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A New Orleans sampler

A roundup of the latest places to eat, drink, see and stay in the Big Easy

The Big Easy. There’s no place anywhere quite like it. A zesty burg on the Mississippi River, it has informed the genres of jazz and blues, inspired legions of literature and safely guarded its unique traditions in the metaphorical treasure chests of generations of local families. New Orleans claims responsibility for the Sazerac (and a few other stellar libations) and serves up regional taste treats from jambalaya and po’boys to grilled oysters and muffulettas. Visit for three days and you’ll leave wanting to linger. Stay longer than that and you may find yourself a tad too satiated. Here’s a list of what’s new, sprinkled with a serving of must-do icons, too.


Glam gobbles

Long the place for locals to lunch on Fridays (they have a monthly tab) and referred to in any number of literary works (in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Stella invites Blanche to lunch here), eccentric Galatoire’s reigns as a top must-do gourmet adventure. The stuff of legends, Galatoire’s considers shorts a shocking transgression, expects men to wear jackets at dinner and will send you home and back into your closet if you wear the wrong shoes. Lunches here can last all day. And nobody, not even Scarlett O’Hara, gets in without standing in line.

Neighborhood bistro

To your health! At Salu, you’ll feel the meaning of the restaurant’s name (from the Latin verb salutaris) in its welcoming atmosphere. On Magazine Street amid the eclectic Irish Channel hood, this bar-style eatery, with a menu intoned by Mediterranean flavors, draws from New Orleans’ melange of heritages. House-infused vodka means extraordinary cocktails to match a huge variety of mussels and flatbread pizzas —all half-price during happy hour.

Milk punch mecca

Better than ever, beauteous Brennan’s Restaurant makes the nostalgia of mannerly days deliciously relevant. Swish and glittering with chandeliers and other Creole decor, the landmark breakfast you’ll eat here promises that getting up early after a night on the town is worth it. They’ll bring you a famous milk punch or the best bloody Mary you’ve ever imbibed to start — then you can slurp some turtle soup and nibble some egg yolk carpaccio to fuel the fire.

Alluring alchemy

Attached to the chic W, South of Bourbon, on a street not everybody traipses down, Sobou fizzes with funk. Embracing NOLA’s trendier side, the restaurant wins accolades for such sinful dishes as sweet potato beignets filled with foie gras, but it’s in the bar — where congenial Bar Chef Laura Bellucci lords over the spirits like the ultimate discerning Voodoo Queen — where magic happens.

Garden of Eden

What in the world does Israeli food have to do with laissez le bon temps rouler? At Shaya, absolutely everything. With small plates by James Beard winning wunderkind Alon Shaya, the cobalt blue interiors invoke a bit of Tel Aviv on Magazine. Come hungry for the best hummus you’ve ever had (I swoon over the curried fried cauliflower variety), but save room for plates such as slow cooked lamb with whipped feta, tomatoey shakshuka and Persian rice.

Obviously oysters

There will be a line at Acme Oyster House. But just stand in it. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself at the bar, with a shucker seducing you to oyster ecstasy. He’ll plop them artistically around the plate, back in the shell, then wait as you suck in the briny, juicy, plump goodness. With their own oyster beds, this institution dates back to 1910. Don’t like them raw? Go for the grilled oysters, capped with cheese.

Worship at the altar

Packed day and night, teeming with history, the al fresco Cafe Du Monde in the French Market serves hot, powdered-sugar-crowned beignets and milky mugs of chicory coffee 24/7. Bring cash and don’t plan to linger — there’s always somebody waiting for your table.

Cirque de Nola

Carousel Bar, a treasure within historic Monteleone Hotel, holds just 25 highly coveted seats. A brilliantly hued merry-go-round that spins slowly as you imbibe, the Carousel serves as metaphor for the city’s impetuous heart. Swill a Sazerac cocktail here and watch the world go by.

Regal tipple

Named more than 200 years ago after the Emperor Napoleon in the hopes that he might one day visit (he didn’t), Napoleon House, a crusty, slightly worn, totally authentic French Quarter-sited bar has stories to tell. Intuit them from the walls as you knock back its signature cocktail, the Pimm’s Cup, a refreshing gin and lemonade beverage sure to make the heat (seem) to disappear.


John Besh strikes again — this time with Willa Jean, which draws mobs for brunch. Rich and local, hearty and celebratory, this more-than-a-bakery serves indulgences such as blue-crab-covered biscuits, grits and eggs, brisket hash and slabs of succulent cornbread served with syrup. Thirsty? You have to have the f’rose y’all, a frozen rose libation sure to fuel your fire.

Tequila and tacos

Chef Richard Papier of Araña knows that you can’t eat Creole and Cajun every day. His taco bar on Magazine Street serves up Mexican cuisine with an interior flair meant to give your taste buds a diversion. Laid-back and saloonlike, the cafe offers everything from burritos to beef tongue tacos to Yucatan-style seafood delights. Tequila and mezcal flights go without saying.


Buggy bedfellows

Have you ever wandered through a termite gallery? Creepy crawlers will tickle your fancy at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. This science center provides insight for every member of the family. Put down your Sazerac long enough to watch the butterflies flutter and the roaches race — if just for a spell.

Artful diversion

For a change of pace, take the streetcar to City Park, one of the nation’s oldest urban parks. The 5-acre park triumphs with the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, a collection of 60 works of art, created by some of the world’s most evocative artists.

Veritably voodoo

On elegant Rue Royal, where you can also shop for jaw-dropping antiques (from canes to chandeliers to garnet jewelry), Erzulie’s beckons. Helmed by authentic voodoo practitioners, filled to bursting with spells and ritual kits, fetish dolls, soaps and spiritual perfume oils, the boutique proffers psychic readings and spiritual services. Need some advice? Ask for Ann.

The ultimate Dagwood

Just across from the French Market, the long-established Central Grocery may have invented the muffuletta, a towering sandwich layered with Italian-style cold cuts and cheese, then dolloped with the most piquant olive salad you’ve tasted — ever. A Crescent City tradition, this huge Dagwood is immense enough to be shared and perfect for soaking up the far too many cocktails you’re likely to gulp.


Detox dalliance

In an oasis of gurgling fountains and glittering chandeliers, the superior Ritz-Carlton Spa New Orleans, with 22 treatment rooms, beckons. Its Big-Easy-themed treatments keep you in a NOLA mood — try the Marie Laveau Voodoo Love Bath or a candlelit Voodoo Massage, where oils scented with absinthe, bourbon, moss, cypress and vetiver will transport and renew.

Courtyard coddling

Like mise en scène from a Tennessee Williams play, Soniat House presents sweet, long-treasured Southern hospitality. Composed of three landmarked French Colonial homes from the 1700s and a short walk from Bourbon Street’s bawdy buzz, this hotel hideaway delivers hot, fluffy homemade biscuits (and marmalade) to your room in the morning, via tuxedo-coated gentlemen, who pour your hot beverage from a silver pot. Modern amenities, antique furnishings, a secret-gardenlike courtyard and a house cat provide a tranquil corner amid the French Quarter’s high-octane antics.

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