If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans, we have you covered. For those who have never been, New Orleans is so much more than Bourbon Street — it’s a city with some of the best culinary experiences in the U.S., and some of the best live music. After years of visits to Nola, here’s our comprehensive guide to where to eat, drink and stay.
Where to Eat:
First things first, we start with food. Yes, New Orleans is known for Cajun cooking — think gumbo, jambalaya and turtle soup. But, the city has something for everyone, and some of the newer restaurants are also must-visits.
One of the first things we do when visiting is booking a reservation at Commander’s Palace for their amazing Jazz Brunch. Set in a mansion in the Garden District, Commander’s Palace is an institution. Ask to be seated in the Garden Room, order a bloody Mary and take in the scenery. The brunch is three courses and each course is absolutely delectable and beautifully presented. An amazing three-man jazz band makes the rounds taking requests while you munch on Southern fare like seafood gumbo (we highly recommend), crawfish frittata, and their famous Louisiana Sportsman’s Brunch. Desserts are also a highlight, we recommend the homemade strawberry shortcake, pictured above.
Bayona is the perfect restaurant for a romantic date night in the French Quarter. Ranked one of America’s top restaurants, chef Susan Spicer gives you the French side of Creole cooking in a delightful way. Make reservations if you’re thinking of going.
John Besh’s August restaurant is a true star in New Orleans and is run by the city’s most renowned chef. The menu is pricey, but worth it. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, houses in a 19th century building with exposed brick walls and high ceilings. The lamb and hanger steak are to die for. Arrive early and grab cocktails at the bar — they are impeccably made.
Also in the Garden District is La Pettite Grocery, a newer take on classic Nola food. Start with the blue claw crab beignets. We had scallops, shown, which were amazing.
Atchafalaya: Modern Creole cuisine in the Garden District, complete with a Bloody Mary bar where you can customize your own bloodies. We went here for brunch, where we sampled their brunch burger (highly recommend), empanadas, egg and bacon bagel and truffled eggs.
Broussard’s perfectly blends Creole cooking with fine dining. The restaurant is in a gorgeous building from 1834 in the French Quarter, and has classic dishes such as black drum fish and shrimp toast. The filet mignon is my favorite. Arrive early and have cocktails in their outdoor garden which is strung with white lights in the evening.
After Commander’s Palace, our second-favorite brunch is Court of Two Sisters. This meal is an event that you’ll want to save real-estate in your stomach for. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffett and it is indulgent. We sat outside in the sun and took in the jazz band while munching on crawfish, omelettes, bread pudding, and other delicacies. We left full and a bit tipsy, but very satisfied.
Where to Drink:
People in New Orleans definitely like to imbibe. And yes, you should take a stroll down Bourbon Street and have a hand grenade drink, just to say you’ve done it, but there are lots of nicer places to have a drink and people watch.
When in the French Quarter, go to Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar which is like stepping back into time. The bar gives off a 20’s theme and at night there is a live band that plays tunes while you sip on martinis. The bar, true to its name, is quite literally a carousel that rotates like a merry-go-round.I make a point to visit on every trip to Nola for a few cocktails and everyone I have brought has also loved it.
Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel is another must-visit. The bar has live music every night and is the perfect place to sip on a Sazerac while listening to local talent croon jazz classics. The aesthetic is lush and sophisticated and has an old-school vibe. We recently stayed for two shows, because it was so much fun. We arrived at 10pm for a jazz performance and stayed for the midnight burlesque show, which was one of the highlights of our trip.
Luke is the best place for happy hour. 75 cent oysters (pictured) are the draw, but the drinks are also on special at half off. Happy hour is every day from 3 to 6pm.
My favorite place to grab a day drink is Pat O-Brien’s on their outdoor patio. Get the hurricane, trust me on this one. They also make a surprisingly good mojito.
Where to Stay:
While we love New Orleans, its idea of luxury is not quite what we’re used to when traveling to other areas. The buildings are on the older side, and many of them are geared toward a party crowd, but there are two hotels you truly can’t go wrong with. Our favorite is The Saint which is a boutique hotel near the French Quarter. We recently stayed here and it was super modern and clean and reminded us a lot of the Delano in Miami. For something more classic, The Roosevelt Waldorf is the place to stay.