If you didn’t get a chance to make it to the 2018 Essence Festival, then you missed a stellar year! Flanked with celebrity exclusives, private screenings of your favorite TV shows and Marvel releases, and of course, the hottest performances, this year’s Essence did not disappoint! So here is a list of my favorite things from this year’s Essence Festival and what you absolutely have to do when you attend next year!
Where to Eat
Cochon Restaurant - Arts/Warehouse District
This restaurant is divine. I had the privilege of attending STARZ’s “PowerBrunch” event here and it did not disappoint. The blue crab beignets, succulent pork, grits, fried green tomatoes, delightful quiches, and more, this restaurant is worth your time!
Gene’s Po-boys - Bywater Neighborhood
So New Orleans gives NYC a run for its money on being a city that never sleeps and after the concerts, hunger is sure to pull you in! Gene’s is the perfect place for a delicious po-boy 24/7, but particularly in the wee hours of the night. This is spot is cash only, but so so worth it! Get the fried catfish po-boy, that is my recommendation!
Café Du Monde - French Quarter
You’ve likely been here before, but if haven’t, do it for the Beignets and coffee, enough said! Don’t let the long line deter you, it moves quickly since there are only two things on the menu, but be sure to bring cash here too and take them to go while you see more of the city!
Where to Play
Ace Hotel New Orleans - Arts/Warehouse District
While I chose a different route for my stay this trip to New Orleans, I did find myself at events at the Ace Hotel every day. From their delightful bar with craft cocktails to partying at their rooftop pool for the dynamic “Cantu Curls & Waves” bash, Ace is the place to be during Essence Festival. Their décor is chic and the service I encountered was spectacular. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the Ace was the host hotel for a secret podcast recording with Michael B. Jordan and a live Insecure wine-down recording with Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, and Prentice Penny with a special surprise 4-song set performance from Ella Mai, singing songs based on and dedicated to characters of the show.
Where to Get Exclusives
Entertainment All Access
Yes, Essence Festival is known for their stellar musical performances at the late- night concerts, but you need to experience the free events during the day at the convention center! I got to see an exclusive clip of If Beale Street Could Talkand got to hear the incredible process of making this ground-breaking film from Director, Barry Jenkins, and stars: Regina King, Kiki Layne, and Stephan James. Then I got to screen the plot twisting episode 5 of Claws’ second season. Afterward, Niecy Nash and Jenn Lyon were on hand for a dope Q&A where they shared what their hopes for season 3 are for their characters, and if they think that spoiler, Bryce is still alive. Things I wanted to catch but didn’t have a chance: screening of Episode 2 of Season 5 of Power and a screening of Ant-Man & the Wasp!
Where to Jam
The concerts of course!
No other place to be at 7 pm than the Superdome to take in all of your favorite performers on various stages. I got to checkout Xscape, Idris Elba, Snoop Dogg, Miguel, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Guy, and closed out with Ms. Janet Jackson. If you missed Janet’s tribute to her late father, check out highlights here. Every performance was a great time and a trip down memory lane with these artists who all have songs on the soundtrack to my life!
So next year, when you venture down to New Orleans for Essence Festival, you know where to play, where to eat and of course where to go get all the exclusives on your favorite TV shows and films. As always, you know where you hear the hottest music from artists you love! See you next year at the best black family reunion around!