We got to spend exactly two kid-free days in New Orleans in November 2019. We’d been a couple times but not in years and years and never not in the summer, when we’re absolute wimps about the heat down there and don’t enjoy our time as much as we should. Not this time. This time, we tried to pack in everything we could in two days and my liver might be mad at me for a while but wow, that was fun. This is what we did.
We went straight to our hotel, Maison de la Luz. I looked at an insane number of hotels before choosing this one, steadily rejecting each until I found a place near-but-not-in the French Quarter, one seemed luxurious but not in a fussy or dated way, and modern but not in a particularly barnwood-and-chalkboard-paint way that is just extremely not my thing. Whew! There are enough options that you can be picky. Anyway, the place is stunning from every angle.
Headed to the The Elysian Bar for a late lunch. It’s inside the Hotel Peter and Paul, which was, funny enough, the hotel I’d read about (it’s a converted monastery) that piqued my interest in planning a trip. It was booked months out for the days I wanted, but it’s a also bit far from the Quarter, so we were happy enough to visit but not stay. The bar is on the ground floor of the rectory and spills out over a few stunning rooms. We ordered the smashed cucumbers and chilis, grilled okra and crispy eggplant, and fried brussels sprouts plus two spritzes and later, two tonics from their great menu.
Backyard wine and cheese at Bacchanal, a blissful place — a wine and cheese store with a giant backyard with live music. You buy a glass or bottle, take it outside, and hang out as long as you’d like. They’ll build you a cheese plate from the pieces you pick from the fridge.
If you’re going to have a sazerac in New Orleans, and you really should have a sazerac in New Orleans, you might as well go to the very old-school, art deco Sazerac Bar inside the Roosevelt Hotel. Needless to say, they make a perfect one.
Dinner at Compère Lapin in the lobby of No. 77 hotel. We’d watched Nina Compton on Top Chef many years ago, heard a lot about her second restaurant, Bywater American Bistro. This is her first. We, of course, had been snacking all afternoon and weren’t hungry enough for a full meal, but had a shrimp dish with chili-garlic butter I’ve been dreaming about since and a good-but-less-memorable pork one.
Breakfast at Molly’s Rise and Shine, a fun, friendly, brightly lit place you should absolutely not miss. I got the Grand Slam McMuffin (with “fromage Americain”) and Alex got the “3 items and 2 eggs aka ‘a plate of just the stuff you want'” including a side of some of the best collard greens we’d ever eaten, anywhere.
Did you know that longtime food blogger and three-time cookbook author Joy Wilson lives in New Orleans and teaches cooking classes? Now you do! I invited myself over to Joy The Baker’s Bakehouse and it’s a sunny, wonderful spot.
A stroll along Governor Nicholls Street, which Joy told me was one of her favorite streets in the Quarter.
You’re going to end up not far from Cafe Du Monde, an 1862 cafe that is famous for exactly two things, always freshly cooked beignets (simple yeasted doughnuts under a cloud of powdered sugar that are still somehow not overly sweet, it’s magic) and chicory coffee, a very New Orleans thing. You should get both. The lines are always long but never take as long as you’d think. We took ours to go and ate them along the water.
We walked further around the French Quarter. Bourbon Street early in the day isn’t quite so messy yet, if you’re curious to see what it’s about without risking someone “partying” all over you.
Later, we got aperitifs (okay, gin drinks) and oysters at Pêche Seafood Grill. Their seafood platters are famous and it’s a really lovely spot, but when you only have 48 hours in New Orleans, you have to keep moving.
We went to Cochon because we’d heard so much about their grilled oysters, but they didn’t have them that day. Instead, we got a skillet of shrimp in garlic butter (a theme, perhaps) that was fantastic before moving on.
We had a drink and snack (parmesan croquettes) at Jewel of the South, a really gorgeous tavern in an old house where a family friend is working.
Cane and Table, known for rum drinks and an “Old Havana vibe,” came recommended by a lot of people. The drinks were good but it wasn’t our favorite meal. It happens!
You can’t go to New Orleans without listening to jazz (or, if you don’t listen to jazz, you’re doing it wrong) and Preservation Hall is one of the most famous places to start. Don’t let the name “Hall” throw you — it’s tiny and cozy and you should absolutely get reservations in advance so you can get a seat. We, however, did not and waited on line outside, getting into the 9pm show about half and hour later. Our tickets were standing-room only, and there’s no bar but this is New Orleans and you can get a drink to-go from anywhere, should you require one.
Second Line parades are one of the greatest things about New Orleans — loud brass bands, some parasols, and a lot of people dancing down the street, waving handkerchiefs. If you’re out on a Saturday night, you might be lucky enough to see a few.
A few hours on Sunday
A classic New Orleans experience, we had jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace. It’s heavy and you’ll need a nap after, but you shouldn’t miss it, and if you must, at least go for the 25-cent martinis with lunch. I’ll let you pick. Note: Jackets are required for men after 5pm and all day Sunday.
It’s not a far walk, but a very pretty one, to Levee Bakery, which has naturally leavened breads and an assortment of baked goods in an airy space. Too full from brunch to try anything else, we got olive oil cake to go for the kids’ breakfast the next morning.
Central Grocery & Deli is famous for their perfect muffuletta sandwiches, which were invented there but became a New Orleans staple. We brought a full one to split on the plane but had enough leftover for some very lucky lunchboxes the next day.
A few places we might have gone to if we had more time: I keep myself sane when I make these lists by not getting into every place we didn’t get to. But! Turkey and the Wolf, Thalia, Coquette, Bywater American Bistro, and The Roof Bar at the Catahoula Hotel (for views) were near the top of our list, had we more time, and we’d definitely like more time for jazz on Frenchman Street next time — Upstairs at The Blue Nile, The Spotted Cat, and The Apple Barrel all came recommended.
As always: Nothing, not one single thing, on this list is sponsored.