The Big Easy is full of delicious cocktails, and now they can be yours
If you’ve never been to New Orleans, you are missing out on a city that is full of some truly beautiful things. Not only is it an incredibly diverse city, it is full of some of the best culinary finds this world has ever seen. Food and drink that I would have to look long and hard for in New York City is available at every turn in New Orleans, and that is why I love it there so much.
Last week, I was lucky enough to participate in a few days of Tales of the Cocktail, a massive cocktail event that took place in the Big Easy. While the days were full of events and seminars dedicated to educating about spirits and cocktails, the nights were there to put all of that education into practice — and practice we did.
Click here to find the best five bars to grab a drink in New Orleans.
— Sara Kay, The Spir.it
Best places to eat and to drink in New Orleans
New Orleans! The Crescent City, NOLA, the Vieux Carre… she is known by so many names and all of them packed with history, flavor and complexity. Few cities in America have embraced so much diversity and devastation into such a compact area. My first plane ride into New Orleans had me so anxious. I heard rumors of the drunken lewd behavior on Bourbon Street, and the “Girls Gone Wild” baring all just for a few beads. I wondered what I just committed to for my weekend excursion. What I found left me humbled and exhilarated and anxious to come back for more. And I did!
My first stay in the Crescent City had me based on Canal Street at The Saint Hotel. For a first timer in Vieux Carre, this was perfect. I was able to step out of the excitement of Bourbon street, and fall into a comfortable well appointed hotel with just enough of a naughty side to make me blush. I discovered very quickly that even with The Ritz Carlton, Waldorf Astoria or Hotel Monteleone within a few blocks of everywhere I ventured, New Orleans was a comfortable and casual city that didn’t judge. Even though I packed fabulous outfits that I envisioned my nights at gitzy lounges with live jazz, I found myself feeling perfectly dressed in shorts and my walking boots to enjoy a Sazerac at the Carousel Bar or a Gin Martini at the Ritz.
Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana is a popular tourist destination, but you can still find some secret spots and hidden gems if you look hard enough. Since New Orleans is also one of our favorite trips that we offer, we thought we’d share a few places that don’t show up on every guidebook and “must see” list. Here are some of our favorites:
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – 941 Bourbon St.
Looking for a unique place to grab a drink in the French Quarter? Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was built between 1722 and 1732 (and may or may not have actually been a blacksmith shop) and claims to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. Plus it’s outside of the part of Bourbon Street where most tourists spend their time, so it’s usually much less crowded.
The Singing Oak – 1701 Wisner Blvd.
Hiding in plain sight in City Park, The Singing Oak (or Chime Tree) is a large oak tree that has been strung with a set of wind chimes that ring a pentatonic (five notes per octave) scale by Louisiana artist Jim Hart. You can sit underneath The Singing Oak and listen to the relaxing symphony while enjoying the shade on a hot sunny day.
Nicolas Cage Pyramid Tomb – 425 Basin St.
Established in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, with many of the above-ground burial sites now crumbling. Sitting amongst the crumbling mausoleums however is a brand-new looking, nine-foot-tall stone pyramid, with the Latin phrase “Omni Ab Uno” meaning “Everything From One” etched on the front. When he dies, this tomb will become the final resting place for Nicolas Cage, which makes it a popular tourist attraction for many visitors and fans of Nic Cage.
Bacchanal Courtyard – 600 Poland Ave.
While it looks like a store from the front, just walk through the Bacchanal Wine Shop into the courtyard within and you’ll find yourself in NOLA’s backyard party. Featuring live music seven days a week (weather permitting) Bacchanal is a great place to grab a bite, enjoy a drink, and listen to some of the best original jazz in New Orleans.
Bananas Foster at Brennan’s – 417 Royal St.
Everyone knows about the beignets at Cafe Du Monde, but there’s another food item that was invented in New Orleans that gets much less publicity: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s Restaurant. Invented in 1951, this mixture of bananas, rum sauce, and vanilla ice cream is still the most popular item on Brennan’s menu, with many people stopping by just for a taste of the delicious desert.
Prytania Theatre – 5339 Prytania St.
If you’re looking for a fun way to relax for a few hours, then stop in and catch a movie at The Prytania Theatre. This single-screen neighborhood theatre has been open for more than 100 years, and a step inside will instantly transport you back in time to Old Hollywood. (But retrofitted with state of the art projection and sound systems.)
City Putt – 8 Victory Dr.
City Putt is a 36-hole mini golf complex that’s located in City Park, with two courses to choose from: The Louisiana Course highlights cultural themes and cities from around the state, while the New Orleans Course showcases streets and iconic themes from around the city.
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz – 4801 Tchoupitoulas St.
When Ernest Hansen invented the first ice shaving machine in 1939, Mary Hansen added her own flavored syrups and the snoball was born! Today you can still sample that historic treat, since Hansen’s makes its own flavors every day from Mary’s secret recipes, and creates snoballs from the original machine. The combination of fluffy ice and homemade syrups are made in layers – ice, syrup, ice, syrup, etc. – so that the final product is fully saturated, and is unlike any snow cone you’ve had before.
