Music is Key in New Orleans’ Eclectic Dining Culture
At New Orleans staple Café Negril on Frenchman Street, local bands like Noggin, Higher Heights or John Lisi & Delta Funk perform nightly under a towering Bob Marley mural. The setting is no frills, as with most establishments in this live-music obsessed neighborhood, but the attraction is a combination of phenomenal food paired with exceptional bands.
Reuben’s Taco Stand, tucked in the back of Café Negril, serves up made-to-order Mexican pub grub, including steak tacos, over-sized gorditas and burritos. It’s the sort of fare one’s grateful to encounter late night, but it’s even more enjoyable while watching a five-piece horn section and drummer bang out a 10-minute tribute to the Beatles.
It’s no coincidence music has such an impact on customers as they’re dining. According to a recent study by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), a membership association boasting more than 400,000 composers, songwriters, music publishers and lyricists in the United States, consumers eat, drink and spend more when live music is played.
In fact, the study continues, 82 percent of diners say they would recommend a restaurant with live music to friends and 83 percent say they would likely return to a restaurant if it offers live music. It’s a trend Big Easy eateries like Café Negril and others take to heart.
At Bombay Club, a luxurious lounge bound in leather and hard wood accents, traditional jazz, New Orleans-style jazz and blues are the soundtrack. Dinner consists of modernized New Orleans fare, including beer-battered crab & chorizo beignets, seared Gulf fish with chorizo dirty rice, and a Scotch egg with bacon-braised black-eyed peas.
Did you know that Commander’s Palace invented the jazz brunch? The restaurant’s been around since 1880, and the extravagant weekend affair almost as long. A lively, local jazz trio performs as guests indulge in a three-course feast of such decadent specialties as pecan-roasted Gulf fish, smoked redfish & wild white shrimp fritters and Creole bread pudding soufflé. The jazz brunch sells out every weekend.
In the first-floor saloon of The Little Gem Saloon, diners may enjoy the likes of a 14-piece, high-energy jazz band, classic soul artists or performances by local legend Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers. The menu is described as New Southern soul food: fried pork chop Po’Boy, crawfish mac and cheese, and a fried oyster salad.
Another Frenchman Street favorite is The Maison, a tri-level restaurant also serving up exhilarating shows by local brass, funk and jazz bands. Standout entrées consist of slow-roasted duck in a pepper jelly glaze, penne primavera in a Creole garlic and butter sauce, and a grilled pork chop marinated in bourbon honey glaze.
And there’s a host of vegetarian and vegan items on the menu at Three Muses, from Italian mac and cheese to a tofu rice bowl of marinated tofu, spinach, sprouts and house-made kimchi. The music: ragtime, jazz, swing and blues.