Travel Playbook: New Orleans, D.C. among weekend's top sports locales
Congratulations, you've accomplished the hard part. You got tickets to one of the weekend's biggest games. But travel comes with questions: where to eat, where to party, what mistakes to avoid. Well, fear not. Here's your traveler's guide to the sporting weekend.
Must-Watch Game: 49ers vs. Saints (Sunday, Nov. 17 at 4:25 p.m.)
Drew Brees and the Saints have looked unstoppable on offense at home this season. San Francisco's vaunted D might have the best chance to slow them down of anyone in the league. Both teams will be in heated battles for their division crowns and this game may be the decider.
Best Sports Bar: Cooter Brown's Tavern
New Orleans is not a place to placidly sit and observe. So go to this off-the-wall joint that sits right on the Mississippi. There are TV's everywhere, a sprawling drink selection and a wide variety of local food to savor. Try the alligator sausage po-boy if you're feeling adventurous.
Best Restaurant: Commander's Palace
Since 1880, this beautiful Victorian building has been home to the quintessential New Orleans dining experience. Celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse helped define modern Creole cuisine by reinterpreting classics while still staying true to their roots. The Palace is most famous for it's jazz brunch, which would be a wonderfully sophisticated way to start a day that ends in the depravity of football.
Best Layover Viewing Spot: 3rd Rock Tavern
A few blocks from the terminal entrance sits this cozy spot that serves $8 longneck buckets for you and your pals. There's also a rocking jukebox and karaoke if the notion strikes you. There's an occasional free BBQ, as if you needed any more reason to escape the airport.
There's really only one spot to pregame before kickoff. But the Saints have made that place wonderful. In response to winning the Super Bowl, the Saints built Champions Square, a huge open area adorned with banners and a stage for live music. This isn't like tailgating in a parking lot.
Bourbon Street Disclaimer
If you're the partying type, you're sure to head down to Bourbon Street to see one of the most legendary parties there is. A few pieces of advice: 1. Head out on an full stomach, those Hurricanes are a lot stronger than they taste. 2. Read and re-read the parking signs or you will get a ticket. 3. Don't wear beads off of the main drag. The locals only do so during Mardi Gras. Sporting a shiny pink necklace is like wearing a sign that says, "Hi. I'm a tourist. Rob me."
Must-Watch Games: Georgia vs. Auburn (Saturday, Nov. 16 at 3:30 p.m.)
The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry dates back all the way to 1892. But there's plenty of reason to put aside tradition to enjoy this matchup. Both teams are in the top-25 and have their sights set on the SEC championship game. Each would cherish the chance to rob their rival of that opportunity.
Best Sports Bar: Quixote's
There are a number of great spots to hit up for game time and beyond in Auburn. But the best mix of fun, food and viewing quality goes to Quixote's. There are two bars to help avoid crowds, many flat screens and a projector to catch all of the action.
Best Restaurant: Warehouse Bistro
Don't let the austere setting fool you -- this place is in an actual warehouse -- some of the finest eats in Alabama come out of chef Joe Hipplely's kitchen. Meticulous service and creative combinations separate the Bistro from the many fantastic -- if understated -- selections around town. You'd never expect to find such elegance wrapped in such an unassuming package.
Super Fan Swag
Earlier this year, the famous Toomer Oaks, which had stood on the university grounds for eight decades, had to be removed due to poisoning by a crazed Alabama fan. The oaks can live on, however, in your living room. You can purchase memorabilia made from the wood of the famous trees at the university website.
For decades, Tiger fans have celebrated victories by covering the famous Toomer Corner with toilet paper. The tradition started with ticker tape from the local telegraphs until 1971 when then-running back Terry Henley told reporters his team would "beat the No. 2" out of incoming Alabama. The university has even erected temporary structures to paper now that the oaks have come down. Bring your Charmin and hope for victory.
Must-Watch Game: Blues vs. Capitals (Sunday, Nov. 17 at 6:00 p.m.)
