery 4238 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Converted from a historic grocery store, this bistro and bar features appetizers like burgers, blue crab beignets, pan-fried gulf shrimp, and braised short ribs. They also throw down some serious craft cocktails like The Bee's Hive: double rye whiskey, fresh grapefruit & lemon, homemade grapefruit bitters, and raw jalapeño syrup.

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8. The Company Burger 4600 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115

These guys take their burgers seriously. Translation: the pickles and mayo are homemade, the twin patties in the Company Burger weigh a grand total of 6.5oz, and you leave feeling full and satisfied, after washing it all down with one of Company's American brews on tap, of course.

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9. Brigtsen's Restaurant 723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

Creole food is king at this Uptown NOLA restaurant. For a smorgasbord of all things New Orleans, get down with one of their special seafood platters (AKA the "Shell Beach Diet").

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10. Salvo's Seafood 7742 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA 70037

A Belle Chasse institution for over 25 years, this casual, low-key seafood spot is a local favorite, churning out fresh-caught shrimp, soft shell crab, crawfish and some more adventurous offerings (read: fried alligator and frog legs) daily.

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11. Merchant 800 Common St, New Orleans, LA 70112

With its sleek, Euro feel and impressive selection of coffee, baguette sandos, and crepes, check out CBD cafe Merchant for an afternoon pick-me-up.

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12. Spitfire Coffee 627 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116

Self-proclaimed the "second best coffee in the world," Spitfire brews delicious coffee, lattes, and espresso all day long in a cozy and intimate setting.

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13. Bellocq 936 St. Charles, New Orleans, LA 70130

Located in the Hotel Modern, Bellocq is an upscale cocktail lounge that specializes in Cobblers (drinks served with crushed ice, citrus, berries and a fruit garnish) and other craft cocktails.

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14. The Carousel Bar & Lounge 214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Aptly named, the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone is NOLA's only revolving bar. But don't worry -- you'll only turn one revolution every 15 minutes, so you probably won't puke up that last Vieux Carre on that pretty patron sitting to your right.

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15. SoBou 310 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

This spirited restaurant south of Bourbon St (hence the name) is a modern-day Creole saloon, serving up creative riffs on traditional 'tails, bar snacks like crispy pork skin & spicy beer nuts, and 25 cent martinis (limit three per person… 'cause that's definitely enough).

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16. Saint Bar & Lounge 961 Saint Mary St, New Orleans, LA 70130

A gem among dive bars, The Saint is a local favorite for NOLA's indie-punk crowd, featuring delightfully decrepit walls, video games, cheap drinks, and theme nights like Tiki Tuesdays.

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17. Brothers III Lounge 4520 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

One of the city's most beloved dive bars, Brothers III serves up cold brews, cheap drinks, and pool.

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18. Cochon Butcher 930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Build your ultimate, meaty sandwich at this hybrid butcher shop, deli counter, and wine bar. Inspired by old-world meat markets, Cochon Butcher specializes in house-cured meats, terrines, and sausages. Oh, and don't forget that side order of pancetta mac-n-cheese!

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19. Central Grocery 923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Behold: the muffuletta. Don't know what that is? Well, swing by Central Grocery in the French Quarter to put your muffuletta where your mouth is and discover one of New Orleans' greatest deli sandos.

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20. Casamento's 4330 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

A New Orleans landmark since 1919, Casamento's is the grandaddy of all oyster bars, serving up fried oyster po' boys and equally delicious raw oysters, shucked right in front of you.

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21. Willie Mae's Scotch House 2401 Saint Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119

Located just off the beaten path in NOLA's Fifth Ward section, Willie Mae's has passed down the secret family recipe for their world-famous fried chicken through three generations. Another local favorite on the menu: red beans and rice.

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22. Sylvain 625 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Famous for their "Chick-Syl-vain" fried chicken sandwich, this corner pub in the French Quarter also features a solid cocktail program and an impressive selection of single-barrel bourbons.

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23. Erin Rose Bar 811 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70112

A half block away from Bourbon St, this friendly neighborhood bar is covered in framed photographs, car parts autographed by drag racers, and other memorabilia from NOLA's glory days. Erin Rose is known for theirBloody Marys and frozen or hot Irish coffee as well as their killer po' boys, like their Dark 'n Stormy Po' Boy, made with rum-braised pork.

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24. Domilise's Po-Boys 5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Domilise's Po-Boy and Bar have gained buzz by slinging those delicious, classic NOLA sandwiches alongside a full bar Uptown.

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25. Molly's at the Market 1107 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

This offbeat Irish pub in the French Quarter functions as the starting point for many of NOLA's famous themed crawls and parades and has earned local street cred for their delicious frozen Irish coffees.

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26. Cure 4905 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115

The sophisticated atmosphere and delicious drinks make Cure one of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans. Head over for happy hour that lasts from 5-7pm daily and enjoy a cocktail for only $5.50.

