Last week, Aaron and I spent a few days in New Orleans. He actually goes every year for a business conference and rarely ventures out of the hotel, so this year, with my new freelancing situation, I thought I would tag along and lure him out into the city a little bit. I’d only ever been to New Orleans once – in high school, my family and I spent one night there before departing on a cruise. But I absolutely loved it. The history, architecture and culture of New Orleans feels like you’re in a completely different country, or maybe a different time period.
So we took to Facebook and received more recommendations than we could ever fit into three days, but we tried! We got in late Monday, after driving all day, and didn’t have time for a whole lot that night, but we did walk a few blocks down to Drago’s for chargrilled oysters and seafood gratin. Fair warning: if ambiance is your thing, Drago’s is probably not the restaurant for you. It’s in a Hilton, with a distinctly Luby’s-like cafeteria atmosphere, and the bartender didn’t have mint…or limes. But if you’re in it for the food, specifically the oysters, then this is a can’t miss.
After dinner, we wondered into the French Quarter, thinking we’d have a drink at Napoleon House, but they were closed on Mondays. But we stumbled by a cute place called Kingfish and stopped in for drinks. Apparently, the bartender here is world famous, albeit a bit socially awkward and cranky. We witnessed a world class hissy fit while sipping our amazing cocktails. Come in for drinks and the entertainment’s for free! If you stop here for cocktails, our favorites were the French Pearl, the Queens Park Swizzle, the Cocktail a la Louisiane, and the Vieux Carre.
The next day, Aaron was in meetings all day AND it was raining, so I wondered down Canal and caught the St. Charles Streetcar. This car goes all the way up St. Charles Avenue, through the Garden District where all the amazing houses are, past Loyola and Audobon Park. If you are even remotely interested in design, I highly recommend this. The street car pass cost me $3 and I spent the next three hours drooling over the grand old houses. If it hadn’t been raining, I would definitely have gotten off the car and walked up St. Charles some.
That night, Aaron was suited up, so we went to Arnaud’s Richelieu Bar. Arnaud’s is in the French Quarter, right at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville. Since we already had dinner reservations, we skipped the restaurant and the crowded French 75 bar and had a quick drink in the teeny, tiny Richelieu Bar. Guys, this was like something out of a movie. It was quiet and dark, which was hugely refreshing coming off of Bourbon Street. Aaron had a French 75 and I had a drink called the Boo Radley, at the bartender’s recommendation. The only other people in the bar besides us were a little old man playing a mandolin-banjo and another little old man in a purple suit who wasn’t drinking or even sitting at the bar. He just grunted his approval every time the mandolin-banjo player finished a song. It was kind of amazing, and you could tell those two old men sit there day in and day out – one playing, the other enjoying the music.
Next up was dinner at Peche. Super fresh, delicious seafood. I had the Louisiana Shrimp Roll and Aaron had the Smothered Catfish, and we split a side of fried brussels sprouts that were THE BUSINESS. So good.
The weather was PERFECT the next day, so I had to get out and enjoy it while Aaron had meetings. I took our car and drove up Magazine Street, starting in the 2000 block and slowly working my way up. I’d walk up ten blocks, then cross the street and walk back to the car, stopping in any store that seemed interesting, which was a lot of them. Then I’d get in the car, drive up a ways and do it over again. So many amazing antique stores and cute clothing boutiques, and the street itself is so cute, you don’t even need to buy anything.
I stopped at Sucre for macaroons, then popped into Magazine Antique Mall next door. I loved pavement, which had lots of neutrals and gorgeous lighting options.
Perch. was one of my favorites (top photos). It was filled with bright, eclectic housewares, like these mounted birds. Other notable shops I popped into include: Ann Koerner Antiques, Spruce, ah-ha and Petcetera.
By mid-afternoon, I’d made my way all the way up Magazine Street, which then takes you right through Audobon Park. I swooned over the spanish moss for a little bit before deciding I’d kill my remaining last few hours at Audobon Zoo. Best decision ever. Killing time at a zoo is never a bad idea, but the Audobon Zoo is really top notch. They had an entire section dedicated to Louisiana swamplands, that I particularly enjoyed.
And finally, we had to walk up to Jackson Square on our last morning in town and grab some coffee and beignets from Cafe du Monde (get them to go – that place is crazy packed 24/7 and beignets are still delicious in your hotel room. Trust) before heading home.
There were still so many places we wanted to visit but time and weather didn’t allow. On my list for next year: cocktails at Cure, Bar Tonique and the Carousel Bar; The American Cocktail Museum (it was closed for moving); a swamp tour; music on Frenchman; dinner at Cochon; brunch at Elizabeth’s.
What’s your favorite thing to do/eat/drink/see in New Orleans?