In New Orleans for Essence Music Festival? Try my list of favorite places / events to keep your belly full, your eyes pleased, and your ears in sonic heaven.

The Court of Two Sisters
613 Royal St.

My girls and I came last year, our first Essence Fest, and fell in love.  All-you-can eat, practically-gourmet buffet serving up shrimp etouffee, Crawfish Louise, Creole Jambalaya, Southern BBQ Pork Ribs, and a local favorite – Veal Grillades and Gravy, Corn Grits in the cutest restaurant ever. It’s a little pricey (otherwise I’d eat there for every meal), but well worth it for an upper-scale afternoon with the girls (or a date!)

Mother’s Restaurant
401 Poydras

“New Orleans might have an issue with portion control, ”one of my friends observed when the waitress at Mother’s placed his meal in front of him. He’d ordered a fried chicken po-boy that was big enough to feed three grown men well. My entrée, crawfish ettoufee was an average sized meal and even after eating out for three days straight, still the best of many respectably good meals I’ve consumed thus far.

Harrah’s  Casino
8 Canal St
Even if you don’t gamble, go for the sightseeing. Every man in town will pass through here this weekend. And as the men around these parts are of unusual (and fantastic) height and breadth, go and have a look at them looking at you. Smile and say hi to open the conversation.
Also, I’ve been told that the most satisfying way to sober up after a long night on Bourbon Street is a smoked hotdog from a street vendor (can’t personally verify. I don’t eat meat.) If you just can’t trust “street meat”, head to Harrah’s for their late night buffet, serving up French toast, eggs, bacon and more from 12am-5AM (only $11.99.)

X-Rated Fusion Liqueur presents Cocktails with Belle
July 2, 5-7PM
The Jazz Playhouse, 300 Bourbon Street
Yes! I’m hosting a book signing for A Belle in Brooklyn! I’ll be doling out my signature advice on single living. Let’s see what cuties show up! (Laz Alonzo came out for the LA event and he is in town here too…)
RSVP to TODAY before 3PM

Eye Candy Contest
July 3, 1PM
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
I have the pleasure of hosting this event. Here’s what I’m hoping will happen. Many sexy men will show up, I will ask them random questions, some will take off their shirts, and the audience will, Apollo style, vote for their favorite man, who will likely win tickets to Mary. Everyone leaves happy, including you.

Kanye West  
July 2
I’m not just plugging this because of where I work. West’s latest CD, My Dark Twisted Fantasy, is pure genius. (Full disclosure: I am singlehandedly Kanye’s biggest Stan.) A month ago, I caught his latest show at a random concert in Brooklyn. Magical. Mid show- he’s emerges into the air from a cloud of liquid nitrogen. I imagine this is what Moses looked like on the mountain. Kanye’s promised the Essence team that he will top that performance here. Be there to witness, and testify after.

Mary J. Blige
July 3
I’ve always liked Mary, I fell in love at last year’s EMF. I was in the backstage Belvedere VIP Lounge when Mary hit the stage. Somewhere between and “I Just Wanna Be Happy” and “Just Fine”, I looked into the stands and saw the entire Superdome bouncing to Mary’s beat. Mary leaves her heart on the stage after every performance. She’s the Queen with good cause.

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk

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