When I mention visiting New Orleans to people, many respond that they haven’t been back since Hurricane Katrina. Well, it’s been ten years and the city is back – and probably surpassing its earlier vibrancy; here is what to do in New Orleans to experience it like a local.
Exploring Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is still there with historic restaurants such as Galatoire’s or Arnaud’s. Go ahead walk down, drink your Hurricane from the giant glass but there is so much to see in New Orleans! The city has preserved their unique architecture, hospitality and traditions; persevering against incredible odds and Mother Nature.
Walk around the French Quarter and stand in line for the famous Café du Monde beignets. The French Market has plenty of souvenirs but is also great for some of the local foods and home of what my local friends claim is the best Bloody Mary in a city of Bloodies at the Organic Banana Juice Bar.
Learn how to eat crawfish and grab some at one of the many casual bars serving spicy pounds. You might have to ask them how to peel them and be prepared to take some time and still be hungry.
Then head straight to Mother’s for a late breakfast/early lunch and another Bloody Mary which pairs beautifully with their best-in-the-world ham, some turnip greens (w magic ham!), fried chicken or the Ferdi special with ham, roast beef and “debris” or the scrapings from the pan. Employees are as loyal to Mother’s as the restaurant is to them. After Hurricane Katrina, Mother’s set up FEMA trailers in their parking lot so employees would have a home and a job. I never go to New Orleans without a visit to Mother’s .
Oysters are a cornerstone of New Orleans cuisine and they are abundant. There are whole guides on where to find the best and cheapest oysters at happy hour. My favorite is a hip brasserie called Luke where the bi-valves run you 75 cents each and cocktails like the ones below are half off. Elegant with waiter service from 3-6 pm and you can make a reservation!
Also check out The Blind Pelican on Charles Street easily accessible by charming, but sometimes crowded, historic street cars where raw oysters run a quarter (yes .25) from 4-8 PM. These amazing chargrilled oysters, with butter and cheese are addictive and are only $7.50 a dozen. Get there early because lines will form!
Where to Stay
After walking, eating and all the drinking (to go cups are at the exit of every bar) that makes New Orleans a place to love, a good hotel isn’t far away. Choose one of the historic properties like Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter with its classic Carousel Bar or a trendy new boutique like Q and C in the Warehouse District.
The Hyatt French Quarter has the biggest pool and a super location while the W is hip and has crazy .25 cent Martinis at lunch. A new and incredibly hip luxury hotel in the perfect location is International House. It may sound like pancakes but the beds are inviting, the large windows make for great views and the bar turns into a low-key scene attracting the best kind of international crowd.
The Cocktails of New Orleans
This 1930s New Orleans recipe is named after the city’s French Quarter—it’s a potent but smooth cocktail, just like the Crescent City. A staple of the famed Carousel Bar at the legendary Hotel Monteleone.
- 3/4 oz. rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz. Cognac
- 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 barspoon Bénédictine
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
- Glass: Old Fashioned
- Garnish: cherry
- Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice.
- Stir well.
- Strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and garnish.
(Courtesy of Imbibemagazine.com)
Named for an innovative piece of French artillery and comprising just four ingredients — gin, lemon, simple syrup, Champagne — the French 75, when made properly, features nose-tickling bubbly as the gateway to a perfectly integrated combination of floral gin and citrus.
- 1 oz. gin (or cognac is typical in NoLa)
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- ½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Brut Champagne or a dry sparkling white wine
- Lemon twist, to garnish
- Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass.
- Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist to serve. (Courtesy of bar.com)
The Sazerac is the holy grail of historical cocktails, and is argued to be where the name cocktail originates (a mixture of spirits, bitters, and sugar, to be exact). Somewhere along the line, it was decided that the Sazerac must be made with surgeon-like precision, and that any variation from the recipe deems the cocktail not a Sazerac, and instead some sort of bastard cocktail unworthy of consumption.
- 2 oz Rye Whiskey
- 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 demerara sugar cube
- Muddle the sugar and bitters, then add whiskey and ice.
- Stir and strain into a chilled, absinthe-rinsed rocks glass.
- Twist a lemon peel over the surface and discard.
(Credited to William Boothby, World Drinks and How to Mix Them, 1908)