“Everyone in this good city enjoys the full right to pursue his own inclinations in all reasonable and, unreasonable ways.” ‒ The Daily Picayune, New Orleans, March 5, 1851
It seems criminal to narrow the places to eat, drink and make mischief in New Orleans into a neat little “best of” list, though that didn’t stop me from creating a 48-Hour Food Itinerary for New Orleans. However, the more I meander around the city, the more I realize that the food ‒ like New Orleans itself ‒ is an undefinable mélange of grit, gumption, artistry, indulgence and questionable ideas. I won’t try to package it all up for you in this post, as to do so would be a disservice. Instead, I’m modeling this one after jazz music ‒ partly planned, partly spontaneous with enough room to improvise along the way.
Drink. The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone (French Quarter). A New Orleans classic with a nice mix of locals and visitors. Don’t despair if you can’t snag one of the 25 seats at the brightly-colored revolving carousel bar. There’s plenty of people watching, live music and drinks to keep things interesting for a couple hours or more. While Vogue Living recommended the Sazerac (“Top 20 Bars in the World”), the Pimm’s Cup with fresh strawberry, cucumber and lemon got my attention.
Eat. Dick & Jenny’s (Uptown). Located in a 120-year old creole cottage house, the menu reflects the Southern Louisiana and Italian roots of its original owners. The Niman Ranch braised pork cheeks with sautéed Southern greens, grit cake and white BBQ sauce hits all the right notes, followed by a heavenly bananas foster cream pie poppin’ with rich butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and rum. The perfect spot to hit before a show at nearby Tipitina’s.
Caffeinate. Spitfire Coffee (French Quarter). Walk too fast and you’ll miss this tiny, yet mighty, specialty coffee shop on St. Peter. The self-proclaimed “Second Best Coffee in NoLa” turns out top-notch espresso, cold brew and pour-overs to satisfy your penchant for crema and latte art. The coffee is so good you won’t care about First Best.
Eat. Cafe Rose Nicaud (Marigny). The Southern Breakfast with delicately scrambled eggs, organic yellow corn rosemary cheese grits, savory alligator sausage and a fluffy country biscuit with strawberry jam had me returning two mornings in a row. Good food takes time, so expect a bit of a wait. Relax, read the paper, chat with a local. Breakfast is served until 2:00 p.m.
Eat. Paladar 511 (Marigny). While the old-style meccas of Creole cuisine still stand, and are definitely worth a visit, the newest generation of New Orleans restaurants that have opened post-Katrina are attracting serious food travelers anxious to try something different after getting their fill of crawfish etouffe and chargrilled oysters. Enter Paladar 511, which focuses on California Italian favorites like wood-fired pizza and yellowfin crudo. Highlights include crispy pan-seared snapper; grilled pork chop with mustard greens, turnips, horseradish and pork jus; and a velvety panna cotta with fresh and candied grapefruit.
Cheers to New Orleans, a city that lives, breathes and adapts to the moment while never forgetting its roots.
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