A few of you may have noticed I was missing last week. For those of you who were praying that my absence would continue, I am sorry to disappoint. I have returned from a nine-day business trip to New Orleans and will now resume with my regularly scheduled pestering.
This week I thought it might be appropriate to compare and contrast our little corner of the world with the Big Easy — or “Nawlins” as the locals are prone to call it. Come to think of it, I wonder what tourists will call Glendale once we get that long, long, long-awaited brand strategy from that firm in Tennessee. Anyone ever hear anything about that? Or did that notion float away like so much driftwood on the Mississippi River? Oh well, I digress bitterly.
First, let me compare climates. I am pleased to report we win hands down, unless you like sweating profusely from pores you never knew you had. I, for one, am not a big fan of humidity and neither are my lungs.
I now understand why scores of people in the 1800s were sent west to rid themselves of their unknown lung ailments. By my fifth day abroad, I could feel something was definitely blooming within my chest cavity, and upon my arrival back home I was privileged to bring a hacking cough as one of my souvenirs.
Call me crazy, but I’m giving the food category a tie. Yes, I know that New Orleans is one of the culinary capitals of the world. And I ate at some truly remarkable restaurants and had arguably the best breakfast of my entire life at Brennan’s. The three-course meal included turtle soup, poached eggs over lump crab smothered in brandy-cream sauce and bananas. The meal was so epic that I photographed every course as it arrived just to document its magnificence.
How often does one do that with a meal? I ate Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s (the dish was invented there around 1891) and a number of other delicacies, compliments of my corporate expense account. So why give this category a tie? Because we are home to Sedthee Thai Eatery, Far Niente, Carousel and a number of other small restaurants, which may not get world-wide recognition, but nevertheless deliver culinary excellence every day.
And as they say, there is nothing like home cooking. My only wish is that we had just one restaurant that truly excelled at breakfast. Why is it so impossible to get hot eggs to a table?
As far as the nightlife, I’d be a fool to give us the upper hand. New Orleans has several areas where the nightlife is alive and kicking 24/7/365. As far as the legendary Bourbon Street goes, think of it as Disneyland for the drunk and disorderly. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want any street that absolutely requires the previous night’s revelry be hosed down every morning in my neighborhood.
It’s one of those tourist attractions that has become a parody of itself, much like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or even Hollywood Boulevard. There are much better places to go in any of those cities. But my less-than-enthusiastic opinion might be different if I were two decades younger carrying a lifetime supply of penicillin and a liver made of titanium.
Overall, variety is one key to New Orleans’ allure. Like most destination sites, it is not reliant upon Bourbon Street or the French Quarter to draw people in. There is an artistic warehouse district, the eclectic Frenchman’s Landing and the upscale Garden District, just to name a few.
Personally, with as much myopic frenzy as we have invested into the area surrounding the Americana at Brand and our unwavering love for all things Rick Caruso, we might want to consider a strategy of widening what we offer visitors as a road to greater public awareness and fiscal stability.
Perhaps a little more emphasis on galleries and music in Montrose? Or a smidge more haute cuisine in Kenneth Village? Spreading some of the wealth and culture across an entire town works to great success elsewhere; it ought to work here. Unless we want to go the other way and contain visitors to a single area, in which case, let’s add a couple of strip clubs to the Americana, fill pedestrian hands with tubes of slushy rum concoctions and prepare for the locusts. .
And finally, if Porto’s were to stay open late night, we would easily win the after-hours competition as their vast assortment of pastries are far superior to Café du Monde’s beignets, little square doughnuts smothered in powdered sugar. But for now, an open-air, late-night bistro in Glendale will remain but a wistful dream — one I’ll just have to think about tomorrow, in the words of another famous Southerner.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at email@example.com.