First Time In NOLA
When my husband announced that we were going to his cousin's wedding in New Orleans over April Fools weekend, I was a little bit more than a tad excited. I was STOKED, because I love weddings, I love food, and I had NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS before. The last point is particularly crazy to me, not only because I've been to tons of states and driven cross country but because NOLA really sums up my favorite things about really any location: beautiful scenery, nightlife, great food, and an culture & history. Even while we were there, walking around the French Quarter I found myself turning to Brendan and saying outloud "HOW HAVE I NEVER BEEN HERE UNTIL NOW?!!?!?!?"
Here I have outlined some key points of interest & highlights about our trip as well as a fuller list towards the bottom of other places we saw and more importantly ate at. Our trip was 5 days and we definitely made the most of it but certainly didn't see or do everything on our lists - there is SO MUCH! So don't look at this as a definitive guide by any means, but if you've never been to NOLA before like moi this is a great starting point for sure.
Where we stayed:
While we had a few criteria going in (cost & proximity to the wedding location being paramount) I was really happy that we decided to stay in the French Quarter. By staying a few blocks off of hectic Bourbon Street and the heavy tourist areas we were able to easily walk everywhere but also feel like we were staying somewhere quiet where we could go to wind down and relax when we needed to. We loved the Inn on St Ann and their staff was incredibly friendly and helpful throughout our trip plus because of how many nights we booked we got one free. It's not a fancy hotel but that was the least of our needs - it had air conditioning and a VERY comfy bed. Win-win.
What we ate:
Answer: EVERYTHING. That's only a mild exaggeration - we made a point of really pacing ourselves on food and split dishes at a lot of places so that we would be able to taste more without getting full. This strategy worked well. Also a fair warning - if you are coming to New Orleans and are planning to eat a lot of vegetables... I wish you the best of luck but this list is NOT for you.
Cowbell - this place isn't just my favorite place we ate in NOLA - it may be one of my favorite restaurants EVER. From the friendly staff to the hilarious menu, the awesome decor (it's a renovated gas station), to the FOOD which was divine this spot has it all and really feels like something very special. We split the mac and cheese and some cocktails out on the patio and honestly I never wanted to leave.
Verti Marte - if you don't come to New Orleans at eat a po' boy you are doing it wrong. And everyone knows the best time to inhale a heavy greasy delicious sandwich is late at night after a few cocktails. This place is NOTHING fancy at all, just a regular corner store with a deli in the back but these sandwiches? AH-MAY-ZING. Like we went there three times. Our faves were the fried oyster po'boy and the shrimp philly cheesesteak po' boy but the menu is EXTENSIVE and they are open 24/7.
The Joint - BBQ is good for your soul, and this spot - while off the beaten path - is some of the best I've ever had so it's WORTH THE TRIP. Also they literally made our food in .5 seconds and we devoured it .5 seconds after that. I also had a really tasty vodka lemonade, yummmo.
Cafe du Monde - Tourist trap? Yes. So good we went there twice? Also yes. If you're going to eat beignets while you're in NOLA, you may as well go to the source. I'd recommend visiting on a rainy day or late at night to avoid long lines, although I will say things move QUICKLY there so even if there is a line it probably won't take you too long to get through it and shove hot sugary fried dough in your mouth hole.
Other cool things we did/recommendations:
Rent A Bike - I think my favorite thing we did while in NOLA was rent bikes, which honestly I wish we had thought of earlier on in the trip but it did make a huge difference. We rented two comfy cruisers from Buzz NOLA which made it very easy to get to different neighborhoods we wanted to see while also getting some much needed exercise in between po' boy binge sessions. And I only crashed into a parked car once so... yeah. The best places we biked to were the Garden District (we did park the bikes and walk around while there to gawk at the amazing homes too) and through Crescent Park along the waterfront which was almost totally deserted since it was a Monday and provided great scenery and wide trails.
Audubon Park - It's huge and full of gorgeousness. The houses that line the park are also pretty incredible. Make sure you also visit the Labyrinth and the Tree of Life.
Oak St - A very cool main drag with tons of shops, restaurants and bars. We had actually signed up to take a food tour over here but then it was canceled so we decided to just go have our own food tour instead (this is where Cowbell is).
What we didn't do that you SHOULD do if you can:
My biggest regret of the trip was that I wasn't aware of the drag brunch on Saturdays at the Country Club. As soon as we landed more than two people raved about this to me but the show was already all booked up for several weeks. We won't be making that mistake next time.
Other places we ate:
Royal House Oyster Bar - Grilled Oysters FTW, plus they make their own pickled vodka for bloody marys which is TO DIE FOR. They also offer a sample platter of New Orlean's classics so you can dive right in.
The Pelican Club - if someone's parent is taking you out for a fancy dinner, this is a good pick.
Breads On Oak - carbs on tasty carbs plus some cute friendly cats live in the back patio
Croissant d'Or Patisserie - classic pastries and lovely decor, the couple who were married said this was one of their favorite places in the city and it didn't disappoint
The Ruby Slipper - mix and match eggs benedict plates & a mimosa the size of your head
SoBou - we split a foie gras burger here and I have no regrets
The Cheezy Cajun - GIANT PORTIONS and an amazing bloody mary that comes with a tiny Miller High Life chaser
Stanley - Bananas Foster French Toast. Fin.
Pat Obrien's - featuring a GIANT courtyard, giant hurricanes and a trippy color-changing water fountain at night
Wille's Chicken Shack - if you want a giant cocktail to walk around with that might kill you this was a good spot for that
The Black Penny - awesome beer selection and vibe, off the beaten path
Napoleon House - Just get a Pimms Cup or five but I wouldn't recommend eating here
Hex Old World Witchery
Bywater Historic District
And finally, here is us on our last night after we saw Radiohead and I drank 3 hurricanes and maybe fell and maybe yelled at the po' boy guy and we MAYBE missed our flight but maybe not. I'LL NEVER TELL! xoxo