Eight out of our upcoming twelve cruises will be heading out to sea from the Port of New Orleans, and I couldn’t be more excited to spend time in my beloved old stomping grounds. Not only am I a proud Tulane grad and former resident, I can also credit the historic city with setting the stage for meeting my husband during a post – Hurricane Katrina service project.
Sure, you can - and should - research the best bars and restaurants when you're planning your trip. There are a ton of "Best Of" lists and websites out there, and I encourage you to use those and go with anything that tickles your fancy -- you truly can’t go wrong! But below is straight from a Sixthman source (so you know I know how to have fun!) that visits frequently enough to still consider herself a local. This is not a Top 10 list. This list includes my nostalgic favorites, some new-to-NOLA highlights, and everything in between. I’m here to share MY New Orleans with you - where to go, what to eat, and where you’ll catch me for a couple days either before or after our cruises.
If you’re coming to town a day or two before, or staying a few days after, your cruise – read on for tips, tricks, things to see, and places to eat. A LOT of places to eat. And before you dive in to this blog, tune to WWOZ 90.7 to get you in the mood (because that’s what I did)!
SAY IT RIGHT: First things first, it’s not really “N’awlins" anymore. As long as you don’t call it New Or-LEEEEENS you won’t stick out like a sore thumb, but most of us call it NOLA these days.
CASE OF THE MONDAYS: Check the hours before you make a trip! It’s normal for places to be closed on Mondays to allow the service industry employees at least one day off during the week, and because “people got to make groceries” -- aka go to the grocery store.
GO CUP: They don’t call it “The Big Easy” for nothing, including how easy it is to grab a beer and go! Want to grab a cocktail but also keep it moving? Ask for a “go cup” or pour it into a plastic cup yourself on your way out because typically there’s a stack by the door!
STREETCAR VS. TROLLEY: In San Francisco it’s called a trolley. In New Orleans it’s called a streetcar.
NEUTRAL GROUND: Meeting up with a friend or catching an Uber? New Orleans is built along a long, winding river so instead of directing people North or South, you’ll use River Side, Lake Side, or Neutral Ground – the median in the middle of a divided road.
I’M ALL ABOUT THE EATS
I once won a Trivial Pursuit game by answering this question: “Which city consumes more mayonnaise per capita than anywhere else in the world?” You guessed it - New Orleans! (Or at least it was at the time, so don’t send me hate mail if that’s not true anymore.) From poboys to remoulade, NOLA has all the delicious eats, and many of them contain mayo.
There are a zillion options for where to eat the most delicious meal of your life. Some of the best restaurateurs and chefs call New Orleans home. (If you’re fan of Bravo’s Top Chef you’ll find at least ten restaurants with a former contestant in the kitchen!)
The cuisine has become incredibly ethnically diverse in the past several years, and some of my favorite restaurants include Vietnamese, BBQ, or some sort of Asian fusion, but I’m mostly sticking to the traditional faves here. Just keep in mind that a “Taste of New Orleans” isn’t solely poboys and jambalaya… although it CAN BE! YUM!
My favorite meal of the day! It’s totally acceptable to eat all of your favorite savory things topped with a sunny or poached egg, and it magically is called brunch. Endless buffets to try a little bit of everything? Bottomless cocktails? You can count me in for all of these things.
Go fancy and all in for a brunch (some with live jazz) at any of these places that are well worth every penny:
- Muriel’s Jackson Square (French Quarter)
- Brennan’s (French Quarter)
- Commander’s Palace (Garden District)
- Court of Two Sisters (French Quarter)
If you’re feeling a little more casual, check out:
- The Ruby Slipper (You can find one in these areas: Marigny, French Quarter, Mid-City, or Central Business District)
- Surreys (Garden District)
- The Country Club (Bywater)
Any of the above places make for a great brunch OR breakfast but to me, brunch = cocktails! So below are top choice diners and breakfast spots that serve great morning treats (and lunch and/or late night snacks), minus the alcohol:
- Slim Goodies (Garden District)
- Clover Grill (French Quarter)
- Camellia Grill: No website to link - this place is old school! (Uptown, French Quarter)
- Croissant D'Or (French Quarter)
My friends and I have a game called “ONE MEAL IN NEW ORLEANS”. If we are only in town long enough to enjoy one meal at one restaurant, where would we go? It’s the most difficult decision you will ever have to make, and these are our dinner MVPs:
- Jacques-Imo’s: (Uptown) They won't take reservations for fewer than four people, so get there early, and order the Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake to start!
