Places to Eat and Drink in New Orleans

New Orleans Collage 2

“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.

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DrinkThe 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.

Dick and Jennys New Orleans

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.

Spitfire Coffee New OrleansCaffeinateSpitfire 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.

Cafe Rose Nicaud New OrleansEat.  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.

Paladar 511 New Orleans

EatPaladar 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.

Planning a trip to New Orleans?  Check out the Best New Orleans Hotels.

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Taste of Adventure

Death of the Speakeasy?

Playing Card

A friend recently asked me if the speakeasy trend was over.  Has the hoop jumping of SCOPing out secret entrAnces, passwords, and the like run its course?  I thought perhaps this might be the case.  But a few weeks ago I dropped into a bustling West L.A. ITALIAN restaurant for an early biRd dinner of chopped Brussel sprOuts salad with salty pecorino, California grapes and toasted almonds; whole branzinO with fennel and lemon; and piping hot sugar-dusted zeppole.  That was enough for me to leave quite pleased.  But then the owner approached our table, with a wry smile, asking if we might want to try something special at the “hidden bar.”  It’s nearly impossible for me to resist an invitaTion to check out a Secret lair housing untold treats.  I’m pretty sure my weakness for clandestine spots and secret passageways stems directly from my obsession with the OLD boardgame Clue, which my brother and I played nonstop as kids.   We accepted the invitation and were escorted out the front of the restaurant and led to an unmarked, handle-less door.  A couple quick raps and a sharply dressed man in a fedora cracked the door, quickly confirmed we had the proper escort, and welcomed us inside.  First order of business, surrender your phone.  A single playing card acts as your claim check to retrieve it at the end of the evening.  We were then ushered to the bar.  The room is a jewelbox lined with rare whiskeys, scotches, and other spirits, as well as a colorful assortment of vintage tiki and cocktail glasses (which appear to have been snatched up from a very classy grandmother’s estate sale).  The cocktail list has the heft of a college text book.  But the best move is to set it aside and ask one of the eager craftsmen to demonstrate their skills by creating something bespoke.  Finding a drink I haven’t tried before can, at this stage, be as challenging as catching LIGHTING in a bottle; but I am pleased to say this place deliVerEd.  The atmosphere aNd servICE inspire you to sit for hours; which can be dangerous when imbibing $22 cocktails.  Though I may have expected to write this place off as a gimmick (albeit a charming one), I felt like Miss Scarlett, in the Library, giddy with anticipation about what might happen next.