Stevie is one of those sisterfriends who makes you smile just by being in her presence. We met in college, where we bonded over a love of the written word and a passion for black culture. These days, Stevie spends her time moulding young minds as an educator in New Orleans, one of the coolest places on Earth. Read about her New Orleans favorites, then book a trip and laissez les bon temps roule.
New Orleans, in one word:
Your best friend’s coming to visit. What’s your ideal day with him/her?
It depends on the season! If it’s around this time we’ll most likely start off w/ a nice outdoor brunch somewhere beautiful like Café Amelie on Royal St., we’d visit the McKenna Museum of African American Art, grab some snowballs from Plum Street Snoball (my fav. is nectar cream w/ condensed milk), watch the sunset at The Fly (we have the best sherbet sunsets ever) & towards midnight catch some music mayhem on Frenchmen or Bourbon! We would top off a night of partying with Café Du Monde beignets. Trust me; we’d need something to soak up the Hand Grenades!
One place you have to eat at, and one dish you have to try?
Whhhhhaaaaaa there is no one place, or one dish. This is New Orleans! Anthony Bourdain (world renowned foodie) said it best: “In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful. … With the best restaurants in New York, you’ll find something similar to it in Paris or Copenhagen or Chicago. But there is no place like New Orleans. So it’s a must-see city because there’s no explaining it, no describing it. You can’t compare it to anything.So, far and away New Orleans.” Eat. Everywhere.
Shoppers should go to (flea markets? outlet center? a cool shopping street? a cool local boutique?)
If you love to shop Magazine Street is perfect. If you like consignment shops Funky Monkey and Buffalo Exchange will be right up your alley. I sell clothes there and I’ve purchased many for the low! On this street alone there are way too many cute boutiques such as ah-ha & Hemline to choose from! The possibilities are seriously freaking endless. They also have bomb food and cocktails to tide you over during your shopping. If you are an art lover I recommend you visiting two places: Bill Hemmerling Gallery on Royal (brings tears to my eyes every time) and Brandan Odums’ Project Be if it’s still intact! You cannot purchase anything, but the experience is invaluable.
You’re very big on supporting black-owned businesses. What are a few of your favorite black-owned businesses that we should hit up?
I love, love, love Community Book Center on Bayou road. This is the perfect place for you to buy an awesome book, piece of art, or accessories. More importantly it’s one of the best places in the city to gain a good understanding of New Orleans. Ask for my lovely Mama Jennifer Turner or the beautiful owner Mama Vera Warren Williams! When you leave there hop, skip, & jump across the street to the King & Queen Emporium! The sisters who run this spot sell a Head-to-Toe Body Glaze that my body and hair crave! There are no words for this amazing shea butter and natural oil mix! Also, if you’re looking for a really good food, drink, and bomb conversation it doesn’t get any better than BlackStar Books and Caffe! Baba Baakir is an amazing host & will probably hip you to all the cool things happening in the city. If you’re into one of a kind furniture pieces, fabric, etc. the Creole Cottage is great! They upcycle the most beautiful pieces. Ask for the gorgeous Summer! Last but not least if you find yourself riding NOLA’s street cars on St. Charles hop off and pay Eugene at Krewe Du Brew a visit! I’ve had friends in town visit for coffee, pastries, etc. & they’ve never been let down. It’s an amazing spot.
One thing you can find in New Orleans that you can’t find anywhere else?
The people! When you visit take your time to really talk to folks. New Orleanians are the best people to ever exist on earth! They are the most vibrant, gracious, honest, and beautiful people you’ll ever get a chance to converse with. If you’re sipping on a Daq from Jazz Daiquiris while doing that…makes it even more awesome!
You’ve gone on a plantation tour. What was that like?
I left the Laura Plantation Tour incredibly humbled and with a burning desire to deeply know my own family history. I also had a mini-break down. I called my Granny & said, “I have to know everything you know. I want to put the pieces together about who we are, where we’re really from.” She laughed, but agreed to tell all she knew. There’s a phenomenal genealogist Jay who will step you through the steps of how to uncover your own history! If you’re Black in America visit a plantation near you, seriously.
