48 Hours in New Orleans
The Big Easy…’Nawlins…the Crescent City…the City that Care Forgot…NOLA.
New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras, walking the streets with open containers, voodoo, Hurricane Katrina, and hosting not one but two “Real World” seasons.
But explore beyond the touristy hot spots, and you’ll find romance, history and architecture – and charming and interesting residents who are fiercely loyal to their city.
I lived in NOLA for three months (for work), and thanks to the tutelage of a good friend from my hometown (who also just happens to be a talented film and documentary producer), I got to see New Orleans from a local’s perspective (rather than the standard “traveling business person”) – and I was seriously impressed with the laidback/libertarian spirit of the people, the diversity of thought, and the artistic/musical talent that everyone seems to possess.
Distance to Sacramento:
2,280 miles – or a 6-8 hour flight. Nothing direct from Sacramento (or San Francisco for that matter), and United has the most flight options.
NOLA’s downtown is your standard urban jungle (watch your step, the road/sidewalk infrastructure is downright medieval) surrounded by charming neighborhoods filled with beautiful old homes, unique shops, bars and restaurants, parks and wide avenues. For the latter, be sure to wander around the French Quarter, Uptown, the Garden District and Saint Charles Avenue.
Something for everyone, but I found it to be quirky, artistic and progressive. The slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” could easily apply to New Orleans’ nightlife. The city is filled with vacationers, bachelor/bachelorette parties and conference attendees, but even the locals tend to act like they’re on Spring Break when the sun goes down. You will be hit on, so warn your boyfriend/husband/partner to get over it.
I didn’t have Betty White with me, but the city seemed pretty pet-friendly. A lot of the hotels allow dogs (esp. the W), and there are plenty of parks and green space throughout the city.
Preparing to go to New Orleans is a bit like preparing for a cruise or trip to Italy – you might as well preemptively lose 10 pounds because the quality and quantity of restaurants is ridiculous.
Martinique’s Bistro (5908 Magazine Street) – My co-workers and I found this place by accident, and thank goodness we did! A great brunch place with a cozy and Parisian-inspired patio. Be sure and order the Southern Ice Tea (infused sweet tea vodka, lemon and mint syrup) and the French Style Crêpe (with Scrambled Eggs, Apple Smoked Bacon & Brie).
Amelie’s (912 Royal Street) – Amelie’s atmosphere matches the food. Adorable patio with vines crawling on the walls and fountains everywhere. Be sure to order the duck confit and fig salad – plus, they have amazing bloody mary’s.
Green Goddess (307 Exchange Street) – Right in the heart of the French Quarter, tucked away in a side alley, Green Goddess serves both brunch and lunch items using local and unique ingredients. The entire menu sounds delicious, but be sure and try the Boudin Stuffed Tomato (Yellow Cherokee heirloom tomato stuffed with boudin, then pan-fried to a crunchy perfection, placed on a bed of arugula topped with a cold maque choux, bacon, and garlic aioli).
Crescent Pie and Sausage Company (4400 Banks Street) – A bit off the beaten path (12 minute drive from downtown), this was by far one of the best meals I had in NOLA. They make just about everything in-house (even their pickles), and they have a great selection of local beer. Be sure to order the Coppa pizza (arugula and salami with blue cheese infused into the thin crust) and the mixed grill (selection of meats and sausages).
Mahoney’s (various) – Does a fried oyster-bacon-cheddar po’boy sound delicious? Then Mahoney’s is your place. And don’t forget to order a side of onion rings and fried green tomatoes.
Port of Call (838 Esplanade Avenue) – Long night on Bourbon Street? Cure that hangover with Port of Call’s giant/juicy burgers and huge stuffed baked potatoes. The drinks are strong, and the bar is dark and smelly: a true dive.
- Boucherie (8115 Jeannette Street) – Be sure and save room for the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding.
- Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas Street) – Meat lover’s heaven, good for dinner too!
