There is a lot of art and culture to experience in New Orleans and some of it takes place behind the bars and in the kitchens of the numerous restaurants, eateries and bars in the Big Easy. When you think of the foods in NOLA, it might be jambalaya and beignets might come to mind, but the culinary culture is far richer than your standard issue Cajun cuisine.
From elegant dining to dive bars and from baked Alaska to corner bakeries, the restaurant scene in New Orleans is both delicious and unforgettable. Even though four days in New Orleans is not nearly enough time to put a dent in the city’s best restaurants, it is enough time to experience more than a dozen new favorite dining adventures in New Orleans, with options in and around the French Quarter.
Brennan’s, located in the historic French Quarter, originally opened in 1946 and was reopened in late 2014 after a year-long closure for renovations. The eatery, famous for its lavish breakfast menu, is credited with the creation of Bananas Foster. At the helm of the kitchen, chef Slade Rushing churns out Turtle Soup, Artisanal Eggs Benedict and Crispy Veal Cheek Grillades over Cheddar Grits while pastry chef Brett Gauthier keeps the lavish desserts in business.
At Carrollton Market, Southern Charm is on the menu in ample quantity. Chef Jason Goodenough, a Culinary Institute of America alum, creates a market-driven restaurant that reflects the seasons and the rich history of New Orleans cuisine. Menu highlights include the Oysters Goodenough, Flash-fried Oysters with Bacon, Creamed Leeks and Béarnaise, as well as Pan-Roasted American Red Snapper with Coconut Rice, Stir-fried Baby Bok Choy and a Spicy Panang Curry Sauce. Pair your meal with a Sazerac and you’ll never want to leave.
From wood-fired oysters and fried alligator bites tossed in chili garlic mayo to braised ham hock with sweet potato puree and rabbit & dumplings, Cochon serves traditional Cajun Southern dishes. Chef Donald Link and Chef/Co-owner Stephen Stryjewski work with locally sourced pork, fresh produce and seafood to create authentic flavors of Cajun country. Go hungry, leave ten pounds heavier.
Kingfish is a laid back restaurant and cocktail bar in New Orleans that salutes the era of Huey P. Long, a name you hear and see a lot in New Orleans. Long was Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and has been described as “the most colorful, as well as the most dangerous, man to engage in American politics.” Kingfish serves up a killer Sazerac, plus pub fare with a Southern twist: think Alligator Wings Confit, Bacon-wrapped Stuffed Jalapeño, Chargrilled Rabbit and Seafood Cassoulet.
When you’re in the French Quarter with an hour or two to kill and you want to dress up and treat yourself to a traditional cocktail, head to the Hotel Monteleone for a spin at the famous Carousel Bar. Installed in 1949, thes 25-seat bar turns on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a chain powered by a one-quarter horsepower motor. Patrons circumnavigate at one revolution every 15 minutes and the bartenders have to jump over the bar to leave their post. It’s like being a kid again…a kid drinking a Vieux Carre in the French Quarter.
The Chart Room
When you’re touring a new city, it’s easy to get dazzled by the the allure of expensive hotel bars and the city’s hottest restaurants. Sometimes, the friendly neighborhood watering holes have the most charm and The Chart Room is one of those places. No matter the time of day, The Chart Room always seemed to be bustling with French Quarter revelers, tourists and locals alike. The drinks are cheap, the crowd is friendly and there’s a jukebox…what more could you ask for?
At Muriel’s on Jackson Square, the food is good but the ambience is what steals the show. The classic New Orleans bistro offers a taste of traditional Southern dining, while the balcony, courtyard bar and seance room all possess the rich spirit and history of the city. The classic cuisine is solid, with items like Shrimp & Goat Cheese Crepes, Fried Green Tomatoes and Duck Cassoulet. The space, which feels like an elegant private home, is also said to be home to several resident ghosts, where very distinct knocks on the brick wall may interact as communication, along with audio of a female’s voice when no female was present. The ghosts at Muriel’s are said to be friendly ones, as those who have seen or felt a presence have never felt threatened. Dinner and entertainment? Why not?
Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse
Don’t just go out for cocktails in New Orleans. Go out for cocktails at one of the best jazz clubs in New Orleans. In a luxurious venue on the lobby level of the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse showcases New Orleans’ greatest Jazz talent alongside the city’s favorite cocktails and appetizers. Stroll home down Bourbon Street for an extra serving of local flavor.
An New Orleans confectioner specializing in French macaroons and gourmet chocolate creations, Sucre is a must-stop when you’re browsing the shops on Magazine Street. Stop in for a coffee and a specialty macaron, choosing from flavors like pecan, pistachio, bananas foster, salted caramel and chicory. Sucre also has a lovely boutique where you can order your favorites online, perfect if you can’t go without your fix after you leave NOLA.
International House Hotel
At the Loa Bar in the boutique hotel’s lobby, “Spirit Handler”Alan Walter brings a fresh approach to cocktails with local ingredients like honeycomb, herbs and native flora. He makes dozens of syrups, tinctures and aromatic bitters on site that create a unprecedented cocktail list featuring unique twists on classic beverages, like a Greater New Orleans French 75 with Mississippi Peach Infused Armagnac and Sparkling Rose or a Honeycomb Old Fashioned with Old Scout Bourbon, Honey from Gina Lanier’s bees in Marrero, and spicy Moroccan bitters.
It’s not a new invention, but the “Chick-Syl-vain” Sandwich at Sylvain, a buttermilk-fried chicken breast with house made pickles, is pure New Orleans perfection. In a cozy building on Chartes Street, Sylvain celebrates their distinguished history of New Orleans hospitality with Chef Alex Harrell’s straightforward, no-nonsense approach to cooking and sourcing the best ingredients from the southern United States. If you’re popping in for a quick snack, the Champagne and Fries is an an unexpectedly perfect combination of Laurent-Perrier Champagne and hand cut fries.
SoBou, a “spirited” restaurant South of Bourbon, is the a cutting-edge cocktail bar and restaurant nestled in the W French Quarter. It’s the perfect spot to kick off a girls’ weekend or to settle in for a date night. The menu boasts a delectable selection of Louisiana street food inspired small plates created by Executive Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez and Consulting Chef Tory McPhail. The colorful menu offers Louisiana signature with a twist, like sweet potato beignets, crispy boudin balls and pork belly steamed buns.
Named after what many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink, The Sazerac Bar carries is stately and elegant. Housed in the Roosevelt Hotel, where the holiday decorations are stunning during Christmastime, the elegant bar stools, plush banquettes and African walnut bar takes you back to the grandeur of old New Orleans. Get the namesake Sazerac or be creative and order an aptly named Prickly Pear or Basil Julep.
To book your trip to New Orleans, visit VisitNewOrleans.com.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The opinions and text are all mine.