You’re all probably sick of us going on and on about New Orleans and how much we adore it. Go see for yourselves or go back and remember why this city is so inspiring!
To sum it up, we love this city because:
1. the people are so friendly and go out of their way to make sure you have a great time
2. there is (good!) music on most street corners and in pretty much every bar/restaurant big or small, divey or swishy
3. the architecture is charming and historic
4. the food is outstanding
5. you can order your cocktails to go
6. the “joie de vivre” spirit permeates the whole city and fosters creativity throughout
We could go on as you know, but we’ll leave it with Top 6!
We split our stay between two hotels, the more modern minimalist International House Hotel and the old Southern antique filled Soniat House. They were completely different experiences and both ideal in their own ways.
Opened in an old bank in the Business District (two blocks from the French Quarter) in 1998 by visionary and developer Sean Cummings, International House offers sleek, minimalist rooms decorated mostly in neutrals with punches of flair thrown in like gigantic tufted headboards. The lobby is a warm welcome with fun music pumping, a friendly and helpful staff happy to help in the magnificent space with soaring ceilings. Right off the lobby is Loa, a bar popular with locals and tourists alike who flock to the red brocade tufted armchairs for cocktails made by the legendary mixologist Alan Walter.
Staying at Soniat House is like stepping back in time. On a quiet block in the French Quarter (around the corner from Brad and Angie’s place), we were ushered into one of the three historic townhouses that comprise the hotel by a charming bellman dressed in a white jacket and black bowtie. Calvin escorted us through one of the courtyards and up several flights of stairs to our room– number 33– in the “attic.” #33 has beamed ceilings and two small windows and at first was a bit of a let down for us because of the lack of views, but after a few late nights we realized our attic room was a blessing as the noise from the street didn’t seem to make it all the way upstairs. We most appreciated how spacious our room was- and our bathroom. Our favorite suites that Calvin showed us were #64– a Grand Suite with a beautiful canopy bed, a sunny bathroom, a separate sitting room, two (nonworking) fireplaces and gigantic french doors opening onto Chartres St. This is also the favorite of Calvin… and Ethan Hawke!
We also loved junior suite #62 which has a separate sitting room and is quiet and sunny on the second floor opening onto a garden courtyard. #60 is another Grand Suite with two bathrooms and 21 and 20 were lovely rooms — on the small side but with soaring ceilings and beautiful antiques. Skip room number 23 which is small and dark. And 10 and 11 are just by the front door on the ground floor which could be noisy and dark. We also loved the Honor Bar set up in a lovely sitting room- fix yourself a drink and drop the chit in a little basket. Our favorite spot for enjoying a glass of wine was on the second floor balcony (a communal space) overlooking Chartres St.
We also followed Michael Stipe’s advice in his GOOP write up and ordered the homemade biscuits served with insane strawberry jam, strong coffee and fresh squeezed OJ one morning…. yum!
We literally ate our way through the city and everything we put in our mouths was noteworthy….
Yes, tourist central but the beignets and coffees are heaven. Order an iced coffee (sort of like a frappacino) on a warm day.
923 Decatur St.
This small Italian grocery is no frills and has been family run since 1906. The originators of the Muffuletta sandwich— salami, ham, olive salad, minced garlic and cheese, which we thoroughly enjoyed a half (plenty!!) sitting at the graffited counter.
Definitely the most charming setting of all the restaurants, Cafe Amelie is housed in a brick courtyard with a fountain that just oozes history and charm. We had a bowl of their gumbo and a glass of wine before the Railroad Revival show Wednesday. The gumbo was just the right amount of spicy with plenty of andouille sausage and shrimp.
We couldn’t resist based on name alone, but definitely a tourist spot in a lovely setting. The courtyard feels historic and charming with burbling fountains and the buffet is chock full of New Orleans classics like turtle soup, crawfish etoueffe and bananas foster. A live jazz band plays during brunch.
One of the swishest restaurants in town, we had quite a gourmet dinner here. The lobster, egg and caviar served in an egg shell was unique and delicious. We also loved the lobster and andouille risotto as well as the miso and sake glazed sea bass. It’s hard to imagine anything not being exquisite here….
A newcomer to the scene, dinner at Sylvain was our favorite meal we had in New Orleans – and that is saying A LOT! We enjoyed an amazing homemade pappardelle pasta with meat sauce and a more local dish- fresh fish served with fried green tomatoes and decadent grits. Don’t miss the chocolate pot de creme for dessert! Opening just a few months ago in a space that was once a brothel many, many years ago Sylvain merges passions of past and present.
The old classic that everyone tells you to go to. So we did. It was not exactly what we expected– a large, bright brassrie style restaurnat with tile floors, wood chairs and tall ceilings, Galatoire’s is right on Bourbon St. and is a NOLA institution that has it down to a formula– which is good and bad. Start with the Galatoire Goute– a trio of crawfish, shrimp and crab salads which are a highlight! The fish was fresh and adding crab gives it more of the local punch. We also managed a banana bread pudding and it was worth it!! Word is, Friday for lunch is the best time to go — all the locals kick off the weekend early with boozy lunches…. One note, gentlemen need to wear blazers and no shorts allowed.
Built between 1722 and 1732 as a blacksmith shop, Lafitte’s is the oldest structure that houses a bar in the country. It is terribly charming outside and in with cobblestone floors, low beamed ceilings, a lovely garden and a piano in the back.
Famous for it’s Pimms Cup– and it was quite delicious– Napoleon House does attract the tourists yet is still charming with it’s old world feel, artifacts and courtyard garden. 200 years ago, the building’s first owner offered it to Napoleon during his exile– he never did come but you’d never know it from the plethora of portraits and statues throughout!
Housed in the International House Hotel — see notes and picture above.
Frenchmen Street bars
Literally listen for the best music and go in– we had so much fun popping in and out of little bars all along the street. The New Orleans policy of “to go cocktails” comes in handy….
Fun bar in the Quarter with a big stage for bands.
A little kitschy — literally the bar is a rotating carousel. In the Hotel Monteleone, this is apparently the spot to get the iconic Sazerac cocktail– not our fave, it will put hair on your chest!!
We took the street car from the Quarter all the way to the Upperline stop (which was probably too far) and walked over and down Magazine Street which is lined with boutiques. We found a few cute dresses in Tomato and Armoire and if you’re into interior design, there were loads of chic shops.
We can’t wait for our next trip to New Orleans — so much more to discover!! Thank you to all of the locals for sharing all of your tips and making us feel so welcome. See you very soon! xoxoxo