Given the tremendous charm I hold for the South, it's a shock I hadn't visited New Orleans until now. The trip was to be punctuated with yet another half marathon, but the remains of a hacking cough derailed these plans. Nonetheless, we got a hefty taste of the town's culture & cuisine.
We stayed in the heart of the French Quarter at the historic Hotel Monteleone. Situated just a block away from Bourbon Street on Royal Street, we were close enough to the activity in the Quarter's famous thoroughfare yet far enough to be able to avoid earplugs at night. This section of the city is quite active, reminiscent of a college campus on a major game day, Vegas, or Chicago on St. Patrick's Day.
We arrived equipped with a robust list of must-not-miss culinary establishments spanning traditional Creole/NoLa and experimental/hipster cuisine. Upon arrival, my brother and I hit Royal House for a dozen oysters and stiff cocktails. Clockwise, from the oysters: biscuits & gravy at Apolline on adorable Magazine Street; breakfast of champions in our hotel room; scrumptious dessert to polish off a top 2 favorite meal of the weekend at Compère Lapin.
One of my favorite parts of walking the streets of New Orleans was admiring the broad variety of architecture - from French-inspired balconies to columns, porches and brick galore. It was like a southern time and culture warp.
Classic New Orleans fare comprised a good portion of our must-eat list, but we balanced this with a couple of hipster-foodie options. Galatoire's is not only the quintessential NoLa eatery but also where locals apparently kick off their weekend with a social, boozy lunch in the restaurant's downstairs space. While we did not experience this, we've been told it's like a dinner party among folks who start the meal as strangers. Pêche marks our last meal of the trip and the other top 2 spot. The Creole-inspired menu presented no flawed options.
A sucker for ghost tours, we compromised on a haunted pub tour that took us through key historic venues throughout the French Quarter, including Lafitte's Blacksmith Bar Shop (apparently the oldest bar in America and former front for illegal trade) and former bordello May Baily's in the Dauphine Orleans Hotel. We sadly drove past Cafe Beignet, alleged beignet rival of famous Café du Monde, when we realized we failed to sample either option.
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Stay. Staying in the French Quarter affords you instant exposure to the heart of the energy in this jam-packed district. Next time around, I would opt for an Airbnb in a different neighborhood to experience a more local feel. Hotel Monteleone is well-priced and home to the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge, which attracts any visitor to the city.
Savor. Pêche and Compère Lapin for your foodie/local fare merger. Galatoire's for Friday afternoon lunch-into-evening-cocktails. The Court of Two Sisters for courtyard jazz brunch buffet. Lüke for happy hour oysters and drinks.