Recently, Alex and I spent a few days in New Orleans to celebrate our eleventh anniversary. We love New Orleans, but hadn’t been in several years. Fun fact: our last visit was when I was almost 37 weeks pregnant with our first baby in the heat of September. Great time to go to New Orleans, right? Ha! We’ve also previously visited for a long weekend away and have both celebrated friends’ bachelor and bachelorette parties. We also attended Jazz Fest with friends in 2012, about two weeks after we got married! Our 2023 visit was a special one as we were celebrating some personal accomplishments in addition to our anniversary, so we wanted to really relax and treat ourselves. And what better way than to enjoy delicious food and great music for a few days?
When we weren’t eating, we mainly walked around various neighborhoods to admire the beautiful homes. Two of my favorite places to walk around are the Garden District and the Irish Channel. There are so many lovely porches to marvel at and beautiful oaks to shade the sidewalks in both neighborhoods. It’s also fun to walk around the French Quarter – each building harbors so much history and it’s fun to guess what is behind each door. It’s also entertaining to people watch the many tourists. We popped into a few shops to browse the art and antiques and left with a few souvenirs for our little ones from NOLA Kids, which sells the most unique toys, books, and clothing.
Our home base during our stay was The Eliza Jane, a luxury Hyatt property just outside the French Quarter on Magazine Street. It’s in an excellent location – close enough to walk to the water and French Quarter and only a block or two from the closest St. Charles Streetcar stop (passes are only $3 for 24 hours!), but quiet enough to feel like an oasis. The building was transformed from a 19th century printing house to a stylish boutique hotel designed by Stonehill Taylor, with high-end services and amenities. One of my favorite spots was the courtyard – an open-air oasis in the interior of the building with ample seating, original features, and unique art. I also enjoyed the fitness center, where I did a Peleton ride and strength routine, while it rained one afternoon. The rooms have a modern and eclectic design – our king room had a separate living area with seating and an interior bedroom, which was gloriously quiet at night for a great night’s rest.
Since most of our activities surrounded eating, I’m going to jump straight into our restaurant recommendations, sorted by meal. You’ll be hungry by the end, I promise! It’s worth noting that you should plan to make reservations at most restaurants to ensure availability. We visited Monday through Wednesday and to my surprise, every place was just as busy as you’d expect on a weekend.
Atchafalaya was the perfect place to begin our New Orleans getaway. It is located in a cottage in the Irish Channel, and serves up the most delicious brunch, along with craft cocktails. The cuisine embraces New Orleans tradition while providing a unique culinary perspective. I enjoyed the gumbo and deviled eggs, while my husband had chicken and waffles.
Cafe Beignet – You can’t leave New Orleans without eating the official doughnut of Louisiana, a beignet! Every time we visit New Orleans, we have to stop at both Cafe Beignet and Cafe Du Monde (below) for an order of beignets and a chicory coffee. If you haven’t had chicory coffee (a blend of ground coffee beans and chicory), it’s bold! We also shared an andouille sausage omelette with grits. We like the original Royal Street location best!
Cafe Du Monde – The original Cafe Du Monde coffee stand was established in 1862! Talk about history. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The menu at Cafe Du Monde is strictly beignets and various drinks (coffee, milk, and juice). There is a seating area, but we prefer to order our beignets from the to go counter and enjoy them in Jackson Square or Washington Artillery Park right next to the restaurant.
The Chloe has the most excellent new-school New Orleans lunch menu. We ordered a few starters to share – the smoked pork belly lettuce cups, crawfish mac and cheese, and deviled crab. Everything was superb, but check out the deviled crab dish in the photo I snapped below. It was stunning! The Victorian home where the Chloe resides is beautiful and stylish – filled with impeccably restored rooms and art-filled parlors. We especially loved the alligator stair runner at the entrance. We ate in the dining room, but you can also eat on/by/in the patio, pool, and bar.
The Columns has been my favorite happy hour spot since friends introduced us way back in 2012 and we took the streetcar straight to the Columns from our hotel when we arrived. Originally a private residence, the Columns has been a hotel and bar since the 1950s. The sprawling porch and patio surrounded by lush greenery and magnolia trees make for the perfect spot for an afternoon cocktail. It’s been recently restored and renovated with even more beautiful spaces to explore. It doesn’t hurt that the happy hour menu (available from 2-5 pm Sunday through Thursday) is very affordable and includes fun options like beer + a shot.
