Veterans Day Weekend in New Orleans

We decided to skip driving ourselves the interminable drive down I-10 and opted to take the MegaBus for a long Veterans Day weekend. If you haven’t used MegaBus yet, I recommend it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because some of the reviews online were pretty bad, but it was a very positive experience for us. For just $23.50, we got two round trip fares to New Orleans. The buses both ways were not even half full so we had plenty of room to stretch out. The buses are air-conditioned and are equipped with wi-fi. My only complaint would be that the wi-fi blocks most streaming sites so if you are planning to watch movies on your laptop or tablet, make sure you download them and don’t plan to stream them. The bus made one stop to drop passengers off and one stop for a food and bathroom break, so it was only about 45 minutes longer than if we would have driven ourselves. Well worth it, in my opinion, to be able to sleep, watch movies, read, and relax! Furthermore, it isn’t necessary to have a car in New Orleans as it is very easy to use streetcars and taxis around the city. Fares start at $1; book here.

Cotton in Loxley, Alabama on the MegaBus to New Orleans
Cotton in Loxley, Alabama on the MegaBus to New Orleans

We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine, centrally located between the French Quarter and the Central Business District. We’ve stayed at several Country Inn and Suites before, but this was easily the nicest. They had cute beach cruisers for rent, a hot breakfast buffet, happy hour, and as Club Carlson Gold members, we were greeted with a gift basket full of local goodies like Zapp’s voodoo chips and Abita Root Beer. I definitely recommend it as a nice mid-range hotel in a great location.

Welcome gift basket from our hotel
Welcome gift basket from our hotel
Interior of the hotel
Interior of the hotel
Courtyard pool
Courtyard pool

We arrived kind of late our first night (by late, I mean late anywhere but in New Orleans. New Orleans is hopping at all hours) and decided to get a quick dinner at Napoleon House. Napoleon House is casual, but unique because it is located in a historic landmark dated from 1797. The European-style café serves famous local dishes like po’ boy sandwiches, gumbo, and jambalaya. Both food and cocktails are very reasonably priced and the restaurant has been family owned since 1914. Fun facts about Napoleon House: besides being featured on numerous TV shows about New Orleans, it was used as a location during the movies Now You See Me and Runaway Jury. Dish to try: Jambalaya.

Courtyard of Napoleon House, where we ate
Courtyard of Napoleon House, where we ate
Napoleon House bar (sorry for the blurry phone picture!)
Napoleon House bar (sorry for the blurry phone picture!)

Our next stop was to get drinks at Kingfish, a restaurant and cocktail bar that serves both classic and modern cocktails. The bartender has a stellar reputation, having descended from four generations of bartenders and having been featured in numerous publications. (See his resume here). Drinks to try: Pimm’s Cup, Sazerac, Blueberry Hill.

Drinks at Kingfish
Drinks at Kingfish
Second Line right outside of Kingfish
Second Line right outside of Kingfish

IMG_3037

St. Louis Cathedral by night
St. Louis Cathedral by night
When in NOLA...
When in NOLA…

No visit to New Orleans is complete without a breakfast of beignets and coffee. If you want to have the most famous and historic beignets, Cafe Du Monde is the place to go. The menu consists of only beignets, chicory coffee, orange juice, and milk (all at very good prices!). Pro Tip: Unless you really want to eat at Cafe du Monde, order beignets and coffee from the To-go line and eat them in Jackson Square (or the park that overlooks Jackson Square). We were even able to skip the to-go line by ordering from a waiter who was walking through the line.

The original!
The original!
Perfect beignets
Perfect beignets
Chicory coffee
Chicory coffee
After eating our beignets near Jackson Square
After eating our beignets near Jackson Square
Closeup of the beignet-making process
Closeup of the beignet-making process

Another option for beignets is Cafe Beignet. Cafe Beignet offers a much larger menu that consists of several breakfast items, sandwiches, and New Orleans favorites like jambalaya and gumbo. While the atmosphere is charming and it is a great place to go if you want a larger or less sugary breakfast, I personally prefer Cafe Du Monde’s beignets. Another perk of Cafe Beignet is that they sell great gift items like beignet mixes and mugs. Dish to try: Cajun Hash Browns.

Inside Café Beignet
Inside Café Beignet

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Horse parking!
Horse parking!

