A few weeks ago, we took advantage of a wedding Meredith was shooting in New Orleans, and were able to tack on a couple of extra days to explore a city that neither of us had previously visited. The town of New Orleans is filled with an unbelievable amount of character, history, good drinks, and amazing food. We logged many miles exploring the neighborhoods, parks, and even a cemetery of the French Quarter, Uptown, and Garden District, and came away from our short trip with an even longer list of things to do and places to try on a return visit.
When we first arrived in town, we’d barely set our bags down before we were hopping back into a cab and heading over to Butcher for the perfect post-flight amazing bite to eat. Butcher is an aptly named butcher and sandwich shop, attached to the James Beard winning Cochon restaurant. Serving up a tasty selection of sandwiches and small bites, our pimiento cheese sliders, cucumber salad, and pork belly sandwich were just the kind of quick and delicious introduction we needed to the New Orleans food scene before we walked back to the hotel to crash from a long day of travel.
In her list of NOLA recommendations, our friend Helen, who went to college at Tulane, wrote that Camellia Grill was the “best breakfast in New Orleans”, and after eating there (twice!) we just might have to agree. Getting out to their original Uptown location proved to be a bit of a trek since the streetcar tracks were being worked on, dumping us somewhat abruptly in the middle of a taxi-free neighborhood; but the gorgeous homes and parks along oak-lined St. Charles Ave. made for a decent setting to be stranded in, and we were eventually able to score a cab for the remainder of the trip. After arriving at Camellia Grill, we settled up to the wall-to-wall counter between locals and tourists alike, and received a quick fist-bump “Hello!” from our waiter Marvin, making us feel like we were regulars in our neighborhood diner back home. Our awesome breakfast of a stuffed veggie omelette and pancakes set us up for a day of exploring, and when we needed a late-night meal back in the french quarter, the flat-top grilled burger, basket of fries, and large chocolate freeze at their second location on Chartres St. hit the spot.
Meredith read about the Uptown Hattie Sparks boutique on one of her blogs and insisted we stop by after our breakfast at Camellia Grill. After browsing the shop’s delightful selection, we had a chance to speak with the super sweet owner, Hattie Moll, who gave us a few other great NOLA recommendations, including our next stop – Loomed. Meredith found a number of cute items in the shop, and we ended up falling for one of our favorite paintings yet – a colorful, whimsical portrayal of a donkey by Tissa Osborne, that arrived back in Maine shortly after we did, and brings a smile to our faces whenever we pass by it.
After seeing a few of their beautiful Turkish towels at Hattie Sparks, Meredith quickly rerouted our return trip to include a stop at Loomed NOLA on Prytania St. The selection and variation of gorgeous handwoven Turkish textiles, in seemingly every texture, pattern, and color was complete eye candy for the both of us and immediately had Meredith wondering how we could incorporate them into our home (these plans are still actively in the making). Meredith was delighted to pick up a new scarf before we left, and we just wouldn’t feel right without mentioning the smile that the shop dog, Alice T., brought to our faces.
Our only disappointment at this Garden District bistro was that we hadn’t timed our meals well and weren’t more hungry when we sat down for a small lunch at the bar, because after we finished up the two delicious small plates we shared (an unbelievable combination of fried gulf shrimp and Louisiana crab meat with heirloom rice), we were kicking ourselves wishing we’d saved Coquette for dinner that evening. On our next trip to New Orleans, Coquette will be near the very top of our dinner plans.
The new, seafood-centric sister establishment to the often-heralded Cochon, dinner at Pêche proved to be an excellent meal. Prepared over hardwood coals, Meredith’s baked drum with ginger, tomato, and crispy rice, and my smothered catfish and white beans and bacon were wonderfully fresh and simply, yet perfectly prepared. We spent the meal laughing and smiling, and after finishing it with the flourless madagascar chocolate cake, walked back through the Warehouse neighborhood (one of our favorites from the trip) to our hotel.
Keeping up our tradition of long breakfast treks, we decided to take a walk along the Mississippi en route to our meal at Elizabeth’s, only to have the stroll devolve into a 2.5 mile trudge in the hot New Orleans sun. You’ll have to take our word for it that the breakfast that followed was worth every step, so much so that after a scrumptious feast of bananas foster stuffed french toast and shrimp & grits, we opted to walk the entire way back (using a shaded route) to burn off a few of those calories.
In a city that welcomes almost 10 million visitors a year, we oddly enough bumped into Meredith’s aunt from North Carolina while waiting for a table for breakfast at Stanley off of Jackson Square. The odds are pretty outrageous, but we enjoyed an excellent meal catching up with family. Our meal of banana & walnut pancakes, which were topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream(!), and the Stanley Classic (eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and toast) was a great way to start the morning.
Although we came to New Orleans with a list of must-visit bars, our trip started to fly by too quickly, and before we knew it, we were scrambling to make sure we knocked at least one of them off the list. A sazerac from the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel across the street seemed like the perfect cocktail to try. The Sazerac Bar harks back to a different era with its elegant floor to ceiling wooden accents and murals, and bartenders wearing traditional white coats, and although they’re known for a number of drinks, the timeless sazerac they served up (by some accounts, the first American cocktail) was a delicious sampling of the non-slushy drink side of New Orleans.
It took me all the way until midnight on our last night to finally grab a plate of beignets and a cup of coffee from Café Du Monde, but that’s the beauty of a restaurant that never closes in a town that doesn’t seem to sleep. The cafe does two things, coffee and beignets, and boy do they do them well. I’m sure that any late night I face from here on out will be accompanied with a craving for those pillows of fried dough, beneath a mountain of powdered sugar.
There never seems to be enough time on our trips to cover all of the places we hope to, but with New Orleans, this held especially true. A number of friends and readers recommended an impressive list of places to try, and there just simply wasn’t enough time in the day, so for posterity’s sake, we’ll mention a few of the things that are high on our list for a return trip: drinks at Cure and the Carousel bar, and meals at Cochon, Mimi’s, and Bayona.