It is hard to believe that there was once a time when an airport was just a place to wait for your plane. Nowadays airports are as much about the food and shopping as they try to attract customers to fly through their locations. Some airports are even trying to become destinations for people who aren’t even traveling. The Frankfurt airport, for example, has a full shopping mall inside where people from the surrounding area can come to find the latest in fashion, electronics, and other items, claiming to be at discounted prices.
Not only do you have full service restaurants in airports these days, but you will have choices to choose from that include upscale to fast food. Don’t be surprised if you see a famous chef or celebrity’s name on the restaurant sign as they are cashing in on the captive audience and business travelers with corporate expense accounts. It seems as though almost every airport that we fly through these days is in the process of upgrading and adding even more shops and restaurants. Have an extra hour to kill, why not buy some couture clothing from a top designer?
In fact, if an airport doesn’t have all of these amenities, it feels as though you’ve stepped back into the dark ages. It doesn’t happen too often, but when we get to an airport ahead of a flight and can’t find more than a single choice to get a bite to eat, we are immediately frustrated. Yes, we’ve become spoiled by convenience and options that most airports offer these days. Living in Colorado, we fly out of DIA (Denver International Airport) frequently and we look forward to going to one of our favorite restaurants prior to most of our trips. Yes, one of our favorite restaurants is actually in an airport. It will be interesting to see how far airports take this trend or if at some point they will reduce the amount of goods and services that are offered. Who knew that people would look forward to being at the airport as much as they look forward to their destination.
New Orleans is definitely a destination for food lovers with all of the quality restaurants offering authentic regional food at various prices. Whether you are on a budget or want to go out for an elegant dinner, there are many choices that will provide an incredible eating experience. Seafood is at the heart of the meals that you will find in New Orleans, but there are plenty of other dishes that are uniquely Cajun. You will likely find Po-Boys, Gumbo, Jambalaya, and beignets on most menus as well as fresh snapper, oysters, and Crawfish Etouffee. There are other interesting items such as turtle soup, fried aligator, shrimp and grits, as well as local takes on eggs benedict.
The very first restaurant that we ate at was Oceana’s, which is just off of Bourbon Street and turned out to be a place that we visited several times because their food was so good. Like many restaurants, if you don’t go during non-traditional meal times, you can expect to wait in long lines that stretch down the street. Fortunately we like sitting at the bar as well as eating at different times, so we didn’t have any trouble getting served. We ate Oysters Rockefeller, Oceana’s Famous Oysters, Aligator Bites, Seafood Crepe, and a wonderful Bloody Mary during our different visits. The Crawfish Etouffee at the Royal House was one of the best meals that we ate during our entire stay. For a filling breakfast or brunch, going to the Stanley at Jackson Square can’t be beat and we had their Seafood Breakfast, which had fried oysters and shrimp, fried soft shell crab, and eggs benedict. It was delicious.
We went out for a couple of more upscale dinners including The Briquette where we were introduced to the chef by the owner and got to see our own fish on the grill. The food there is always fresh and we had the whole Red Fish filet as well as tournedos of beef and scallops. We also ate at Muriel’s on Jackson Square where we ate Turtle Soup, Cauliflower Soup, Duck Breast Jambalaya, and Pan Seared Scallops. There were also stops at Tableau and the Chartres House for Gumbo, Crawfish Bread, and Spicy Pecan Popcorn.
We were in New Orleans for a week, so if the list of places that we visited seems long, it is simply because we were eating out several times every day. Obviously we had to have an Oyster Po-Boy, which we did at Desire as well as getting fresh oysters. We went to Curios for brunch where we had traditional Beignets as well as Shrimp and Grits. We made our way to the Carousel Bar for a Caesar Salad and Le Bayou for fresh oysters as well.
Needless to say, when in New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter, there is more than just food. For drinks we went to many different locations, but one of the most interesting was Pirate’s Alley Café, which truly is in an alley. The 21st Amendment where we were treated to live jazz and a few glasses of wine. Finnegan’s was one of our favorite Irish dive bars, but we also enjoyed The Erin Rose where they serve an excellent po-boy. We enjoyed live music at The Drinkery as well as a few other places, including street performers on Bourbon Street.
You won’t go hungry when visiting New Orleans. With so many options and friendly staff wherever you go, there really aren’t too many bad choices. We’d recommend doing what we do, which is to ask the bartenders and wait staff at the places that you visit where they would recommend that you eat, usually requesting that they tell where the locals go, not necessarily the tourists. We were given great recommendations as well as just finding places as walked throughout the French Quarter. As we mentioned before, it is busy, so be sure to either make reservations in advance where you can and expect lines in the places that don’t accept reservations.
During our time in Panama, we had the opportunity to visit several restaurants that purported to have authentic Panamanian food. Much of it was seafood that is caught locally, but there were other choices as well. If you want something cold to wash down your food, there are several national beers to choose from that are very good. With all of the influences from various cultures, the cuisine of Panama City has become a melting pot of ethnic varieties. Although Spanish cooking dominates much of the food, French and American traditions can be found as well. We even ate fish prepared by a local indigenous family that was served to us in a banana leaf.
One of first meals that we ate was at restaurant called Diablicos in Casco Viejo, which was recommended to us by our hotel. We went there for lunch, but at night there is a traditional dance show which gives the restaurant its name. If you decide to go for the show, there is a 2 drink minimum, but we decided that it was a little more touristy than what we would like. The food, however, was excellent and we had traditional ceviche as well as sausage empanadas. In addition to ceviche, another popular dish throughout the region is Corvina, a tropical saltwater fish, prepared several ways. We ate it at a couple of restaurants, one of them with a form of salsa on top. Another item on pretty much every menu were plantains, both sweet and savory, all of which were some of the best that we had eaten. To beat the heat, be sure to get yourself a scoop of cocoanut ice-cream.
Octopus or calamari can be found on almost every menu as well, whether you want it fried, grilled, or cooked in its own sauce. We also at a fried ceviche, which as a little unique as well. If you have the budget, lobster and crab can be found on some menus as well and it is quite delicious. At a restaurant called Casablanca, we ate a wonderful paella as well as steamed clams that were simply delicious. On our last day, we went out to the Causeway Islands and ate at The Buccaneer where we had a crab linguini and sea bass topped with more seafood and a cream sauce (basically like an Oscar).
In addition to all of the wonderful restaurants, we also enjoyed craft beer at La Rana Dorada, which means the golden frog. We tried each of the beers that they offered and they were all delicious. We also tried most of the national beers including Balboa, Soberana, Panama Lager, and San Felipe. In addition to the beer, we also had local red and white wine that were quite good as well. We wanted to try some local rum, but we were so busy that we just never got around to ordering it.
For a true local experience, going to El Trapiche where you can get simple food cooked right. We had heard about the pork, beans, and rice dish that is a favorite of people who live in Panama City and we decided that we had to give it a try. It is actually made with pig tail, which is in the dish, but you don’t eat it as it is just there for flavoring. This restaurant was recommended to us by one of our guides and we certainly weren’t disappointed. Not only was the food very good, but the prices were about half of almost every other place that we went to during our stay.
If you travel to Panama City, you certainly won’t go hungry. Most of the restaurants in Casco Viejo, or the old town area, tend to be a little more trendy and cater to tourists, but the food is excellent. If you want to get away from the tourists, then take time to go to some places downtown where you can eat like a local. We even went to an Irish pub called the Blarney Stone as we are always interested in how the Irish pub traditions carry through to all cultures.