Ready to join us on one of our trips to New Orleans, LA? We can take you to all the secret spots and hidden gems, and make sure it’s a trip you never forget! To book your trip with WNC Travels, click here or give us a call at (828) 595-9691
Best New Orleans Food and Drink
New Orleans is a city for foodies with fine dining and historic cafes all around the city from the bustling French Quarter to the picture-perfect uptown Garden District. The food blends fancy French cuisine with local cooking styles to create distinctive Creole and Cajun dishes that are original to the city. Join us for a tour of the best food and drink in New Orleans.
What to Know
Cajun and Creole are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. While both begin with the region's 'holy trinity' of green peppers, onions and celery, they veer off in slightly different directions. Cajun food originated along Louisiana's bayou. Its country-style cooking starts with a dark roux and combines French and Southern flavors in homey, filling dishes like gumbo and boudin, a spicy classic Cajun sausage. Creole food also has French influences with European and African roots, but it's more refined with rich sauces and fresh seafood, like Shrimp Creole and Turtle Soup. Jambalaya is a popular hearty dish filled with chicken, spicy andouille sausage and veggies. It may be prepared in either the Creole style with tomatoes or the Cajun way without tomatoes. As in any good Southern town, grits are a staple, as well as okra.
In the sandwich category, a lunchtime staple is the muffuletta, a hearty combo of ham, salami, Swiss, provolone and olive spread. A po'boy is a classic sandwich usually served on a French baguette. It may be filled with fried seafood like oysters, shrimp, crawfish or soft shell crab.
When it comes to sweets, beignets are appropriate any time of day. These deep-fried dough balls are sprinkled with powdered sugar and served alongside a cup of coffee in cafes around town. For dessert, there's bread pudding, Bananas Foster and, during Mardi Gras, King cake with a hidden trinket inside.
Of course, sweet tea is an option if you're thirsty, but New Orleans is known for its great cocktail culture. The Sazerac, a simple combo of cognac and bitters, is said to be America's first cocktail and dates back to pre-Civil War days in the city. The Ramos Gin Fizz combines gin, lemon and lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream and orange flower water. A splash of soda water adds to the drink's effervescence.
Where to Go
Breakfast and Jazzy Brunch
The Sunday brunch and jazz at Arnaud's Restaurant is a 4-course feast with an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. Satisfy a sweet tooth with the Pain Perdu with orange-infused honey or opt for something savory with the grillades of braised baby veal scaloppini served with cheese grits. Sip a Mimosa, Bloody Mary, Bullshot or a Gin Fizz while listening to live Dixieland jazz.
Expect some unusual twists at the breakfast table at Brennan's in the French Quarter. The most popular dish is Eggs Hussarde, which features poached eggs served over Holland rusks and Canadian bacon, all topped with Marchand de Vin sauce. Brennan's is the birthplace of Bananas Foster so it's only appropriate to finish off breakfast with this flambeed dessert.
Ralph's on the Park is a cozy neighborhood restaurant in City Park. The playful Sunday brunch menu puts an unexpected twist on breakfast classics. Chicken is stuffed with boudin sausage and served alongside chocolate chip waffles and red-eye gravy while Cajun Scotch eggs are served alongside boudin sausage, cheese-grit souffle and corn maque choux.
No need to limit the brunch buffet to just weekends when you can indulge every day of the week at the Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. A jazz trio strolls around while diners fill their plates with classic egg dishes and savory entrees like boiled shrimp or crawfish with remoulade, zesty Cajun pasta, corn grits and Creole jambalaya.
Classic New Orleans Cuisine
The Palace Cafe reinvents classic Creole dishes in a lively cafe setting on historic Canal Street. The happy-hour deal tempts diners on weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. with $5 plates of alligator sausage pistolette, crab claws remoulade and duck spring rolls. Wash it down with Peters Planters Punch.
Mr. B's is a favorite lunchtime spot in the French quarter. Creole comfort food includes Gumbo Ya Ya with chicken and andouille, catfish fingers and crawfish etouffee.
Brigtsen's Restaurant serves Creole food in a cozy Victorian cottage near the Riverbend. Chef Frank Brigtsen is lauded for his unique spin on southern Louisiana specialties. The menu changes daily to feature the freshest local ingredients, but some standouts include rabbit tenderloin with andouille parmesan-grits cake and grilled drum fish with crawfish and pistachio lime sauce.
Cochon showcases Cajun cuisine at its best with dishes like crawfish pie, fried alligator, rabbit and dumplings and roasted gulf fish. The in-house butcher shop, or boucherie, turns out roasted suckling pig with cracklings, fried pig's ears and fried boudin.
