In honor of the upcoming New Orleans Jazz Festival that my brother will be attending, and my recent weekend of eating and drinking in my favorite Southern city, I’ve decide to share with you dear readers some of my favorite spots in NOLA. Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert of the area (in fact, it’s best to get some tips from a local), but I can certainly make some recommendations.
Palace Cafe – A classic New Orleans restaurant near the French Quarter, serving both contemporary and classic Creole cuisine. I’ve only been for lunch, and ordered the Duck & Roasted Garlic Gumbo (so good!) and the Fried Oyster Salad. My dining companion ordered the crabmeat cheesecake, which was basically crab dip in the form of a pie – rich and delicious. Honestly, you probably can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. And the atmosphere is elegant yet casual, with prompt and friendly service – welcome to the South!
R’evolution – Fine dining at it’s best. Relatively new to the French Quarter, R’evolution is the collaboration of chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto, Louisiana locals and long-time friends. The menu is a mix of modernized Creole and Cajun food that showcases fresh, local ingredients. The restaurant is also known for it’s stunning, cascading display of caviar – which is worth splurging on if you’re a fan of fancy fish eggs. Other dishes not to miss are the Blue Crab Salad, Lobster Ricotta Gnocchi, Foie Gras Biscuit & Gravy, Roasted Bone Marrow and Triptych of Quail. I recommend skipping dessert because they bring you a box of handmade cookies with your bill, which was just enough for my minimal sweet tooth. While delicious, the food is quite rich – but that’s the style of Creole cuisine!
Lilette – This is a great spot for an intimate, elegant dining experience. Lilette is a standout on Magazine Street, amongst other top-notch restaurants and modern boutiques. Their menu is small but refined, with favorites like sweetbreads and roasted duck breast. But I would recommend ordering one of their seafood dishes; as I recall, the Pan-roasted Squab is outstanding.
Pizza Delicious – What started as a Sunday night pop-pop restaurant by two New Yorkers looking to bring perfected pizza to New Orleans, has transformed into one of Bywater’s most frequented restaurants. Bobes admitted that he gets takeout from Pizza Delicious as much as twice a week. Their daily pizza specials are unique while still maintaining a sense of East Coast authenticity, and they also offer the classics: cheese, pepperoni and Margherita. In addition to the pizza, they make excellent garlic knots, Caesar salad with anchovies, and Bucatini Carbonara with English peas. Take out or eat in, but be prepared to wait in line for a bit.
Patois – A little out of the way from Central New Orleans, but well-worth the drive (especially because the route is lined with beautiful mansions to be jealous of). Patois serves classic French dishes with a New Orleans accent, such as Moules Frites, Gulf Fish Almondine and Duck Confit salad. And if you happen to go for Sunday Brunch, I highly recommend the Mississippi Rabbit with Pouched Egg, Biscuits and Gravy!
Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone – A New Orleans classic and the first bar I visited on my trip in 2010. The Carousel Bar is exactly what it sounds like – a slow-spinning bar made to look like an old fashioned Merry-go-Round, circumventing one revolution every 15 minutes. Known as the home of the original Vieux Carre cocktail, the menu features classic and nouveau cocktails with southern comfort. This is a must for anyone wandering through the French Quarter!
French 75 – A cozy bar next to Arnaud’s Restaurant, this is the premier destination for cocktail connoisseurs. Settle in with a Boulevardier or Old Fashioned, or pick from a selection of Chris Hannah’s masterfully concocted cocktails. While you’re waiting, head on upstairs to peek at the Mardi Gras Museum – a collection of extravagant Easter Parade dresses worn by Germaine Wells. Simply ravishing!
The Columns Hotel – This Victorian mansion and hotel is the perfect place for a Southern cocktail on a warm night. A little preppy and pricey, but the atmosphere is elegant and precious. Put on your seersuckers or favorite sundress and grab a mint julep!
Sazerac Bar – Famous for their Gin Fizz and old school atmosphere, this is the spot for people seeking out the traditional New Orleans vibe. It’s not cheap, so go in for one drink (probably a Gin Fizz) and head on over next door to Domenica for Happy Hour.
Domenica – A John Besh restaurant known for it’s pizza and daily half-priced happy hour! The bar gets crowded pretty quickly between the hours of 3 and 6, so be patient and wait for a table (i.e. sketchily stand behind the group that looks closest to getting their bill), or get a go cup of your favorite wine or cocktail and head towards the French Quarter. When I was there last weekend, I naturally opted for some Strawberry Abita – tis the season!
Bar Tonique – As their website says, “hand crafted cocktails without the pretense.” Tonique rests on the edge of the French Quarter along North Rampart Street. They specialize in craft cocktails with fresh ingredients, sans attitude. The bartenders will even make you something on the spot if you tell them what kind of booze and flavors you like. And make sure to pop in on a Saturday for $5 Bacon Bloody Marys!
Anywhere on the street – As I mentioned previously, go cups are a thing in New Orleans. You can get a drink to go in a plastic cup at almost any bar near the French Quarter – and locals and tourists frequently take advantage of this. Don’t be shy, just be polite as pie!