The Picards took a trip to New Orleans this past December and I’m still smitten with many of the places we visited. The food scene is booming and my to-eat list felt never ending. There are only so many places you can go to on a long weekend which means only one thing – we must go back!
Anytime we go on a trip we choose our food destinations first and then build the rest of the trip around it. We love visiting local establishments and chatting with the people behind them and generally don’t mind going out of the way for a good meal. Hidden gems, dives, Michelin-starred restaurants – we’re game for almost anything as long as it’s good! New Orleans was no exception. A few of the places we went to have received national recognition for their outstanding food and service and others are more low-key. New Orleans is one of those cities that EVERYONE has an opinion to offer. Just send out a tweet mentioning your upcoming trip and you’ll get 20 responses telling you where to go. This guide is a list of places we went to and really enjoyed – no mediocre spots here!
Want to see how the Picards did New Orleans? Keep reading!
Israeli food and New Orleans might sound like an unusual pair, but Alon Shaya’s sparkling new restaurant spotlights the cuisine like no other. Shaya was so well-received that it won a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2016. If you don’t know, that’s a big deal in the food world.
Shaya is one of the prettiest restaurants I’ve ever been to in the U.S. with beautiful blue hues and warm, neutral tones. Sunshine fills the room making you feel as though you could sit there all day, just sipping on beet-infused cocktails and noshing on pita bread. Speaking of pita: if you like super puffy, fresh out of the oven pita then theirs was made for you. Fun fact: the chef de cuisine, Zach Engel, is from Jon’s hometown and knows people I went to high school and college with. Small world!
After finishing your meal take a stroll down Magazine Street. It’s lined with local boutiques, coffee shops, colorful houses, and the trees have Mardi Gras beads hanging off of them.
Need to Know for Shaya:
Address: 4213 Magazine St
Hours: Opens at 11:00 a.m. every day for lunch, closes at 10:00 p.m. Saturday through Thursday; closes at 11:00 p.m. on Friday
Must order items: falafel, any of the hummuses, a cocktail, pita, and the mixed grill sandwich
Need a reservation? Yes!
If you go to New Orleans you’re most likely going to do some drinking. Especially if you end up on Frenchmen Street, which you should because the music venues are awesome. We went to Frenchmen Street after touring Old New Orleans Rum Distillery (highly recommend) and popped into the Spotted Cat for a French 75 and live jazz. Starving, we went back onto the street and realized we were right by Dat Dog. Hallelujah!
Even if you haven’t been imbibing these sausages are delicious. You can go for a classic hot dog if you want, but they do dressed up dogs really well, too. I had the duck hot dog with blackberry jam and bacon and OMG it was just what the doctor ordered. The restaurant is super casual so go as you are, and order a hurricane while you’re at it.
Need to Know for Dat Dog:
Address: 601 Frenchmen St.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. t0 midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Must order items: duck hot dog, cheese fries, hurricane
Need a reservation? Nope
GW Fins is an upscale restaurant in the French Quarter (across the street from the famed French 75 bar) serving delicious seafood. They’ve been around since 2001, so they must be doing something right, right? Most of the seafood is locally sourced from the Gulf, and Chef Tenney Flynn is a total seafood geek. He swung by our table and chatted with us about how they choose their fish, how they use it, and even how he occasionally catches it on various diving trips.
Of the starters, my favorite was the sizzling oysters. The entree was even better, though: Mississippi redfish with Thai slaw, blue crab fritters, and red pepper jelly. I loved the texture of the redfish – not too meaty, not too flaky – and its mild flavor was ramped up by the zesty slaw and sauce. The crab fritters were a fun touch.
Don’t forget to order their apple pie with a cheddar crust at the beginning of your meal! It’ll be hot and ready for you by the time you’re done with dinner. You’ll be full but you can’t renege on dessert, right?
Walk off dinner on the Haunted History Tour. This isn’t one of those kitschy ghost tours where they have actors jump out and try to scare you, instead they present history in a really fun way. Unsurprisingly, New Orleans has had some dark moments in history (if you’re a fan of American Horror Story you know what I mean) making for excellent ghost stories. Our tour guide was a spirited woman who works in the psychology field by day and leads ghost tours by night. She took us to all the cool spots where gruesome things happened, but beyond the scary tales she filled us in on some other historical tidbits. Your ticket includes a BOGO deal on hurricanes and you can take your drinks with you on the tour, so who couldn’t have fun?
Need to Know for GW Fins:
Address: 808 Bienville Street
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:00 – 10:30 p.m.
Must order items: sizzling oysters, any fish entree, the apple pie
Need a reservation? Yes!
New Orleans is the birthplace of the Sazerac, but Cure changed the NOLA cocktail game when it opened in 2009. The brainchild of Neal Bodenheimer, Cure reintroduced the residents of New Orleans to cocktails that went beyond liquor+mixer. A native of New Orleans he left to perfect his craft in NYC but felt compelled to come back and help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. He chose a bit of a rougher neighborhood despite protests from his family and friends, but now the neighborhood is bustling with new establishments and on the up and up again.