The Commander's Palace is a New Orleans institution in a Victorian in the Garden District. Behind the turquoise and white shades, the Haute Creole cuisine has been evolving since opening in 1880. The Chef's Playground is a 7-course tasting menu with the much-praised Foie Gras 'Du Monde,' a delicate dish of skillet-roasted foie gras over apple, pecan and foie gras beignets as well as Crispy Wild Gulf Fish and Cracklin' Crusted Duck.
Antoine's has been seducing diners since 1840 with French-Creole cuisine in an extraordinary setting. There are 15 dining rooms filled with memorabilia from famous guests including past presidents, film stars and even Pope John Paul II. The signature dish is Oysters Rockefeller which originated at this grand restaurant in 1889.
Local ingredients shine in Italian preparations at Bacco. The signature dish brings Italy and the southern bayou together with Maine Lobster and Gulf Shrimp Ravioli with champagne butter sauce. Pasta dishes include Louisiana crawfish tails served over fresh pappardelle or fried oysters with fettuccine.
Before Emeril Lagasse became a household name, he was the executive chef at Commander's Palace. Today, he owns 3 upscale restaurants around town. His first restaurant, Emeril's, brought his bold personality to the NOLA scene with dishes like Creole-marinated calamari, andouille-crusted redfish, and roasted quail stuffed with mushrooms and crabmeat.
The action never stops at Cafe Du Monde, the sweetest spot in town. The cafe serves its world-famous beignets and dark roasted coffee 24 hours a day, 364 days of the year, closing only on Christmas. The original Cafe Du Monde, located in the French Market, is a prime place for people-watching while enjoying a plate of 3 sugary fried beignets.
A jacket isn't part of the dress code at the supremely casual Coop's Place on Decatur Street. House specialties are the Seafood Gumbo made with a dark roux and plenty of okra, shrimp, crab claws and oysters over rice. The jambalaya is a simmering pot of tomatoes, onions and peppers with rabbit, smoked pork sausage, shrimp and tasso ham. Try the Hangtown Fry Omelette with fried oysters, bacon and cheddar for a late breakfast at noon or an early one sometime around midnight.
With 45 beers on tap at Cooter Brown's, there's more than enough to wash down a plate of briny oysters at this casual bar. If you don't fall for raw fish, get a meat fix with a classic muffuletta sandwich or alligator sausage po'boy.
A Guide To Day Drinking in New Orleans
In New Orleans, you can drink from sunrise to sunset, indoors and outdoors, from January 1st to December 31st. Here, it’s always a party. With spring here, it’s patio season and we’re sharing all of our favorite spots to day drink.
With a giant outdoor patio, frosé, and delicious bites from their onsite Karibu Kitchen, Tchoup Yard is the perfect place to spend a beautiful day with friends!
The Country Club
634 Louisa St, New Orleans
If you’re drag brunching, you’ll need to get a reso a couple of months in advance at The Country Club. Or, just head to the pool for drinks and tons of fun! There’s a ten dollar entry fee, but it’s worth it if you’re in the mood for pool partying.
This cute new brewery off of Tchoupitoulas has an airhead extreme beer #mindblown. They also let you BYOF (bring your own food). We even picked up crawfish and brought them over the other day!
2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans
O, Jack Rose. We can’t get enough of you. Our favorite place for brunching with our girls. Probably because there’s bottomless veuve, chambongs and mile high pie!
3532 Toulouse St, New Orleans
The newest addition to patio bars in the city, Wrong Iron is a hip New Orleans beer garden with food trucks and fun in MidCity.
2533 Constance St, New Orleans
Parasol’s is a great Irish Channel neighborhood bar. Where else can you grab a cheap beer, bring your dog inside AND eat one of the best poboys in town (Firecracker shrimp yasss). Parasol’s is a great spot to start drinking and then make your way to other Magazine Street bars.
1001 Poydras St, New Orleans
The lush patio and wines on tap are enough to keep us coming back to this CBD gem. Plus, there’s seating on the balcony if you want to overlook the city!
3811 St Charles Ave, New Orleans
You can’t go wrong with a French 75 on the victorian porch at the The Columns Hotel. It’s a Saint Charles Avenue classic!
719 Toulouse St, New Orleans
We love this cocktail bar addition to the quarter. The courtyard style patio at Longway Tavern is charming and their cocktails delicious!
Laffitte’s Blacksmith Shop
941 Bourbon St, New Orleans
Purple Boozy Slushies aka Purple Drank at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is a quintessential day drink in the French Quarter. Plus you’re drinking in the oldest bar in America. When the mood strikes, Purple Drank is the way to go.
Pat O’Brien’s Bar
Start off in the Courtyard and move to the Piano Bar once the sun goes down! Pat O’Briens is a fun classic if you are out and about in the quarter.
600 Poland Ave, New Orleans
Every wine lover’s dream. Walk into a wine store, pick your bottle, pick your cheeses and head out to a lovely courtyard with live music. You might want to stay all day and all night. Not into wine? Bacchanal has an upstairs bar with tasty cocktails.