Two of the league's top six point scorers, the Blues' Alexander Steen and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals, lead their teams into this cross-conference matchup. Washington leads the league in scoring on the power play, while St. Louis averages the second-most penalty minutes. Expect that to be a major storyline throughout.
Best Sports Bar: Nellie's Sports Bar
Come to Nellie's for the novelty -- how many sports bars can you think of that are also gay bars? -- stay for the cheap drinks, friendly crowd and great viewing angles for the game. All are welcome (and will be comfortable). A daily highlight is "beat the clock" happy hour, where the price increases every hour so you know you won't be nursing your beer.
Best Restaurant: Rouge 24
Don't expect to get a lot of talking done when you come here. The dining experience is more akin to great theater than your standard dinner. The tables encircle the large, open-air kitchen, meaning you can watch your meal prepared from raw to plate. Every great play has a big reveal in the final act, so does Rogue. The menu isn't revealed until after you've eaten, leaving you guessing what could possibly have been so delicious until the last moments.
Best Layover Viewing Option: The Firkin and Fox
Dulles has a surprisingly slim selection of eateries, so thank your stars for this British-style pub that offers a quality bangers and mash and handful of TVs tuned to the game. The atmosphere is calm and comfortable while not skipping on a well-stocked drink list. You'll have a firkin good time.
Everyone knows that you've got to go see the White House and Lincoln Memorial, but D.C. has some killer spots to check out that you might not know about. Learn about the history of espionage at the International Spy Museum, learn about history and the people who chronicled it at the Newseum or visit George Washington's home at the oft-overlooked Mount Vernon Estate just outside the city.
It has long been a tradition for the crowd to scream "O!" during the "O say does that..." part of the national anthem. That tradition actually started with the Baltimore Orioles, so the new move is to scream "Red!" during "rockets red glare" you know, because the Caps wear red. It is also customary to shout "It's all your fault!" at the opposing goalie when the Capitals score a goal. When the opponent scores, the response is "Who cares?" after the ring announcer says the name of the scoring player. Stick to these tips and you'll blend right in with the locals.
Must-Watch Game: Ohio State vs. Marquette (Saturday, Nov. 16 at 2:00 p.m.)
Marquette big men Chris Otule and Davante Gardner combine to more than 550 pounds of center to clog up the interior against OSU golden boy Aaron Craft and company. The week is full of great early season top-25 matchups. This is the best of the weekend.
Best Sports Bar: Major Goolsby's
This spot has fed sports fans from its convenient location a block away from the Bradley Center since 1973. The service was founded on getting you your food fast so you won't miss tip-off. If you want to stay for the duration, however, you'll be well cared for by a friendly, partisan crowd and menu full of simple, hardy food.
Best Restaurant: Braise
I'd love to tell you what to order at this new restaurant that has blown up the city's dining scene, but chef David Swanson only cooks whatever looks best from the produce he gets from local farmers each day. Braise offers cooking classes and trainings in farm to table dining, including trips into the mountains for a tutorial on mushroom foraging. It doesn't get more natural than that.
Best Layover Viewing Spot: Aviator Sports Bar and Grill
Despite the fact that it's attached to the Best Western, this place feels like it could be a hot spot in any town in the Midwest. You will be comfortable and well served when checking out the variety of punny sports-themed items like the Rollie (chicken) Fingers or Cheesehead Cheesesteak. If you're feeling adventurous, try the Mile High Fugetaboutit, five-pound burger with five meats and 16 slices of cheese on top. It's free if you can finish it.
Iconic Super Fan: Jump-Around Guy
Most legendary fans are known for their crazy outfits or wild behavior. Not Rick Smith. This mild-mannered engineer comes to every game decked out in a nice suit. It's not until the stadium DJ puts on the song "Jump Around" by House of Pain that Smith achieves his destiny. Smith bounces up and down like a pogo stick, clapping his hands in a charmingly awkward way that somehow fuels the energy of the people around him. when you hear those bagpipes start playing, see if you can spot the most nondescript super fan you'll ever see.