City Guide: New Orleans

Although New York was the original draw for this trip we decided to add a second city while we were in the US. Its pretty impossible to be bored in NYC but a full two weeks sounded excessive. A friend suggested a side trip to New Orleans and it seemed a good contrast so we went ahead and booked.

I had a full wish list for New York, compiled of friends' recommendations and a few bits I gathered from bloggers I follow. Gala Darling's recent post and her 2009 one are both worth a look.

There are beads strewn everywhere, especially on the trees

There are beads strewn everywhere, especially on the trees

For NOLA I had not done my research and had no expectations. Maybe that's why I was so thoroughly swept off my feet by the place. Here is a breakdown of the places we ate, drank, danced and shopped and the places we ran out of time for.

Sylvain was so good we went twice: once for brunch, once for dinner (with cocktails). The lighting is low, the service is southern (warm and gracious) and the food is banging.

We stumbled across Kingfish looking for a place to while away a couple of hours with a few cocktails before our table came up at Sylvain and were so taken with the placed booked for dinner the next night. Lo-fi decadence and I loved their branding. If you want to try a Sazerac (rye, bourbon, a local spirit based on absinth and bitters) this the the place to do it.

The bar at Kingfish

The bar at Kingfish

Coop's Place

Coop's Place

If you want really authentic cajun cooking (and you do) Coop’s Place is great. It looks like an archetypal bar from ever american movie you’ve seen. In a really great way. We got a taster plate to share and our favourites were the Jambalya and the fried chicken. There are no reservations so be prepared to queue.

Central Grocery is the home of the original muffuletta, the pressed sandwich involving three meats, two kinds of cheese and pickled vegetable. They’re great and this is the place to get them. You can eat at the bar or take away.

French Quarter high rises!

French Quarter high rises!

Traditional French Quarter House

Traditional French Quarter House

Cafe du Monde barely needs an introduction: they serve beignets (french style donuts covered in powdered sugar) and coffee. I think if you ask nicely they’ll let you have tea or a soda, but it’s basically frowned upon. It is BUSY, but the turnover is high so you never need to wait for a table. The fact that it’s open 24 hours means you never NEED to wait for a table. And donuts at 5am is always possible; who wouldn’t want to go to a city where donuts are always possible! Oh and go to the bathroom while you’re there, not because they’re nice (they're not) but because you have to dip through the kitchen to get there so you get to see all the craziness.

Further east from Cafe du Monde is the French Market. It’s got a load of stalls selling produce and souvenirs, but it’s also got a load of little food places, and places that make fresh fruit daiquiris that are basically alcoholic smoothies. I can’t comment on most of the food options, but we fell on our feet at The Heart Cafe. They make amazing crab cakes (which they ship too!) which you can have over salad or in a Po’boy (that’s a french bread sandwich FYI), and great juices.

Street band on Frenchman Street

Street band on Frenchman Street

The French Market is at the end of Frenchman Street which has a load of music bars, so this is the place to head to at the end of the night for some live jazz (of all kinds) in the streets and in the bars. The Spotted Cat was one we went to a couple of times, and has the benefit of having no cover charge, just a 1 drink minimum.

SoBou is an abbreviation for South of Bourbon Street. It has great cocktails and an excellent happy hour: weekdays between 3pm and 6pm a selection of drinks, cocktails and bar snacks are $3-6. They also do 25¢ martinis between 12-3pm if you buy a main course (which is probably advisable for lunchtime drinking). The real gem here is Abigail who works the bar. And I mean works the bar. She had a load of great recommendations, and we wished we’d not left it to our last day to go here.

The New Orleans Historic Collection is a great overview of the history of the city. I had no idea the city was so old, French settlement having been initially made in 1718. This little museum gives a really great overview of the history of the city which took us around 1.5 hours. The tours come highly recommend, but we weren’t able to take these up as we were booked to go to:

The New Orleans School of Cooking for a cookery demonstration, which is the kind of touristy thing I don’t normally do, but it was so much fun! Anne cooked three courses for us, while talking us through variations on the recipe notes, and giving us a whistle stop tour through the history of the city through it’s food. Fascinating and tasty!

The Garden Quarter, where even the steps are planted . . .

The Garden Quarter, where even the steps are planted . . .

 . . . And all the houses look like Gone With the Wind

 . . . And all the houses look like Gone With the Wind

The food and the music and the hard drinking (New Orleanians love their cocktails!) were all what I expected. What I did not expect was the great shopping!

UAL is an outlet store for mid- and high-end brands. Requires some time to rummage through as there are no two pieces the same really (I sent E off to check out Meyer the Hatter and said I’d meet him in SoBou to avoid feeling time pressured!). I bought myself a little Stella McCartney (Stella in New Orleans seemed so appropriate) at 75% off.

Exodus Goods stock local designers limited run creations with a very Brooklyn/East London/insert-hip-place-here vibe. Great prints, progressive silhouettes and friendly staff. Great Insta account too!

Hemline has a great selection of what I can only describe as Southern Belle Rock Star Wife. And I mean that wholly as a great thing.

Meyer the Hatter is a shop that looks as if it hasn’t moved or changed for 50 years. A gentleman’s outfitters with a huge selection of hats and very reasonable prices.

We stayed in The Jazz Quarters, which was perfectly placed for the French Quarter just across the North Rampart, super comfortable and friendly. They do a great breakfast, which is included, but did mean that we missed out on the Eggs Cochon at The Ruby Slipper.

Our bedroom at The Jazz Quarters, we stayed in "Kermit" named after Kermit Ruffins

Our bedroom at The Jazz Quarters, we stayed in "Kermit" named after Kermit Ruffins

Only in NOLA

Only in NOLA

I confess we did the tourist thing and barely made it out of the French Quarter. There were so many good things to do and with limited time we decided to concentrate our efforts. We did catch the Charles Street street car out to the Garden District to have a wander and a look at Aubade Park, which was another nice (if still tourist classic) thing to do.

I'm moving here; not even joking.

I'm moving here; not even joking.

There were a load of places we didn’t get a chance to go to:
Marti’s, we popped in to check out the menu (go here for seafood!) they’ve retained the original bar with hex mosaic floor (be still my heart!) it looked classy but welcoming
Meaux Bar was just across the way from our guest house and we almost went on the first night; apparently we missed out!
Tonique - another great happy hour, so sorry we missed this
And although Bourbon Street is an acquired taste (it’s a bit Faliraki) apparently everybody should make at least one trip to The Tropical Isle for a Shark Attack, Abigail from SoBou assured it was quite the show.
I was also recommended Le Bon Temps Roule on a Thursday night, but we fly back to New York on Wednesday, so will have to pick that up on the next trip.

One things for sure, there will definitely be a next trip!