611 O’Keefe Ave, New Orleans
Frosé all day. From breakfast to brunch, to casual day drinking, Willa Jean will definitely not disappoint and they always have lots of tasty frozen cocktails perfect for the spring and summer.
Ace Hotel’s Alto
600 Carondelet St, New Orleans
If you’re looking for a hip vibe, or you are just trying to catch some sun with beautiful people, the Ace Hotel’s rooftop bar Alto is the spot. Sip on drinks in the pool, while looking over our beautiful city.
The rooftop bar at the Catahoula Boutique Hotel and their fresh drinks = Day Drinking Goals. If rooftop bars aren’t your thing you can always drink Pisco on the 1st floor bar.
2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans
With so many delicious cocktails to choose from and this gorgeous view, you’re bound to stay until the sun sets. The bar is on the rooftop of the same hotel where Jack Rose is, so head up after brunch!
Bayou Wine Garden
315 N Rendon St, New Orleans
Three words: WINE. ON. TAP, and Bayou Beer Garden’s best idea yet! We love Bayou Wine Garden.
Bayou Beer Garden
26 N Jefferson Davis Pkwy, New Orleans
Or swing by the wine garden’s neighbor and indulge in one or all 180 beers they have to choose from at this Mid City neighborhood bar.
1020 Erato St, New Orleans
This microbrewery is a great spot to start off your day with brews and food from NOLA’s finest food trucks.
3201 Magazine St, New Orleans
You can’t day drink on Magazine Street without making a stop at Balcony Bar, and well duh, drink on their balcony.
Nola Brewing Tap Room
3001 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
One of the city’s original breweries, his chill spot is great for to relax, sample different beers and eat some of the best BBQ in the city at McClure’s.
2604 Magazine St, New Orleans
If you’re into sports or crawfish or just a good time Tracey’s is another great stop on Magazine Street. Cheap drinks, lots of TVs to watch almost every game there is and awesome bar food including crawfish boils and oysters when in season.
Exposition Drive, New Orleans
The Fly at Audubon Park along the Mississippi River is known as a spot where locals to pack a picnic (dranks included), and chill with friends for a few hours. The breeze from the Mississippi, the people watching, and the good vibes make this a Sunday Funday must!
The 15 Best Places with Bottomless Drinks in New Orleans
/> Leslie Landry: Bottomless mimosas!!
/> Blake: Two words: Drag. Brunch. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday from 10am-3pm, get brunch with $10 bottomless mimosas and entertainment from the Mimosa Girls.
/> Richard Hassell: Brunch on Sunday, endless Mimosas, Bloody Mary bar
/> Michael Samardzija: My tips are: Don't miss Steak Night on Wed, Pizza Night on Thurs & Sunday Brunch w/ bottomless mimosas, bloody marys or sangria!
/> Ted Padgett: Visit for Sunday Brunch - bottomless mimosa, sangria, or bloody mary. Awesome lemon and ricotta stuffed pancakes
/> David Herrold: Bottomless bloody marys, mimosas and sangria for Sunday brunch. The grits are fantastic, too.
/> Lonnie Kahoe: Such a cute brunch spot (and bottomless mimosas)! Get the egg apolline but substitute the waffle for biscuits or hash--the buttermilk waffle makes it too sweet in my opinion.
/> andrew rosi: Bottomless mimosas and shrimp & grits. This place sets the bar, unreal. Amanda is the leader and is the $hit.
/> Nick W: Awesome brunch. Maple bacon and deluxe bloody mary
/> Benjamin Szweda: Come for the Royal Brunch (eggs any way, bacon or sausage, choice of toast and grits or potatoes) and get unlimited mimosas! 9-11 weekends.
/> The King Of Chlorine: Awesome breakfast, bottomless mimosas.
/> Gena Shears: Complimentary bottomless mimosas with breakfast .
/> Cory Cheramie: Awesome deli and bottomless mimosas for brunch.
/> Daniel Grayson: Great and cheap selections of wines. Food is solid in a cafeteria sort of setup
/> Andy Kutcher: Great staff. Very knowledgeable and helpful. And, they tell you whats best, regardless of pricing! So nice!!
/> Andrew Casper: Enjoyable and informative 2-hour river cruise. the tour guide was very knowledgeable on NOLA history and plenty of seating + for 10am cruise, get the $15 unlimited mimosa special at the boat's bar!!
Nicole Cheramie: Journey back to the riverboat era on the Mississippi. The boat runs by day to the old battlefield grounds, but the evening Jazz Cruise with live music & delicious Southern cuisine is truly thrilling.