Cure (4905 Feret Street) – NOLA’s version of the Shady Lady. Great place for cocktails before dinner (pair it with Gautreau’s for a homerun evening), but they also serve food that’s pretty good. More artist then bartender, feel free to tell the folks behind the bar what you’re in the mood for and let them create a drink for you. My favorites are the Union Jack Rose (Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy & Applejack, Tanqueray Gin, Lime, House-made Pomegranate Reduction, Orange Bitters, Mint) or the Yerba Agave (El Tesoro Anejo Tequila, Benedictine, Marie Brizard White Mint, Agave Nectar, Angostura Bitters, Mint)
Gautreau’s Restaurant (1728 Soriat Street) – Housed in an old pharmacy in the funky Uptown neighborhood, Gautreau’s is sophisticated, yet unpretentious. The night we visited, we got to meet the executive chef Sue Zemanick (still in her 20’s!) and owner Patrick Singley – both were extremely warm and friendly, which is always an added bonus to any dining experience. Everyone ordered something different and we shared…and to be honest, everything I tried tasted wonderful. Their menu changes a lot so you should just order whatever you feel like – you can’t go wrong. Oh, and their wine list was extensive and reasonably priced.
Yuki Izakaya (525 Frenchmen Street) – A welcome break from the heavy-buttery-food-coma-inducing fare that defines NOLA cuisine, Yuki’s is on Frenchmen’s Street (see funtivities below), and it’s legit – i.e. you’re not going to find California rolls on the menu. It’s a tiny restaurant with live music and a big sake menu. Be sure and order the sashimi and curry ramen.
- August (301 Tchoupitoulas Street)
- Muriel’s (801 Chartres Street)
- Emeril’s Delmonico (1300 Saint Charles Avenue)
A Place to Lay Your Head:
I’ve only been to NOLA for business so I tend to stay places where I can score reward points…
W New Orleans (333 Poydras Street) – By far my favorite. A tad more laidback then other W’s (the rooms aren’t completely covered in black/maroon velvet), they have two bars in the lobby (including Whiskey Blue), a rooftop pool with cabanas, a clean /modern fitness center, fast wi-fi and dry cleaning services. Plus, they’ve partnered with Acura to provide free rides up to six miles away from the hotel.
JW Marriott (614 Canal Street) – Clean, modern and centrally located with tons of amenities. Pool is on the roof and nice, but pretty small.
Windsor Court (300 Gravier Street) – A famous hotel centrally located downtown, but I found the Windsor Court a bit…old. Sort of like you could tell it used to be beautiful and glamorous, but now it needs a facelift. Apparently, I just had a room that hadn’t been renovated yet, so be sure to ask for one. On the plus side, the service is fantastic, and many celebrities stay there while they’re in town (case in point, Ryan Reynolds while he was filming the Green Lantern). The rooms are also huge with a kitchenette, walk-in closet and living room.
So if you only have 48 hours in New Orleans, here’s my recommended itinerary…
DAY 1: Grab a 190 Octane daiquiri from anywhere on Canal/Bourbon street and wander through the French Quarter’s old streets and alleys, which are full of art galleries, antique stores, clothing boutiques, beautiful architecture and quirky characters. Want to see what voodoo is all about? Or get a reading on what your guardian angels are trying to tell you? Or a good ole’ fashioned palm reading? Then this is the place for you. Be sure to hit up Amelie’s or the Green Goddess for brunch/lunch. If there’s time, take a trolley ride down Saint Charles Avenue to view the stately homes and parks.
NIGHT 1: Grab dinner at Yuki’s and then hit the bars on Frenchmen’s Street. It’s like being in Nashville or Austin – every bar has amazing local music streaming out of it. I’m talking bands with trombones, washboards and singers that sound just like Edith Piaf or Sarah Vaughan. There are fewer tourists, and most places don’t charge covers. It doesn’t get crazy until around 11pm so if you can get there right after dinner, you’ll have a front row seat and short lines at the bar. My favorites are the Spotted Cat, Negril’s and D.B.A.
DAY 2: Start the day with a pedicure or massage at the Ritz Carlton (their spa is housed in an old department store, and the service is fabulous), followed by some great shopping on Magazine Street. Hit up Martinique’s for brunch/lunch.
NIGHT 2: Treat yourself to drinks at Cure and dinner at Gautreau’s. Then hit Bourbon Street. You might as well save Bourbon Street for your last night so that your inevitable hangover doesn’t ruin anything but your flight home. Yes, it’s crazy and loud and dirty – but it’s also a ton of fun. Grab a 190 Octane daiquiri and embrace the madness.
EDITOR’S NOTE: What’d we miss? What are your favorite restaurants, shops, sights and places to stay in New Orleans? Submit your advice below or email us your own “48 Hours” city profile to girlsonthegrid AT gmail DOT com.