We went to Cure for happy hour and recommend that you do the same. You can enjoy their extensive list of craft cocktails whenever you go, but during happy hour select cocktails are only $6. There’s plenty to choose from: the daily punch, champagne cocktail, negroni, Manhattan, and others. I had one of those…and then ordered a cocktail off the seasonal menu (winter at the time).
There’s also a special snack menu for happy hour. Go for the bar snack platter, a tasty spread of housemade pimento cheese, duck liver mousse, and marinated olives.
Need to Know for Cure
Address: 4905 Freret St.
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5:00 p.m. – midnight; Friday through Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.; Sunday, 3:00 p.m. – midnight
Must order items: any cocktail, the bar snack platter
Need a reservation? Probably a good idea if you go later, not necessary for happy hour.
Yes, New Orleans has its own take on doughnuts aka beignets found at the famous Cafe du Monde. And while Cafe du Monde is totally worth visiting (protip: skip the line and just grab a table, seriously, just do it) you can’t beat a well-made doughnut. District is the total package offering creatively flavored doughnuts, a variety of lunch and breakfast sliders, and expertly made espresso beverages. We timed our visit perfectly beating out a long line and nabbing two seats at the bar. Don’t let the line deter you, though, from what I could see it moved quickly!
Choosing just one doughnut was hard but I opted for the seasonal peppermint bark. I really regret not ordering a sandwich! We sat in front of the griddle and watched them crank out delicious egg sandwich one after the other and it was everything in me not to get up and order one. File it under “next time”!
After devouring your doughnut and sliders take a walk down Magazine Street and check out the cute boutiques. Then head over to St. Charles Avenue and ogle the mansions of New Orleans. We hopped on the streetcar and took it to Canal Street. The streetcar is super easy but note that you need exact change to purchase your ticket; one-way tickets are $1.25.
This is one of the most touristy places we went to and it was worth it. Carousel Bar was installed in the lobby of Hotel Monteleone in 1949 and is a 25-seat revolving bar. I guess I was a little disappointed that you don’t sit on horses while sipping your cocktail, but it’s a pretty cool sight to behold regardless. Getting a seat at the revolving bar is no easy feat but ordering a drink from the friendly bartenders is very doable (just watch your step). There’s plenty of seating beyond the carousel and there’s live music (pretty common in New Orleans). I recommend popping in for a drink before dinner in the French Quarter, you won’t need more than 30-40 minutes. Stick with something classic, like a Vieux Carre – after all, it was first concocted at Carousel Bar! Even though the bar looks fancier you can still go dressed pretty casually, I saw a range of everything from people in t-shirts to nice evening wear.
Need to Know for Carousel Bar and Lounge
Address: 214 Royal St.
Hours: Everyday, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Must order items: classic cocktail
Need a reservation? No
Admittedly, I didn’t have a meal at Cafe Henri but I did go early in the morning to chat with Neal Bodenheimer and sip a cortado while falling in love with the charming Bywater cafe. That’s enough for me to include it on this list! I wish I had been able to spend more time in the Bywater, an artsy, hipster, up-and-coming neighborhood but I relished the hour or so we were there.
Remember Cure? Cafe Henri is the latest Bodenheimer baby. It’s a petite cafe with plenty of sunlight and offers espresso beverages with lovely latte art, a full bar, and cafe fare for lunch and dinner. If you go early in the morning (like we did) you can only get coffee and pastries.
The Bywater neighborhood has oodles of street art and colorful shotgun homes. You could spend an entire morning just wandering the streets and snacking at places like Cafe Henri, Pizza Delicious, and Satsuma Cafe. From there you can walk over to the recently completed Crescent Park. You may be a little confused at first (we were) because all you’ll see is a wall. Take the stairs up to the bridge and cross over the train tracks. The park runs along the river and gives you one of the most splendid views of the skyline. It’s a lovely spot to take a break from all that eating and drinking for a few minutes.
Where we stayed: The Maison Dupuy, a well-located hotel in the French Quarter comprised of several rowhomes with a pool in the central courtyard. It’s not super fancy, but it’s comfortable and in walking distance of almost everything cool in the French Quarter. Bring your swimsuit!
Favorite tacky place to drink: Tropical Isle. If you’re reading this you’re likely a sophisticated adult who isn’t particularly interested in drinking on Bourbon Street but come on, you’re in New Orleans! A little tacky drinking is a must. I loved Tropical Isle with its kitschy decor, live band, an erupting volcano, and of course the Hand Grenades! Who knows what’s in a Hand Grenade but who cares? They taste good enough (I got the low-sugar one) and come in a cute drinking vessel. They have a few locations on Bourbon Street for your convenience ;-).
Favorite New Orleans Instagram follow: @the.preservationist. If you to swoon endlessly over the beautiful old houses and buildings in New Orleans, this is a good way to do it.
So, anyone going to New Orleans anytime soon? Any place that you would’ve put on your list? Comment below!
Disclaimer: this trip was sponsored by the New Orleans CVB. Some of these meals and experiences were comped, but thoughts and opinions are my own.