Some call it the Crescent City, I think it should be renamed the City that Never Sleeps of the South. After the crazy holiday season, Justin and I escaped to eat, drink and discover the fascination that the Vieux Carré holds for so many fans. It is a quick trip from Love Field in Dallas, Texas and once in the French Quarter, no car is required.
We booked a room in the Famous Hotel Montelone right in the heart of the Quarter. I used the Southwest website and received 7000 additional points. Deal! (yes, I am a Points Queen, more on that later) The Montelone is quite civilized, but if you are “Old School” like me, ask for an inside room to avoid the “Crescent City” cacophony at any given moment. Hotel Montelone is the home of the celebrated Carousel Bar. This revolving merry-go-round bar might make you a little dizzy after a few cocktails, however, the atmosphere is convivial and elevator back to our room was convenient.
New Orleans is definitely a Foodie City! The “Classics” are there for a reason: They have been around forever and have given a multitude of chefs a foundation from which they could launch their career. Being a seasoned (well seasoned) restaurateur, I was not impressed, but nor did I expect to be. These classics provide a dining comfort for many tourist and residents alike. Visit them with that in mind. Galatoire’s main floor is “The Place” to be on Friday lunch (you won’t catch me queuing up at 8:30 a.m. for a noon reservation). We had reservations on a Saturday evening and as we entered maître d’hôtel rudely looked us over and shooed us upstairs. The service was acceptable and the meal ordinary. And all of this requires a Jacket? Mon Dieu! Our waitress had come “out on the floor” from the kitchen 20 years ago…. and was still “not good enough” to work the main dining room downstairs. Mr. B’s was not much better. One of our three waiters was pleasant, but the rest were robotic and tired.
Only at Commander’s Place did I feel that the waitstaff and the kitchen were striving to impress. We were greeted with the utmost civility and graciously ushered upstairs to the Garden Room. The waitstaff was professional and elegant without being overbearing. We also enjoyed a fun brunch at The Court of Two Sisters. You go here for the atmosphere and the “show” not so much the food . Well, unless you enjoy all you can eat Bananas Foster! (ah hum)
Now that we’ve gotten past the classics it’s time to get to the real point of adventure… eating and drinking. We actually had a few very memorable meals. The first was at Shaya in the Garden District. This Israeli restaurant draws from the cuisine of North Africa and the Middle East. I would fly in for dinner just to eat the hummus again.
On the other side of the city located in the Bywater neighborhood we thoroughly enjoyed N7, a French restaurant and wine bar infused with a Japanese touch. The owners were present and personable. We sat at the bar and the chic bartender made our experience memorable.
N7 has a phenomenal selection of wine and libations. I had not had the aperitif Salers since my last trip to the Massif Central in France. Another find was this beautiful Chartreuse, one of my favorites. While we’re on my favorite subject… no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to the Roosevelt Hotel and the famous Sazerac Bar. The Sazerac is said to be the oldest cocktail in the nation and it is the iconic New Orleans adult beverage. After a few cocktails Justin felt very close to heaven.
If you think we ONLY like to eat and drink… You are right! However, wherever we are we try to enjoy some of the local culture. Nothing says NOLA like a tried and true Haunted History Vampire Tour. Albeit a little cheesy, walking around the haunted streets with a large cocktail in hand did have a certain “je ne sais quoi” quality. We also thoroughly enjoyed our Free Wheelin’ Bike Tour. Our guide for the Creole and Crescent excursion was a native and extremely knowledgeable. We visited areas we would have never explored (like City Park and a 800 year old tree!) and developed another appreciation for the diverse history of the city.
The ever popular Café du Monde is as popular as ever! Insider scoop…. DON’T wait in line! Simply walk in any door and take any table, dirty or clean! We were sitting inside near the kitchen and at one moment there were at least seven open tables and a line out the door. No one seats you. If the table is dirty, just wipe the powdered sugar off the chair and wait for some to come take your order. Enjoy!
Now that you have had your sugar and caffeine fix – time to get back to some liquid encouragement. We enjoyed the atmosphere and history at the Napoleon House. Take note of the ubiquitous red and green Tabasco tops .
Not quite yet a classic, but a treasure is Bar Marilou. Located in the Warehouse District in Maison de la Luz, we felt we were on vacation from our vacation. Craft cocktails, attentive service, eclectic French music left us with a very Civilized impression. Cheers to YOU.