- Dick & Jenny’s: (Uptown) Creole cuisine with a Southern twist.
- LOLA’s: (Mid-City) Authentic Spanish food with a twist.
- Mopho: (Mid-City) Vietnamese and New Orleans cuisine together.
- Charlie’s Steakhouse: (Uptown) There's no shortage of great steakhouses in New Orleans, but if you want something extra New Orleansy, Charlie’s is your spot! Along with being the originator of steak here, it’s also the seventh-oldest restaurant in the city. Ask for Glen or Matt at the bar, and tell them I say hello!
- Cochon: (Arts/Warehouse District) Cajun, Southern cooking and butcher. Also great for lunch!
- Clancy’s: (Uptown) Elegant Creole classics and martinis in a bustling, homey space.
- Brigtsen’s: (Uptown) Award-winning contemporary Creole cuisine in a cozy, Victorian cottage setting.
- Cafe Reconcile: (Central City) Only open on weekdays for lunch and Fridays for dinner, but it’s worth noting because this is a restaurant with a mission! Not only is it old-school New Orleans soul food at its best, it provides a successful job-training program for at-risk children.
They’re satisfying for breakfast, brunch, lunch, second lunch, …you get the idea. Don’t let the line out the doors scare you away because they move pretty quickly.
- Mother’s: (Central Business District – CBD) Order the Ferdi Special!
- Domilise’s: (Uptown) The hubs loves the hot sausage, I love the fried oyster. Why choose?! Get both and share!
- Crabby Jack’s: (Jefferson Hwy) Remember how Jacques-Imo’s is on the tippy-top of the dinner list? This is their more casual poboy spot. The slow roasted duck poboy will change your life!
They’re not just restaurants, they’re not just bars, these places defy categories and hold a special place in my heart.
- Bakery Bar: (Uptown/Garden District) It falls under the “delicious brunch” category but it’s SO much more. A cozy spot with incredible doberge cakes, desserts like salty balls (WHAT?), inventive cocktails, and yes, incredible brunch.
- Twelve Mile Limit: (Mid-City) Want the experience of a fancy cocktail bar with the atmosphere of a dive bar? This is your spot. Great BBQ and the best juke box in city!
- Port Of Call: (French Quarter) This place has arguably the best burger in the city—also, do you want mushrooms on your baked potato? YES, you do. There’s usually a wait, but a giant Huma-huma or Monsoon will keep you company until your table is ready!
- Lilly’s Cafe: (Lower Garden District) This is casual pho spot on Magazine St., and I love all their brothy goodness to help cure a hangover. Best in the city!
- Ninja: (Uptown) Don’t ask me why this is a must stop for me, but it is. I’ve even created my own roll here. Ask for their Crunchy Roll INSIDE of a Rainbow Roll for my favorite sushi.
- F&M Patio Bar: (Uptown) (Also Grits Bar next door) Late night dance party! Hop up on that pool table and shake your thing. Get the cheese fries. Your tummy and your tomorrow will thank you!
It’s the reason we’re all a part of the Sixthman family, right?! So it’s only natural to get out and discover all of the incredible music NOLA has to offer…Jazz, Blues, Irish, Cajun, you name it, and you can find it here. The best part is you can simply wander around the part of town you’re in, and when you hear something you like just pop in for a bit!
Frenchmen Street is THE street for the best variety of live music with tons of bars and venues to check out. You can’t go wrong anywhere on Frenchmen, but these are a few of my favorites:
- Blue Nile
- Spotted Cat Music Club: A teeny little jazz place that’s standing room only. Don’t talk too loud or you’ll get shushed!
Are you looking to get down and dirty in a dive bar? Get to know some of the locals at these venues:
Pro-tip: Expect to pay a cover charge at the above places. All of those artists are trying to make a living, after all!
Planning in advance? Check your calendar for which artists are playing at these larger venues:
A DAY IN THE LEISURELY LIFE
Spending a few days in New Orleans? Time to take it easy and explore! If you’re a go-with-the-flow guy or gal looking for a leisurely day, this section is for you and features my preferred paths to bop around.
