Well, here we are again. It has been a while since the cable industry gathered in the Big Easy, and a lot has changed. In 2005, Katrina just barged in, trashed the place and rudely left. But this is a resilient town. And the locals don’t want you to pity. They want you to party! So if you really care about helping New Orleans recapture its former glory, you have a personal responsibility to get stupid and spend money. Here are some of our completely unscientific recommendations.
You gotta eat, right? We turned to our own Amy Maclean, a Georgia native who we consider our in-house expert on Southern cuisine, to put forth CableFAX‘s official (and quite unpretentious) eatery of choice… followed by pseudo-yankee duo Seth and Mike’s best attempts.
Amy’s Pick: Camellia Grill, 626 South Carrolton, 504-866-9573 (average price – $10) — Grab a cab and head to Camilla Grill, a New Orleans, white columned institution that just reopened last year after Hurricane Katrina. Be prepared to wait in line until there’s a stool available for you inside the Greek Revival structure. Enjoy a hamburger and a Orange Freeze with a touch of class—a white cloth napkin—in this unique diner. Also noteworthy are those giant ham and cheese omelets.
Seth’s Pick: Dooky Chase, 2301 Orleans Ave, 504/821-0600, (average price – $20). A decades-old hangout for musicians like Ray Charles and politicians like President Bush and Barack Obama. It’s worth a trip just to watch 85-year-old chef-owner Leah Chase cook authentic creole and soul food and opine (when Obama arrived for a quick bite last year, she ordered him to sit and chow down. "You’re too frail," she said).
Mike’s Advice?: Get liquored up on one of those multi-colored, alcoholic Slurpee drinks and start walking down Bourbon Street. Whichever restaurant is closest when you finish the drink was chosen for you by destiny. Go inside. Order lots of food. Be merry.
And in case you want real expert advice (and a bit more gourmet fare), here are the top 10 picks from restaurant gurus Chuck Klein and Shelley Babcock.
August — 301 Tchoupitoulas St. (504) 299-9777 $$$$: The menu fuses a Mediterranean style with a Louisiana accent, and the results are food magic.
Bayona— 430 Dauphine St. (504) 525-4455 $$$$: Star chef Susan Spicer keeps things lively with genius combos like her lamb loin with goat cheese-zinfandel sauce and stellar desserts like the toasted pecan roulade with caramel mousse and pecan syrup.
Brigsten’s— 723 Dante St. (504) 861-7610 $$$+: One of the great dining traditions in New Orleans, Brigsten’s dusted itself off after Katrina, and continues to charm and delight its many and loyal fans.
Commander’s Palace— 1403 Washington Ave. (504) 899-8221 $$$$+: A stellar 6 million dollar post-Katrina facelift made this legendary eatery even grander and more elegant than ever. Service is nearly psychic, and the haute Creole cuisine is impeccable.
Cuvee— St. James Hotel, 322 Magazine St. (504) 587-9001 $$$$$: Cuvee gets raves all around for inspired contemporary Creole cuisine and an amazing wine list.
Emeril’s— 800 Tchoupitoulas St. (504) 528-9393 $$$$: Bam! This is where celeb-chef Emeril Lagasse first struck out on his own. The rest, as they say, is history.
Galatoire’s— 209 Bourbon St. (504) 525-2021 $$$: After a century of serving, Galatoire’s still wows diners with decadent French Creole food and impeccable service.
Herbsaint— 701 St. Charles Ave. (504) 524-4114 $$$: Susan Spicer, of Bayona fame, is the talent behind this more affordable warehouse district find. Cuisine is French-American with a bit of Southern soul.
New Orleans Grill (formerly The Grill Room)- Windsor Court Hotel, 300 Gravier St. (504) 522-1992 $$$$+: The posh one. The exquisite decor, unforgettable haute New American cuisine, stellar service and 10,000-bottle wine list will knock your socks off.
Stella!— 1032 Chartres St. (504) 587-0091 $$$$: Chef Scott Boswell‘s inventive New American cuisine gives more than a nod to local ingredients, with Stella-r dishes like veal and gulf shrimp dumplings, paneed veal loin, crispy veal sweetbreads and tandoori-spiced Atlantic salmon.
Just hit Bourbon Street and wing it. We promise you’ll find something tailored to your unique disposition—even if it’s just stumbling around with an open container in the street (that’s legal here, you know). If you don’t drink, even better! You can watch other people stumble around like idiots and feel even better about your sobriety!
Oh, yeah. There’s also this convention thing going on. And you’re down here on an expense account trying to justify those pricey evening "networking opportunities." Obviously, go to all the general sessions, which include big wigs like Brian Roberts and Glenn Britt. But there are a few other great panels you should attend…
There’s Something About Room 208…
Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but it seems like the NCTA clustered the best panels into Room 208 of the convention center. So for those of you who may be nursing especially brutal hangovers and are too weak to walk very far, we have devised a must-attend session list that all revolves around this room. You can thank us later:
* 9 am — Room 208 — Comcast‘s Stephen Burke, Cablevision‘s Thomas Rutledge, Discovery‘s David Zaslav, Time Warner‘s Landel Hobbs and NBCU‘s Jeff Gaspin dissect the evolving VOD landscape. This is simply a must-attend session.
* 3 pm — Room 208 — CTAM‘s Char Beales leads a discussion about operational excellence, which has never been more important considering the competitive landscape. Cox‘s Jill Campbell, Comcast’s Michael Doyle, Charter‘s Marwan Fawaz and Time Warner Cable’s Sam Howe should all have some incredible insight.
* 11 am — Room 208 — Wow. What a group. Research guru Bruce Leichtman moderates a discussion about digital media platforms with some of the best minds around, including Comcast’s Amy Banse, Cox’s Mark Bowser, Discovery’s Bruce Campbell, Scripps Networks ‘ John Lansing, Starz ‘ Bill Myers and BET‘s Denmark West.
* 2:45 pm — Room 208 — Another wow panel. None other than Insight‘s Michael Willner leads what will no doubt be a spirited discussion about sports programming. How do we know it will be spirited? The panel includes ESPN‘s Sean Bratches, Fox Regional Cable Sports Networks ‘ Randy Freer, Comcast SportsNet‘s Jon Litner, Cox’s Robert Wilson and Time Warner Cable’s Melinda Witmer. Once again… wow.
The Battle of the Bands
OK, we’re extremely biased because our own Seth Arenstein and Michael Grebb are competing as part of the TV Rejects (such an appropriate name for us), but everyone must resist the urge to fly home early and instead stick around for this worthy charity event. As an added bonus, you can watch your industry colleagues live out their mid-life crises right up on stage in front of everyone. Will the TV Rejects emerge victorious? Well, we’re up against a billionaire ( Paul Allen) and a musical prodigy (Time Warner Cable’s band More Cowbell includes Julie Simon, Carly Simon‘s niece!), along with several other talented folks. We’ll do our best. Just remember: No applause, no ink.