/> Tom Emerson: Get in line early for choice seating on board
Hurricane Cocktail Recipe
- 1½ oz Light Rum
- 1½ oz Dark Rum
- 1 oz Orange Juice
- 1 oz fresh Lime Juice
- 1 tbsp Passion Fruit Syrup
- 1 tsp Bar Sugar
- 1 tsp Grenadine and Orange Slice, for garnish
In a shaker, mix rum, passion fruit syrup, juices and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in grenadine, then add ice and shake. Half-fill a hurricane glass with ice and strain drink into glass. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.
You Travel, You Eat: Where To Eat & Drink In New Orleans
In New Orleans, it’s easy to get lost in the past. Whether it’s a romantic reverie of candelabras and heavy brocades or the physical and emotional trauma of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, too many travelers are consumed by preconceptions of a bygone Crescent City. It’s really a shame, because the modern reality is so exciting. From the local chef bringing modern culinary techniques to classic Creole cooking to the dives and cocktail joints that make up what is easily the country’s coolest bar scene, New Orleans is an incredibly dynamic place that — like any great city — is constantly evolving. Whether you’re in town for the Super Bowl or just planning to head down and go hard in the Big Easy, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our take on the best places to eat, drink and be merry in a city that knows from celebration.
A local favorite in hip Bywater, Maurepas Foods has a real Bushwick-on-the-Bayou quality. But all the Edison light bulbs in the world could not prepare you for Chef Michael Doyle’s mind-blowing menu of Southern-inflected cooking at outrageously low prices. Priced at just $9 for dinner, the goat tacos with pickled green tomatoes and harissa will inspire you to either find or lose your religion. And the cocktail list, developed by bar star Brad Smith, includes a rotating cast of punches. 3200 Burgundy Street, 504-267-0072 maurepasfoods.com
Short for “South of Bourbon Street,” newcomer SoBou is run by the same local family behind Garden District institution Commander’s Palace. Always swinging, it’s located within the recently remodeled W French Quarter and has a New Creole menu heavy on bar-friendly snacks by Juan Carlos Gonzalez and Tory McPhail. Nobody with a brain in their head should leave Nola without trying their ludicrously indulgent sweet potato beignets in foie gras fondue. (Listed among the “Small Bites,” natch.) There are also 30 wines by the glass, and cocktails by Nola cocktail maven Lu Brow. 310 Chartres Street, 504-552-4095, sobounola.com
What started as a twice-weekly Bywater pop-up has now ascended to brick-and-mortar status. The thin, New York–style crusts, transcendent garlic knots and specialty slices are all wildly popular, as is Pizza D’s impressive list of local beers and bottles: try NOLA Blonde on draught. 617 Piety Street, 504-676-8482, pizzadelicious.com
A major 2012 opening in the French Quarter’s new Royal Sonesta, RR is beloved by locals and hotel guests alike. Homegrown chefs John Folse and Rick Tramanto, who opened Seafood R’evolution in Mississippi most recently, serve a modern Cajun/Creole menu that calls upon Louisiana’s “seven nations” of immigrant heritage. A dish like roasted bone marrow does not disappoint. Channel your inner Bayou boss in the $6.5 million dining room, which is composed of seven individual spaces, each designed to look like a different wing of a Creole mansion. 777 Bienville Street, 504-553 2277, revolutionnola.com
Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor
This 110-year-old bakery and gelateria is, admittedly, the definition of old-school. But, like Paid in Full, Angelo Brocato’s holds up. The cannoli at this Mid-City institution are filled to order, ensuring crisp, crunchy shells. The stuffed ricotta ends are then coated in chopped green pistachios, and served by tiny, Sicilian-American nonna-types on doily-lined plates. Because when you’re here, you’re family. 214 North Carrollton Avenue, 504-486-1465, angelobrocatoicecream.com
As the follow-up to Chef Phillip Lopez’s playful Warehouse District hotspot Root, Square Root is already a restaurant of superlatives: most ambitious, most hotly anticipated, most likely Michelin-bait, etc. At Square Root, Lopez’ globetrotting take on Creole traditions featuring molecular gastronomy will be served in nine- or 10-course tasting menus. Locals are already lining up around the block to get a glimpse of the space, which will combine a 15-seat dining room and open kitchen, with an upstairs bar serving cocktails, Root’s incredible charcuterie and four house-made cheeses. 1800 Magazine Street, 504-309-7800, squarerootnola.com
Named for a pre-Prohibition-era artist best known for photographing New Orleans’ red light district, this Central Business District cocktail den was one of the biggest openings of 2012. The sultry, Interview with the Vampire-style space revolves around an extensive list of creative cocktails by the Cure’s Neal Bodenheimer, Kirk Estopinal and Matthew Kohnke. They tackle traditional cocktails as well as of-the-moment trends like 19 th Century drinks, as well as cobblers made with El Dorado 5-year or Amontillado sherry. 936 St. Charles Avenue, 504-962-0911, thehotelmodern.com/bellocq