GO DOWNTOWN TO UPTOWN ALONG ST. CHARLES ON THE STREETCAR: This is my favorite stretch of road (and if you enjoy scenic exercise – favorite running path, too). Travel underneath the beautiful canopies of enormous oak trees decorated with Mardi Gras beads hanging around from years of Krewes tossing beads to Carnival revelers.
- Igor’s: Combination laundromat and bar with the best Bloody Mary in town. What makes them so tasty? Someone told me the secret ingredient is BBQ sauce! It’s now a staple at my house for brunch.
- The Columns Hotel: Beautiful spot to relax on the patio and listen to the streetcar roll by. I used to live next door, and I still miss the soothing sounds of the streetcar--not to mention the scent! It has been much debated, but I’m here to tell you that the smell of the streetcar when it passes by is that of ARTICHOKE.
- New Orleans Original Daiquiris: (Uptown) When you’re Uptown on the Riverbend, hop off and grab a daiquiri and walk along the line. (Remember, you’re allowed to walk around with a cocktail here!)
WALK ALONG MAGAZINE STREET: For shopping, dining, or a casual stroll there’s no place that compares to this six-mile stretch. Stay hydrated and keep your energy up with drinks and snacky-snacks along the way.
- Bulldog: (Uptown) Fifty different beers on draft and cheese fries. All of my NOLA friends have a collection of Bulldog pint glasses from their “Keep your pint glass nights” on Wednesdays!
- Casamento’s: (Garden District) Cash only for oysters and other seafood bites.
- Coquette: (Garden District) if you’re feeling like a fancier cocktail or eats.
HAVE A CRAWFISH BOIL: What's New Orleans without crawfish and local beer?! Grab a heap of these delicious freshwater crustaceans at Big Fisherman and take it over to Audubon Park or The Fly (on the Mississippi levee) with a 6-pack of Abita Beer. My go-to's are the Amber Ale and Purple Haze. We treat crawfish boils like tailgates! They're a great way to hang out with friends enjoying a day of good eats, drinks, and games.
THE INFAMOUS FRENCH QUARTER: You may already know about the powdered heaven beignets at Café du Monde and the nonstop party on Bourbon Street, and listen, those are important to see! Pro-tip: If you’re walking around the Quarter and someone bets you $20 that they can tell you where you got your shoes… spoiler alert - you got them on your feet!
- French Market: Take a walk through this outdoor space that combines farmer’s market, flea market, and more!
- Pat O’ Brien’s Bar: Not just a place to grab one infamous Hurricane (…one and only one. You may regret a second.) It’s also a great place to hang outdoors on the patio or sing along with their dueling pianos! Make sure to grab a professionally shot black & white photo for approximately $7 to remind you of all the memories you are sure to forget. I have an entire album of these gems to look back on: you can see my hair length go up and down, my waistline go in and out, and you can see every guy I ever dated… And now, the hubs and I always make a point to take a Pat O’s photo when we visit to keep adding to this album of memories and milestones! Happy to share this tradition with you to make your own if you decide to visit more than once!
- Felix’s: Here’s a pearl of wisdom, Felix’s is a must for oyster lovers. Walk in, stand at the bar, and just keep ordering one at a time until you’re done! If there’s a line, Acme across the street is also a great option!
- The Gold Mine: Late-night dance parties and Flaming Dr. Peppers!
In a city so rich with culture and history, there is literally something for everyone in this city! Beyond the food and music I dived into above, here are a few more stops I recommend:
- The National WWII Museum
- Ogden Museum of Southern Art
- The Old U.S. Mint
- Get weird at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
- Michalopoulos Gallery (go check out my favorite NOLA artist)
- Audubon Nature Institute/Audubon Zoo
- Looking for something more spooktacular? There is no shortage of haunted history, cemetery, and swamp tours! The ‘gators on the tours here love hot dogs.
I really could go on and on about the city I love the most, but that covers my top-ranked NOLA favorites! I hope you get to try a few of them and they become some of your favorites too. I’m beyond excited to set sail out of New Orleans, and as I've written this I'm reminded just how many things I love to eat and drink and do there! BRB, I’m going to go run a million miles so I can eat all the things. Can’t wait to get back!