Sidecar Patio and Oyster Bar was one of my favorite dinners of the trip. Located in the Warehouse District, Sidecar has a great patio courtyard, where you can enjoy oysters from coast to coast and fresh local seafood, along with beer and craft cocktails. We shared a half dozen oysters, a shrimp roll, and shrimp tacos. Our server was even from our hometown, which was a fun surprise!
San Lorenzo is located at the Hotel Saint Vincent. I felt like we had stepped back in time to eat dinner in coastal Italy in the 1920s. I loved the ambiance of the restaurant, as well as that of Paradise Lounge, the hotel’s lobby bar that connects to an outdoor patio. The dinner menu is served family style – you’ll order everything at once so the kitchen can course out your meal properly. We started with oysters and zucchini fritti (which I don’t recommend – the green caesar dip was fantastic, but if we had known the zucchini would be served shoestring style rather than in larger pieces, we would not have ordered this dish. Too much breading and not enough zucchini!). We then shared the linguini vongole and chicken parmesan. The linguine was my favorite dish – perfectly cooked with fresh clams. I enjoyed my meal with a Saint Vincent Spritz, which was excellent, as long as you like grapefruit!
Bacchanal is still far and away, my number one favorite spot in New Orleans and best recommendation for drinks and live music (every day of the week!). Nestled on the corner of a residential area in the Bywater, Bacchanal is the most special place that feels like you’re at a friend’s backyard party. When you walk in, grab a table first, as they fill up quickly. Then have someone in your party hold down the table while someone else goes inside to pick out a bottle of wine for the table. You can purchase cheese and meats and pay a small fee (depends on number of items) to have it plated into a charcuterie board. Additionally, you can order Mediterranean dishes like patatas bravas, olives, confit chicken, and grilled fish, to the table. Once you’ve got everything, pour your wine and sit back and enjoy the show. On this visit, we learned that there is also an upstairs area with a full bar and indoor seating. If you’d rather eat dinner in a more traditional setting, you could eat here and enjoy the music from the balcony.
Another spot to enjoy live music is at the Mahogany Jazz Hall in the French Quarter. The crowd was definitely touristy, but we enjoyed the traditional New Orleans jazz music after our dinner at San Lorenzo. Mahogany Jazz Hall doesn’t take reservations, but it does have a two drink minimum. If you’re feeling wild, the bar has several absinthes available.
If you’re traveling to NOLA from Florida on I-10:
We live in North Florida so if you’re road tripping from that region, I have a few more recommendations for your drive. On our way over, we spent the night in Orange Beach, AL, and ate at Playa for dinner. Orange Beach is beautiful and generally less developed than many of the Florida beaches I’ve visited. I wanted fresh seafood on the water so a friend recommended Playa. I had the fried coconut grouper and Alex had the island gulf shrimp. Both were fantastic – fresh and flavorful! After dinner, we walked around the marina and admired the big yachts as the sun went down. (Note that if you’re looking for a sunset view, this is not the place to go).
The next morning, we ate breakfast (egg sandwich and breakfast burrito) at Happy Pappy’s Coffee House in Gulf Shores, AL. Happy Pappy’s is the cutest (and happiest!) cheery little coffee shop. It’s also open for lunch and serves cocktails later in the day. If you’re in the Gulf Shores area, it’s definitely worth a stop!
On the way back, we stopped to share a delicious plate of barbecue for lunch at The Shed in Ocean Springs, MS. My husband had been here with a group of friends on a previous New Orleans visit and I am so glad he took me back. There are really no words to describe this place – you just have to experience it for yourself. It’s a complex of shacks, made with all kinds of junkyard treasures, situated right on the river. It has a full bar, live music, and kids play area, and I am 100% sure our kids would love it. We ate our meal overlooking the water before getting back on the road home. It is a true gem, hidden right off of I-10.
Thanks for reading! Have you ever been to New Orleans? What are your favorite restaurants and bars? Have you been to my favorite spot – Bacchanal?