I’m bringing my kid(s). What’s something we can do together/that they’ll love?
The Audubon Zoo is beautiful and so, so much fun take your babies there; especially if Soul Fest is happening. If it’s a bit cold, I recommend the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas or the Louisiana Children’s Museum! I’ve watched many a child lose their minds in all those facilities.
If you don’t do anything else while you’re here, do this:
New Orleans is (deservedly) known as a party town, but what if I just wanna chill? Where’s the best place to have a chill night?
- If you’re just trying to chill you can either hit up Bridge Lounge for drinks, Hookah and Café (on Carrolton) for well…hookah or one of my favorite spots LOA Bar inside of the International House Hotel for the sultry ambiance. Another one of my favorite places to have a nice glass of wine and chill is The Delachaise Café in Central City. Call me if you go there, I live down the street, and I’ll meet you!
That being said, I went to the University of Alabama, so the party gene in me will never go dormant. So, uh–where’s the best place to go to get loose?
NOLA isn’t really a club city, but if you wanted a formal party you could hit Eiffel (on Saturday night). I recommend scrapping that, putting on some flats (which is a rarity for me), and hitting downtown. You’ll find tons of cool people, fun music and everlasting drinks. Around 2-ish on a weekend night hit the upstairs of Blue Nile for a late night hip hop set and eventually make your way to Mimi’s in the Marigny for DJ Soul Sista’s ‘Hustle’ set! [UPDATE: Stevie tells me that DJ Soul Sista now does her set at Hi-Ho Lounge.] She’s BOMB and never fails to put on the right music to get you grooving.
Best place to people watch?
Everywhere, seriously, but if I had to choose a place it would be Lake over by the University of New Orleans or The Fly.
Best time of year to come?
Most folks would say Mardi Gras (which is a blast), but my favorite season in NOLA is festival season which kicks into gear around spring. All the festivals in the world begin to happen & there’s nothing better! I would say come the weekend of French Quarter Fest and split you time between there and the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest. So, so much fun!
Best hotel/B&B to stay in?
I grew up coming to the Westin on Canal. I love it! I’ve added the Saint Hotel to my list because it’s beautiful. I did my boudoir shoot there, and I’ve had the best dinners with family and friends at their restaurant, Tempt. Plus there’s a charming guy named Doc that will take care of the tab if you’re pretty and brown. True story.
Most romantic spot?
Any on the levee, the lake, or the Fly. The sky is always so pretty here, it paints the canvas of love and all you have to do is watch it unfold!
Your favorite annual event?
I love Essence Music Festival. It’s been my family’s tradition since I can remember. We all pack up the car, plane or train and head to NOLA. When I was smaller I remember watching hundreds of Black folks do the electric slide to Maze ft. Frankie Beverly’s song “We are ONE” and I thought, “I’m a part of something really special. Black people are so special!” I still feel this way and Essence made that real for me at a really young age. Also, the MAAFA happens around this time and that’s more than special itself.
Best way to get around (bike? should I rent a car? bus? do I just need to roll on the streetcars?)
There is no real “best way”. This is most defintely a biking city; chain it up though. Ha! I drive everywhere, but if I was a visitor I would give the streetcars a try. I can never figure them out!
I’m moving to New Orleans.What’s the best piece of advice you can give me?
Be prepared to feel like staying for at least the next six to seven years. And if you do move, you’re going to miss this place like none other. Nowhere else compares. Oh–and get ready to gain mad pounds!
Million dollar question: where do I get my hair done?
Beauty on de Bayou by my big sis Dwana Makeba on Bayou Road! She owns the shop and when I tell you she hooks natural hair up! You hear me? Hooks. It. Up!
If someone asked me what I love most about New Orleans, I’d say...
I love how much of Afrika and Haiti that you can find here in everyday practices. I love that the city is crazy spontaneous…one second you’re cooking and the next joining a second line out your house. I just…love this place.