One of the best and most famous restaurants in New Orleans is Commander’s Palace. Alex and I had the pleasure of finally getting to eat there and thoroughly enjoyed every second of our experience. While the decor seems somewhat dated at first glance, it really adds to the overall charm and feeling of deep history. Established in 1880, Commander’s Palace has been serving distinguished guests for well over 100 years. Our server was knowledgeable, friendly, and funny, at one point chastising me for referring to the famous bread pudding souffle as mere bread pudding (my mistake!). If you order from Chef Tory’s 3-Course Specials, you can get a soup or salad, entree, and dessert for the listed price. Dishes to try: Mayhaw Glazed Pork Belly (perfectly spicy appetizer), Turtle Soup, Cast Iron Seared Gulf Fish, Creole Bread Pudding Souffle.  IMG_3082

Pork Belly
Mayhew Glazed Pork Belly
Gulf Fish
Cast Iron Seared Gulf Fish
Shrimp and grits
Shrimp and grits
Bread Pudding Souffle
Bread Pudding Souffle
Such a great dinner!
Such a great dinner!

Our next stop was Bacchanal (in the Bywater) for post-dinner drinks and live music. Upon arriving at Bacchanal, I knew it would immediately be one of my favorite places. You walk through the door into a wine shop, where you can purchase a bottle of wine or beer to take with you to your table. Once you’ve chosen your libations, you seat yourself in a charming patio where a live band is playing under string lights. We had a great time sharing bottles of wine with new friends while listening to a jazz/blues band. We also heard from our local friends that the food at Bacchanal is great- gourmet food served casually at reasonable prices. I am positive we will return to Bacchanal on our next visit, so I’ll be sure to try the food!

In the courtyard of Bachannal
In the courtyard of Bachannal

The next morning, we decided to rent bikes from the hotel and bike back to the Bywater for brunch at Elizabeth’s Restaurant. Elizabeth’s is a cozy, casual, and artsy little restaurant that serves brunch until 2:30 seven days a week and dinner Monday through Saturday. Everything is made from scratch daily using top quality ingredients. Dishes to try: Praline Bacon, Redneck Eggs, Bananas Foster French Toast.

Elizabeth's
Elizabeth’s
Brunch heaven.
Brunch heaven.

After a big breakfast, we needed a little exercise, so we biked and walked around Crescent Park, a beautifully landscaped 1.4 mile park along the river before biking back to our hotel.

Alex climbing the Piety Street Bridge
Alex climbing the Piety Street Bridge
Piety Street Bridge through the gardens
Piety Street Bridge through the gardens
View of downtown from the Bywater
View of downtown from the Bywater
New Orleans, YOU are beautiful!
New Orleans, YOU are beautiful!
Biking back to our hotel
Biking back to our hotel

After such a big dinner at Commander’s Palace, we wanted something a little more casual on our last night in New Orleans and decided to walk to Butcher. Located next to its sister restaurant, the famous Cochon, Butcher is a butcher shop that sells sandwiches and serves wine, local beer, and cocktails. Butcher specializes in house made meats, terrines and sausages. Cochon features traditional Southern Cajun food served in a rustic environment. Dishes to try: Moroccan Spiced Lamb, Gambino, Mac n’ Cheese.

You must try the Mac n' Cheese!
You must try the Mac n’ Cheese!

The perfect way to cap off a fantastic trip to New Orleans is with a slice of Emeril’s famous banana cream pie at his namesake restaurant. I had been wanting to try the dessert ever since Alex and I watched a special called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: New Orleans” where Wolfgang Puck claims the dessert is his favorite thing in New Orleans. I honestly don’t think I can top Wolfgang’s description of the banana cream pie, so you can watch it here. It really is perfection. Dish to try: Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie.

Before we recap, here are a few more pictures from our walking tour of New Orleans.

One of my favorite shops in the French Quarter, Greg's Antiques
One of my favorite shops in the French Quarter, Greg’s Antiques. You can find great antique and salvage items, as well as art!
One of the many balconies in the French Quarter
One of the many balconies in the French Quarter
St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral

IMG_3138

I’d love to hear, what are your favorite restaurants and things to do in New Orleans? I can’t wait for our next return trip!

RECAP
Eat/Drink
Napoleon House, 500 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Kingfish, 337 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Cafe Du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130
Bacchanal, 600 Poland Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117
Elizabeth’s Restaurant, 601 Gallier Street, New Orleans, LA 70117
Butcher, 930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Emeril’s, 800 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Cafe Beignet, 334 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Shop
Greg’s Antiques, 1209 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Stay
Country Inn and Suites, 315 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

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