New Orleans is a city that spoils the imagination. Its history is spirited, its food unrepentant, and its climate is sultry nearly all year long. It’s no wonder that so many creative minds (William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Louis Armstrong) have been unable to resist its romance. But lately New Orleans has been attracting a new kind: ambitious entrepreneurs who have found fertile ground along the bayou.
After a trifecta of trauma — Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and a global recession — entrepreneurship has been key to the city’s cultural and economic revival. In March New Orleans hosts its fourth Entrepreneur Week, a conference where aspiring business owners receive coaching from big-name investors and hone their pitches with an audience of MBA students from programs at Tulane, Stanford and Northwestern, among others. It’s the culmination of a six-month-long “start-up season” organized by the non-profit Idea Village, whose ambition to create a sustainable ecosystem for New Orleans start-ups is beginning to come to fruition: they’ve overseen a portfolio of companies that have, between them, created at least a thousand new jobs.
In the new New Orleans entrepreneurship is up, and that can-do spirit just might be the key to the city’s rejuvenation
Like many a successful partnership, the foundation for Idea Village sprouted from a conversation at a local bar. That bar, in fact, is the beloved Loa, in the stylish International House hotel. Loa continues to be a place for hatching ideas, thanks to bartenderAlan Walter’s killer cocktails and to a fortuitous location a short walk from Entrepreneur’s Row, an office building shared by a number of start-ups. Across the street, the industrial-chic Loft 523is the top option for those hunting down that first round of funding. Generously sized studio-style rooms, a strong wi-fi signal, and a well-outfitted gym will more than satisfy the needs of today’s self-starter.
Beyond the conference, New Orleans’s “brain gain” can be spied — and, better yet, overheard — at various hotspots around town. Forgo the traditional beignets and start your day with their green breakfast sandwich (the usual, plus arugula, avocado and tomato) from the proudly locavore Satsuma Cafe in Bywater, one of the city’s most artistic neighborhoods. Be sure to stroll along Dauphine Street and soak up the 19th-century architecture that has earned the neighborhood its Historic District status. For lunch, head to the Warehouse District, where art galleries and start-ups are happy bedfellows, sharing oversized loft spaces that were once repositories for shipments of cotton, sugar and coffee. Cochon Butcher, a spin-off of Donald Link’s Cochon, has quickly become the midday spot of choice for the area’s young professionals.
The afternoon might entail buckling down with the computer, so drop into Launch Pad, a co-working space in The Intellectual Property, or IP, another new collaborative office building. In addition to finding a desk, you’re also likely to gain some new friends. Come happy hour, head to the nearby gastro-pubCapdeville for good company, an extensive beer list and gut-pleasing dishes like poutine fries and truffled mac & cheese. And last, since this is the city that prides itself on its late-night tinctures, don’t miss a nightcap at the cocktail bar Cure, where they’re quite insistent about challenging your expectations. Try a Vixen’s Heart, whose ingredients include 12-year scotch, Cynar and smoked grapefruit oil. That’s the sort of risk/reward calculation that doesn’t require an MBA.
— Hallie Davison, March 2012
This article was originally published for Tablet. Read the original article here.
In the weeks following carnival, the entire city falls into a post Mardi Gras daze. It is a daze that takes weeks of rest and relaxation combined with health food and non-alcoholic beverages to recover from the weeks of excess consumption. The result is a mini pre-spring hibernation where we nurture our bodies and cleanse our system in preparation for the warm weather that brings outdoor music, front porch sitting and riverside afternoons.
It’s a slow transition from the high energy of carnival into the long, lazy afternoons passed with friends on the water. The pre-spring hibernation is essential to making the transition between the two mentalities, but can render you helpless without a taste of the New Orleans spirit to snap you out of your post-Mardi Gras funk. The spirit can be found anywhere around the city-it’s in the Irish Channel parade, the opening of the snoball stands, the start of Wednesdays at the Square’s spring concert series or the Saint Joseph’s Day traditions.
Last night, as I was going through my post-Mardi Gras cleansing rituals, I was interrupted by a noise down the street. As the noise slowly grew louder, I could make out drums and chanting and finally as I peered out the window I saw them marching down the street. The Mardi Gras Indians were marching the city for Saint Joseph’s Day in the last show of their carnival costumes before they put them away for the season. And just like that, the charm of New Orleans found its way back to me, snapping me out of my post-Mardi Gras Daze and back into the New Orleanian mentality necessary to enjoy the city’s spring activities. Hibernation is over, time to get ready for a NOLA-licious spring in the Big Easy!
Much like the holiday season, Carnival is filled with celebrations for the entire month+ leading up to Fat Tuesday. Those who do it best, get with the spirit early. They start planning their costumes. They scope out the best parade watching spots. They figure out who they know in which parade, on what float, on sidewalk side or neutral ground side, upper level or lower level. They spend hours figuring out the best way to navigate the parade schedule and the city during the festivities, ensuring that they will have access to the three B’s: bathrooms, beads and booze.
Okay, fine, maybe not everyone plans out the detailed navigation route, but this over-scheduled, type A, social butterfly, workaholic New Orleanian (oxymoron much?) certainly feels the need to. Life for a workaholic, social butterfly living in New Orleans during Mardi Gras can be a bit of a challenge to juggle.
When living away, coming home for the festivities is considered vacation. You leave work at the office and shift gears into parade-goer-mode on the plane ride down to NOLA. For those of us living here full time, it is a different story. We have the luxury of not having to take so many vacation days to enjoy Carnival, but when we don’t, we find ourselves juggling the many house parties, formal events, parade festivities with our daily personal routines and our work lives.
This year, in attempt to tackle the beast of work, personal and social life, I decided that a diagram was in order. After spending an entire lunch break at work earlier this week working on this, I came up with a weeklong action plan that even has sleep scheduled into the mix. With my Mardi Gras mapped out, I’m feeling like I am ready for the marathon, but it’s already got me asking…Is it lent yet?!
You’re a mean one, Mardi Gras Grinch….
You realllllly suck at life
You’re as exciting as parole
You’re as inviting as the North Pole
Mardi Gras Grinch!
There is no mistaking it, whether you like it or not, Mardi Gras is rapidly approaching. Carnival has slowly been gaining momentum for over a month now and the excitement of a New Orleans reveler is ever so delicately growing like a child awaiting Christmas. There is nothing that can kill this child-like excitement during the most magical time of the year, or is there?
Enter the Mardi Gras Grinch. We’ve all met at least one. They bitch, they whine and they complain…about EVERYTHING. Carnival is here and they are angry about it. “The streets are closed” “I can’t get to the grocery store” “People don’t want to make business meetings” “Why are people taking time off from work?” “It’s noisy” “There is trash everywhere” “People are drunk”…trust me, they can go on!
Telling a New Orleanian that you hate Carnival is like telling a kindergartener that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It shatters the very spirit of the holiday, killing their slowly building anticipation of festivities and merriment. One must be very wary when they come into contact with such a creature because it can kill the entire mood of a season. They very spirit of community, merriment and a laissez-faire attitude is punctured with their negativity and bewilderment.
Carnival is a time to let go of all your stresses, relax and let the season take you on a wild ride through the stacked calendar of parades and parties. To ensure an optimal Carnival season, beware the Mardi Gras Grinch. Avoid at all cost and when cornered, disengage. Appropriate topics for redirection: New Orleans Saints, “your momma and dem”, or their personal favorite-the weather up North.
So to all the Mardi Gras Grinches out there:
The three words that best describe you, are as follows, and I quote:
“Stink, Stank, Stunk!”
The rest of us will be out at the parades, enjoying ourselves and getting a little drunk!