Situated on the Treme/French Quarter divide, this miniscule cocktail joint somehow manages to squeeze in a large bar, two fireplaces and a refreshingly minimal amount of mixology worship given its impressive product. Sours, slings and punches are fashioned from fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups, but the bartenders and patrons seem more interested in having a boozy good time than talking about the origin of that rye in your Vieux Carre. (It’s Rittenhouse, by the way. And it’s spectacular.) 820 North Rampart Street, 504-324-6045, bartonique.com
Co-owned by New York ex-pat and noted bon vivant Sean McCusker, Sylvain is an atypical French Quarter saloon. In that it’s consistently really good. Well-crafted cocktails range from the Negroni to the city’s classic Sazerac, and his house-made sodas are blow-your-hair-back good. The elevated bar menu helps soak up all that hotness, with items like curried potato empanadas or confit duck leg and grilled sausage. 625 Chartres Street, 504-265 8123, sylvainnola.com
Twelve Mile Limit
Opened in late 2010, this Mid-City bar from the founder of Garden City bistro Coquette brings a pleasantly high-low blend to New Orleans’ cocktail culture. Top-shelf liquors are infused with the same esoteric ingredients as other mixologists’ (why, yes, there are notes of honey and hot sauce in that bourbon cocktail) but, here, they’re paired with down-to-earth prices, great barbecue and a solid jukebox. 500 South Telemachus Street, 504-488-8114
Another hotspot from the Brennan family of Commander’s Palace and SoBou fame, this Central Business District lounge serves elegant cocktails in a piano bar setting. You’ll forgive the awfully on-the-nose name when you sample dangerously delicious combinations. 300 Poydras Street, 504-595-3305, cafeadelaide.com
Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
So, you’ve contemplated the new New Orleans cocktail culture at the aforementioned five spots. You’ve paid $15 for a hand-crafted drink without raising an eyebrow. Now it’s time to get sauced in a shed. Snake and Jake’s isn’t a stylized dive, made to look like a decrepit shack on an unassuming Uptown street. It’s the real deal. Open daily from 7:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m., this is the perfect place to get stinking drunk on a tenner, while sitting next to an elderly alcoholic and his dog. 7612 Oak Street, 504-861-2802, snakeandjakes.com
Forget Café du Monde, the French Quarter establishment so heavily touristed it makes Graceland feel quaint. When you start jonesing for café au lait and a beignet — and, let’s be honest, you so will — get your fix at this Metairie coffee shop favored by locals. Open 24 hours, Morning Call even lets patrons man their own powdered sugar application for customized pastries. Now that’s Southern hospitality. 3325 Severn Avenue, Metairie, LA 504-885-4068, morningcallcoffeestand.com
In a somewhat strange location in Gert Town/Mid-City, this small café serves coffees made with local small-batch roaster French Truck Coffee as well as exceptional breads and desserts. Pastry chef Megan Forman is a New Orleans native who honed her skills at Bayona and Sucre before opening this café and sweets spot in 2012. Fresh baked breads vary daily, but are consistently killer in signature sandwiches like smoked ham with pecan-cheddar spread and pepper jelly. 1000 S Jefferson Davis Pkwy, Ste 100. 504-301-3709, graciousbakery.com
The Orange Couch
The brainchild of a San Francisco ex-pat, this sleek corner café serves local beans and baked goods with unexpected Asian accents. Classic Vietnamese Iced Coffee is given the Nola treatment with chicory, and locals clamor for the tomato tartlets and mochi alike. The modernist interiors are small, so go early on a warm day to grab an outdoor table for some solid Marigny people-watching. 2339 Royal Street, 504-267-7327
Where top Houston bartenders drink in New Orleans
Just try to keep Houston's top bartenders away from New Orleans in July. That's when Tales of the Cocktail, the annual blowout for spirits professionals, lures the city's cocktail movers and shakers to the Big Easy for five intense days (July 16-20) of work and networking. In between seminars, tastings and work-related events, Houston's bartending contingent also manages to squeeze in visits to their favorite watering holes in New Orleans. Here are some of their suggestions for good places to drink in the Crescent City:
Sheridan Fay, El Big Bad: Visit Sylvain (625 Chartres) or their newly opened Barrel Proof (1201 Magazine) for a little bourbon or whiskey. Local all-star Lucinda Weed will be sure to mix you up her favorite classic or guide you through the magic made in Kentucky.
Alexander Gregg, Goro & Gun: I have to say that my favorite bar during Tales is the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone (214 Royal). The Vieux Carre was invented there and during the week of Tales, you can grab a seat and whether you have 15 minutes or hours to kill, you will meet someone who is extremely passionate about the beverage industry, and probably an influential leader in their segment of the industry. The only downside is that it can be hard to get one of those coveted rotating stools during TOTC, but it's well worth the wait.
Alba Huerta, the Pastry War, Julep: On a hot swampy day after seeing the break of dawn that reminded you to go back to your hotel to get some well-deserved rest - the kind that makes your eyes feel allergic to the light - there is an answer to your prayers: the Erin Rose (811 Conti). I love the Wake Up and Live section on the menu. Their most valuable offering is the Frozen Irish Coffee that can even be purchased in a to-go cup.
