If a city is known for its hard-partying atmosphere, I usually go in the opposite direction: What else is there to do? How’s the food? What do the locals do? I’m rarely disappointed and bonus: No hangovers.
As it turns out, doing this in NOLA is pretty easy. Great food is everywhere, as is a history deep in ghosts and voodoo. I’ve compiled a nowhere-near-complete list of my favorite finds:
NOLA food. Where I do begin?!
Three Muses is a dark, fabulous bar with live jazz and delicious food (which was really unexpected for an already great cocktail bar).
I typically don’t hit the main drag tourist spots, but the freshly shucked oysters made several different ways were calling my name. And I kept coming back to the Royal House Oyster Bar. Just heed the advice of the oyster shucker, because he remembers you and recommends something even better next time.
Cafe Envie is a great cafe that’s easy to work at, if need be, or just relax with great coffee and pastries.
Cafe Beignet. I didn’t do Cafe Du Monde, which I’ll rectify on a future visit. But fried dough, covered in sugar? I get it. I’d still rather have pralines. These were just a little too big and doughy for me.
Addiction Coffee is a gorgeous, tiny little shop with some hand-crafted beverages that really impress. Definite hipster vibe, but you will always get a great cuppa.
The brunch at The Ruby Slipper was among my best meals here, and the bacon bloody Mary was perfection. The wait can be epic, though, so definitely download the NoWait app before attempting. Especially if you’re there in the brutal heat, it can be pretty damn sweaty!
trenasse. The hotel restaurant and bar at the Intercontinental, trenasse was a pleasant surprise. Great food and a great atmosphere.
Willa Jean was kind of fancy, but then I saw the griddled banana bread and was sure I’d be missing out if I didn’t stop in. So worth it.
Lüke is a crazy-good and crazy-busy brasserie across from the Intercontinental. The oyster bar was always packed, though I made it in for a grilled ribeye with Bearnaise sauce, followed by a chocolate torte. For a city not known for meat, it was a tender, juicy steak that drew jealous stares from nearby tables, and the torte was a fabulous ending. I’d definitely recommend reservations.
Sucre gives new meaning to confections. A spare, light-hearted shop, the gorgeous desserts simply beckon you to buy more.
And the other stuff…
I had somehow pulled a muscle en route to NOLA, and was in desperate need of a massage. Even if you’re not in pain, I’d still recommend the zen Spa Atlantis. Comfortable and a definite oasis of calm in the middle of the French Quarter, it was a great respite.
I’ve always made it a point to make it to every city’s art museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art was a fabulous spot with unique works—both the standard collections and local artists. The grounds surrounding it are gorgeous and feature plenty of locals as well. It’s well worth a stop.
If you want more local artists, definitely check out the Art Garden and Floating Garden on Frenchman. Filled with paintings, ceramics, jewelry and more, it’s a perfect browsing opportunity.
You can’t leave NOLA without a stop at Madame Laveau’s House of Voodoo. Preferably after one of the Free Tours by Foot through the St. Louis Cemetery #1. You pay what you feel the tour was worth, and the guides were universally knowledgable. Plus, you can pick up a few foodie tips (if you have room)…