New Orleans’ most legendary stories are told by the people who live here. That’s why the city’s all female, African American biker gang became The Unexpected Tour Guides — an IGTV travel show with the Caramel Curves that takes viewers to hidden gems where most tourists never go.
Over three episodes on Visit New Orleans’ IGTV channel, three influencers went for a ride off the beaten path and into local businesses, all on the back of a pink bike.
The series was shot locally by filmmakers, Justin Zweifach and Zac Manuel who were born and raised in New Orleans. Taking inspiration from the diverse and culturally-blended nature of the city, they used a unique kaleidoscope-like effect of blended digital and film footage to bring out the raw, true-to-life character in each episode.
Like the rest of the “Leave with a Story, Not Just a Souvenir” campaign, The Unexpected Tour Guides is a series made from our city. Its purpose is to bring tourists off the beaten path and into the lives of the people that live here – the people that know it best. In each stop the Curves make, we find that New Orleans is more than what it appears on the outside, and that every neighborhood has a different story to tell.
Watch the whole series on Visit New Orleans’ IGTV, then check out our list below of each stop, so you can see them for yourself.
Lil’ Dizzy’s Café
This 7th ward restaurant is part of a long lineage of great Southern food. Wayne Baquet’s father, Eddie, got his start working at the Paul Gross Chicken Coop with his aunt on Bienville and Roman Streets in 1940. Since then, they’ve been known for breakfast dishes like their famous crabmeat and cheese omelets and of course, ham with grits.
The Half Shell on the Bayou
The Half Shell is located in Esplanade Ridge or Mid-City, at the center of where French and African-American culture first met. The owner, Mark Lawes, turned this abandoned building into a restaurant known for fresh oysters by the dozen, Rockefeller, raw or Voodoo Bleu. It’s also where Tru and Dan Brian tried their first raw oysters.
Kermit’s Tremé Mother-In-Law Lounge
R&B artist Ernie K-Doe wrote a song called “Mother-in-Law” in 1961. He opened a restaurant by the same name. It was flooded during Katrina and was re-opened by his widow in 2009. Now a shrine to Ernie, you can sit down for a meal cooked by current owner Kermit Ruffins, also a well-known musician who plays live music at the lounge too.
Coco’s Unique Nails and Hair Studio
In the series, Owner and Caramel Curves Co-Founder, Coco, took influencer Alyssa Ramos here, to her own shop, for a manicure. She’s known for ornate, intricate, and colorful designs that look to be inspired by the city itself.
Tremé’s Petit Jazz Museum
A ride through the city that birthed jazz wouldn’t be complete without a stop at a museum dedicated to its history. Owner Al Jackson gave Coco and Alyssa a personal tour, and talked about the history of the streamer, a costumer decoration worn by free men of color in New Orleans. Stop by the next time you’re in Tremé.
Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club
The city’s famous Club isn’t actually open to the public, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take part in some of their ceremonies. On Mardi Gras Day, you can dance alongside them in their parade. If you’re lucky, you might get your hands on a coveted coconut. That’s a long-standing tradition and the official throw of the Zulu krewe.
Congregation Coffee Roasters
Congregation, which was once a record store, now roasts its own coffee in small batches. The owners, Ian and Eliot play the record store’s old vinyl collection in the shop. Its atmosphere is a mixture of Pacific Northwest and old-school New Orleans, making it a perfect fit for Algiers – a neighborhood known for its unique blend of cultures.
Dumaine Street Gang Second Line Parade
For 20 years, this crew has put on a huge parade every year in December, with elaborate costumes and a live brass band. Second Line Sundays happen every weekend, through Tremé and the French Quarter, usually in the summer and fall. Grab a drink and dance down the street where HoodPriss got Ashley Renne to let her hair down.
Handa Wanda’s is a dive bar named after a song by New Orleans’ Big Chief Bo Dollis and The Wild Magnolias. The song brought Mardis Gras Indian culture out of the shadows and led to the first Indian parade with Chief Monk Boudreaux in 1970. Native Americans offered refuge to the enslaved in New Orleans, and to this day, neighborhoods pay homage to them by suiting up in Native costumes and continuing their legacy in one of the city’s most treasured and colorful traditions.