Matt Tanner, Pappas Restaurants: Bellocq (936 St. Charles) is my favorite cocktail bar in the city. They have daily offerings of punch out served out of beautiful, huge pewter octopus punch bowl. Avenue Pub (1732 St. Charles) is one of the best places to go in the city. They have a fantastic tap wall of 30-something taps and a very large bottled beer selection with anything from Miller High Life to hard-to-find Belgian beers. And for the whiskey drinker they have you covered at the bar upstairs with a great selection of scotch and bourbon. To top it all off they have excellent food. I suggest going for the burger and Dump Truck fries (hand-cut fries, Béchamel, roasted pork, grilled onions and port wine au jus).
Ricardo Guzman Venegas, Triniti: I would go to Three Muses on Frenchman Street (536 Frenchman). The Boulevardier cocktail is a must. I also like Bar Tonique (820 Rampart) and the Vieux Carre cocktail.
Brad Moore, Grand Prize Bar, Goro & Gun, Big Star Bar, Lei Low Bar, Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar and Spirit Lodge: At TOTC, I get my Sazeracs from Paul Gustings at Broussard's (819 Conti) and Chris McMillian at Kingfish (337 Chartres). But where my heart, my wallet, and my bouillabaisse brain always end up is shooting Fireball with Evan at the Erin Rose (811 Conti), and finding the secret bottle of Fireball that occasionally appears at world class cocktail bar Cane & Table (1113 Decatur). If not at those spots, you can find me hiding uptown at Snake & Jake's (7612 Oak).
The Best Places to Eat and Drink in New Orleans
The idea of celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans is either a traveler's dream or worst nightmare. I had always assumed I would never be able to fully appreciate the debauchery that comes with a few too many Sazeracs, thumping music, and topless women—and men.
But then I found myself standing on Canal Street catching beads—by accident.
It turns out there are two versions of Mardi Gras—one for locals (aptly called Family Gras) and one for the masses. I had unwittingly booked my annual visit to the Crescent City for that first week of festivities. And it was glorious. For one thing, there’s something pleasurable about it being a bit more sedate. Plus—as the name implies—the celebrations are incredibly family friendly. (Like the Krewe of Barkus parade, which features dogs in outrageous costumes.)
This year, while hordes of tourists descend upon The Big Easy for Fat Tuesday (February 17), savvy vacationers will go early—when the Family Gras parades and celebrations begin during the first week of the month.
And because New Orleans is a city for travelers guided by their stomachs, there’s so much more than spectacle to take in—such as its restaurant and bar scene, which is arguably one of the best in the U.S.
Here, a comprehensive list of the best bars and restaurants the city has to offer. Just remember to check out the rules and guidelines surrounding Mardi Gras—and yes, that definitely means no “risqué behavior” outside of the French Quarter. But beyond that, laissez les bon temps rouler!
As its name (which is French for pig) implies, James Beard Award winner Donald Link’s casual restaurant in the Warehouse District specializes in all things pork. And while everything on the menu is tempting, Link’s fried alligator with chili garlic mayo, smoked pork ribs, and fried boudin are the true winners. Go for lunch. Order from the extensive bourbon menu. Make sure to book a table well in advance. And after the meal, stop by Butcher—the restaurant’s sister eatery next door—for some cured meats and hot sauces to take home.
You can't knock fried alligator until you've tried Cochon's version.
In New Orleans, there’s only one way to do Friday afternoon right. And that means a very long and boozy lunch at Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The restaurant has been there for more than a hundred years, but you’re not there just for the meal. It’s the predominantly local scene you’re after—where people converge to celebrate the start of the weekend and gossip about the town’s goings-on. One very important thing to note: They don’t take reservations for the downstairs dining room, which is where you need to sit. Walk-ins only, so come early or wait next door at the bar of Galatoire’s 33 Steak House.
Galatoire's is exactly where you'll want to be for a boozy Friday afternoon lunch. (Photo: Louis . [+] Sahuc)
Having opened in 2012, R’evolution is a relative newcomer to NOLA’s dining scene. But it’s already a hit. Consider it for dinner and don’t neglect to get the bone marrow appetizer and braised short ribs. The charcuterie board wouldn’t hurt, either. But if you can’t make it at night, its lunch menu is superb.
Make a lunch reservation at this legendary restaurant, which has been in business since the late 1800s. It’s the kind of place where men wear jackets and women arrive with perfectly coiffed hair—but it serves one helluva deal: a seasonal two- or three-course lunch prix fixe (for no more than $45) and 25-cent martinis.
This is old world New Orleans at its finest. It’s been around since 1840 and it’s still alive and well for good reason. Many go for dinner (there’s a reasonably-priced five-course prix fixe). But the Sunday jazz brunch, from 11am to 2 pm, is exceptionally fun.
