The Big Easy is an always lively city known for it’s rich history, unique nightlife, live music scene, and delicious food. I spent my last weekend of summer vacation in this glorious city and am finally sharing my NOLA recap. I’ve been to New Orleans several times before, all for different purposes. Regardless of the reason, it’s always a good time. Sometimes so much so, that you may miss your early morning flight home. Oops!
We went to New Orleans for a wedding, but headed down the Thursday before to enjoy a few days of fun, exploration, and of course, food before the festivities. We stayed at the timeless and stunning Hotel Monteleone in The French Quarter. Just one block off of Bourbon and a few blocks from Jackson Square, I think the location of Hotel Monteleone is perfect. We walked everywhere all weekend. They have a great rooftop pool for those hot summer days when you want to relax instead of hitting the ground running. Plus, it’s home to one of the most iconic bars in NOLA- The Carousel Bar. This classic hotel bar features just as you would expect- a rotating carousel at the center with 25 seats that rotate around. Don’t worry, it moves extremely slowly so you won’t get dizzy and lose your lunch (or rather, cocktail). It’s absolutely worth a visit! The Carousel Bar always had a great crowd inside and was a nice change for a cocktail more my speed. I tried the hand grenades and hurricanes my first trip to The Big Easy, but that much sugar is not my friend.Our first night, we walked around the corner from our hotel to The Pelican Club. I’ve heard of this and had it recommended to me several times, but had never been until this trip. It was a great atmosphere and the food was great. We decided to split a few things to get a taste of several different items. We started with corn chowder, then had quatro formaggio ravioli, shared the paneed gulf fish, and finished with crème brûlée beacuse.. #vacation.
Of course, we couldn’t go to New Orleans without getting our beignet fix. We went first thing Friday morning to satisfy our cravings. My favorite are the classic from Cafe Du Monde. It’s been open since 1862 and is open 24/7 a day. No matter what time I’ve gone, there has always been a line. It moves quickly and is worth every minute though! The menu includes only coffee, hot chocolate, milk, orange juice, and beignets. I get my own order every time and enjoy every last bite of those powdered sugar covered little beauties. If you’ve never gone and had them here, it’s a New Orleans MUST.
From here, our day included bouncing around Jackson Square, shopping on Canal Street, and wandering up and down Bourbon. We hung out in the piano room at Pat O’ Briens, a famous New Orleans bar known for their Hurricane drinks. I stuck to champagne, but they are worth a try if you’ve never had one just to say you did. Beware of a sugar hangover though! We took a break for lunch around the corner at The Gumbo Shop. We of course had gumbo and I also tried the jambalaya.
Since we were staying at Hotel Monteleone, we decided to try their in house restaurant, Criollo that evening. It’s rated extremely well and I absolutely see why! The food was delicious, the service impeccable, and the atmosphere was perfect for a romantic dinner before heading out into the craziness of Bourbon. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so any time is a good time to try it. During our dinner, we had the oysters to start, which were so delicious! We shared a salad and then a crab stuffed baked redfish topped with butter poached shrimp and served on top of angel hair pasta with a creole tomato jam. Holy YUM!
Another must? Brennan’s for brunch. This gem is right down the street from Hotel Monteleone and has been serving up delicious food since 1946. They are also home to original bananas fosters. I mean, yumm. They come right out to your table and make it while sharing the history with you. A man in a bowtie who knows how to cook is a-okay with me. We started with a baked apple, then had eggs cardinal and braised pork grillades. All of our food here was delicious, but if you go for no other reason than the bananas fosters, it will be worth it! They were also serving up watermelon mimosas which sort of blew my mind. I kept going back and ordering more to go! It was so refreshing and I’ve definitely copied it at home since then.
Saturday evening we attended our wedding at St Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. This is truly an iconic landmark of New Orleans. It is said to be the oldest working cathedral in the United States and is breathtaking. As we walked into the wedding the sky had the most perfect clouds and colors that truly made this look like a Disney castle out of a movie. It was a gorgeous site for a wedding! The reception was upstairs at Muriels and was so fun. This was my first second line experience and it was a blast! It started raining on and off when the reception started, but it truly made the second line all the more fun in the rain. We may have cheated a little and got a pedi cab to drive us at the back of the line. Hey, I’d been dancing all night!
A little fun fact from the weekend? My man friend caught the garter and I caught the bouquet at the reception. The next weekend, we got engaged! 🙂
If you’re going to New Orleans, these are great places to start, but a few other great choices are:
- Acme Oyster House: Duh. ‘Raw-some’ (their pun, not mine) since 1910. Chances are you’ll wait in line, but it’s worth it!
- Arnaud’s: classic creole in a nice atmosphere and home to the original French 75
- Central Grocery: home of the original muffuletta. Need I say more?
- Commander’s Palace: a tride and true favorite since 1893. Upscale dining with a world class menu. You’re definitely paying for a great dining experience here!
- Coquette: new and innovative American fare and craft cocktails
- Couchon Butcher: delicious sandwich shop
- District Donuts: snag a king cake donut, get a donut sandwich, or a regular slider sandwich. You can’t go wrong at this casual eatery!
- Eat: casual family favorites, BYOB.
- GW Fins: delicious, upscale seafoood
- Jacques-Imo’s Cafe: continually named a favorite of many, they service classic creole food without a lot of fuss.
- The Joint: get your BBQ fix at this classic restaurant that almost always has a line
- Katie’s: you MUST go here and get a crawfish beignet. Just trust me. I like it best for lunch, but it’s amazing any time.
- La Petite Grocery: made from scratch Lousiaina classics housed in an old grocery store from the 1800s.
- Peche Seafood Grill: get your coastal seafood fix
- The Ruby Slipper Cafe: satisfy your brunch cravings with some delicious classics
New Orleans is absolutely a destination you learn best through your stomach. Every restaurant and building has such amazing history behind it. Take some time and talk to the families behind these businesses, they have such beautiful and inspiring stories to share! As always NOLA, it was a pleasure and it took me awhile to recover (and work off) all my food and fun. See ya soon!