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27. Avenue Pub 1732 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

Located in the Lower Garden District, this American craft beer pub is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…(!) Avenue Pub has over 40 taps (31 rotating) and dozens more regional & national craft brews in bottles.

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28. Stein's Market & Deli 2207 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

This deli & market in NOLA's Lower Garden District offers traditional and specialty sandwiches, including breakfast sandwiches (on Davidovich bagels straight from NYC) all day. Stein's also sells a huge selection of cured meats and salamis, over 50 cheeses from around the world, and a massive selection of domestic & international craft beers.

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29. The Crown & Anchor 200 Pelican Ave, New Orleans, LA 70114

In the tradition of the convivial English village pub, the Crown & Anchor -- located in historic Algiers Point -- "serves as a meeting place for friends and neighbors" and has a great selection of draught beer, single malt scotch, and various UK-themed knick knacks. Bonus: there's a popular Thursday night Pub Quiz and, of course, darts!

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30. La Fin du Monde 2917 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

This brunch haven on Magazine St serves up challah french toast with rum syrup and killer craft cocktails 7 days a week. Grab a seat in their outdoor courtyard and cruise through your afternoon hangover with an expertly made Ramos Gin Fizz.

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31. The Kingpin Bar 1307 Lyons St, New Orleans, LA 70115

This super-friendly, delightfully kitschy Uptown dive features an Elvis shrine, a free barbecue during Saints games, and some of the best jukebox jams in the city.

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32. Sidney's Wine Cellar 917 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116-3307

This mini-mart in the French Quarter has a solid selection of imported & domestic beers, wines, and ciders, and, most importantly, plastic to-go cups on the counter so you can continue stumbling around, drink-in-hand.

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33. Napoleon House Bar & Cafe 500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Family-owned and operated since 1914, the Napoleon House Bar & Cafe offers an experience that can only be had in New Orleans. The restaurant serves traditional dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and muffaletta; be sure to stop at the bar and enjoy a refreshing Pimms Cup -- it's the house specialty!

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34. Little Darlings 411 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

If you're into "Strip Hop," check out Little Darlings on Bourbon St. Every Monday is Martini Madness, with $5 martinis from 4p 'til close.

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35. Penthouse Club 727 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130

This self-proclaimed "Best Gentleman's Club" in The Big Easy is stocked with two full bars, three specially designed stages, and Executive & Penthouse Suites for more, shall we say, intimate shows.

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36. Aidan Gill 2026 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Proclaiming that "unisex is a dead word," Aidan Gill is a salon and barber shop that caters exclusively to men.

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37. One Eyed Jacks 615 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130

This French Quarter performance space has seen many a touring indie/ alternative act, from The Black Lips to Mute Math to Neon Indian, and has a 400-person capacity main room.

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38. Siberia Bar 2227 Saint Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117

This concert venue and bar provides a stage for alternative acts and has a Kukhnya that serves up Slavic-style soul food like pierogi, kielbasa, and beef stroganoff every day from 5p-midnight.

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39. Tipitina's 501 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115

Tipitina's began as a neighborhood juke joint in the 1970s and has grown into a music club that celebrates & supports the New Orleans music scene through a variety of community-based projects.

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40. Publiq House 4528 Freret Street, New Orleans, LA 70115

A hybrid bar and venue for New Orleans' most talented musicians and comedians, Publiq House will be a rewarding experience for casual bar-goers and those seeking top-shelf entertainment. Stocked with a seemingly endless craft beer and cocktail list, it is nearly impossible not to leave happy.

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41. Gasa Gasa 4920 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115

The name of this hybrid art gallery, coffee shop, and nightclub on Freret St has Japanese origins, describing something restless and always in motion.

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42. Café Du Monde 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Originally established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market, Café Du Monde is the place to go for a quintessential pick-me-up in the form of a now world-famous beignet and a cafe au lait, and not just because those things rhyme…

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43. The Dry Dock Cafe & Bar 133 Delaronde St, New Orleans, LA 70114

If you need to escape the skunked beer smell hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, hop on the Canal St ferry ('fo free!) and order the seafood gumbo or BBQ shrimp for lunch at Dry Dock in Algiers.

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44. Galatoire's 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Established in 1905, Bourbon St fixture Galatoire's is all about re-creating old-timey New Orleans ambiance through classic French Creole cuisine. The waiters are decked out in tuxes, so needless to say, shorts are not allowed at lunch.

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45. Lucullus Antiques 610 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Specializing in culinary antiques from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, Lucullus has an impressive selection of glassware, silver, porcelain, tables, art, and mirrors. Translation: this is an excellent place to graze, to-go cup in-hand.

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46. Kitchen Witch Cookbooks 631 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130

A small, independent bookstore located in New Orleans' French Quarter, Kitchen Witch specializes in rare, out-of-print, and pre-owned cookbooks.

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47. Billy's Boudin 523 Apollo Rd, Scott, LA 70583

Billy’s Boudin & Cracklin serves authentic, flavorful hand-made boudin, smoked sausage, and cracklins. Oh yeah, and they even have a drive-through boudin window!

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