You can never go wrong with Antoines' Sunday Jazz Brunch.
A cousin of Cochon, Herbsaint is chef Donald Link’s finer restaurant. Also in the city’s Warehouse District, it’s technically a casual spot, but the ambience is more elevated than Cochon’s and guests are always smartly dressed. In keeping with Link’s style, the fare is seasonal, local, and hearty.
This little jewel box of a restaurant in the Garden District is lovely for dinner—particularly for couples. The cuisine is French-Italian. And because chef John Harris focuses on seasonality, the menu is ever-changing—but never disappointing.
This is chef John Besh's best restaurant—hands down. A safe distance from the maddening crowds of Mardi Gras, the only breasts you can expect to see here come from a duck. Serving contemporary French fare that focuses on seasonal ingredients, August is in a league of its own. Its elegant ambience lends itself to good conversation—so make a reservation for date night or for a quiet evening with good friends.
Great oysters and crawfish. Enough said. But go for lunch, a very early dinner, or a 3pm pop-in. The line outside is frequently more than 10 deep, so the wait isn’t exactly convenient. There are other places nearby, but Acme is the real deal.
Stop by this John Besh restaurant if you’re in the mood for a great raw bar or some solid brasserie fare—say, some excellent fries and a no-nonsense burger. It’s nothing fancy but the menu can’t be beat.
One of the many homes of the famous New Orleans po’ boy sandwich. They serve several kinds of this messy masterpiece, but it’s the fried gulf shrimp you want. And you can order the oyster, famous Ferdi special, or debris to share with friends. Get the catfish salad and jambalaya as sides. (Trust me, you’ll want them.)
The Sazerac is a knockout bar—the kind of place you’d expect to find Don Draper and Roger Sterling if Mad Men were set in New Orleans. And like the other bars on this list, it’s nothing like most of the raucous places on Bourbon Street, which are best reserved for the under-25 crowd. This is not where one gets drunk. This is where one sips and converses. Expect a swanky crowd, erudite bartenders, and amazing cocktails (including the city’s signature drink, the Sazerac).
This beautiful Garden District hotel is where Pretty Baby was filmed. It’s worth a stop for a drink—or three—when you’re coming from Commander’s Palace or walking along Magazine Street.
The Columns Hotel in New Orleans' Garden District is perfect for that mid-afternoon cocktail.
The hotel has been around since 1886 and has some serious literary history behind it. (Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner were frequent guests—as were Truman Capote, Anne Rice, and John Grisham). And its legendary Carousel Bar is a stop you need to make. Try to get there early to snag a seat at its main attraction: a circular 25-seat bar that actually spins.
Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar has a rich literary history behind it—and an actual carousel that . [+] turns.
This French Quarter gem is housed in a historic landmark that dates all the way back to 1797 and was once owned by Nicholas Girod, New Orleans’ mayor in the early 1800s. Come for the (strong) cocktails. Stay for the ambience.
Conveniently located in the W Hotel’s French Quarter outpost, SoBou makes for a good stop when doing the inevitable French Quarter bar crawl. The bar stocks everything. And the bourbon selection is extensive. By that I mean, you could order a pour of the elusive Pappy Van Winkle—if the other patrons don’t beat you to it first. While you’re there, make sure to grab some small plates, which are inspired by Louisiana street food.
SoBou's bourbon selection is impressive. Get a Pappy Van Winkle. Neat, of course.
WALKING IT OFF
Royal Street in the French Quarter
If you think Bourbon Street defines New Orleans, you’re wrong. If anything, it’s the one street to avoid—save for the few gems like Galatoire’s and R’evolution. In any case, you can never go wrong ambling around the French Quarter. But Royal has some of the finer antique, art, and jewelry boutiques.
The street is miles long, so you’ll want to pick a section and walk it—especially when you’re not exactly sober. But the 5000s to the 1800s blocks on Magazine are solid. (You can get there via the St. Charles line streetcar. Or a cab.)
Walking distance from the celebrated Cafe Du Monde, the market is filled with stalls selling every kind of pickled vegetable, pepper sauce, jam, and other foodstuffs. There’s also costume jewelry and tchotchkes to be had. But even if you’re not into souvenirs, it’s certainly worth exploring.
A short walk from the French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood is where most of the (fun) non-touristy action is. Walk along Frenchmen Street and you’ll find the best music joints in the city—the Spotted Cat and Café Negril are not to be missed.
AND DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT HAVING A BEIGNET…
It’s the only place to get beignets as God intended, at least this is what both locals and tourists swear by. It’s almost always a scramble to get a table or a bag of sugar-dusted doughnuts to go. But if the line is just too damn long, go to the café’s outpost in Riverwalk. Or. there’s always nearby Cafe Beignet, where the line is nowhere near as impossible and the beignets are just as beig-nificent.
You can't leave New Orleans without having the puffy and powdery goodness that is the beignet—and . [+] Cafe Du Monde is the place to get it.