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City Guide: New Orleans

By Andrew Harper Staff

The Harper Way | January 25, 2016

city guide main The latest addition to our City Guide series, this travel guide to New Orleans features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.

OVERVIEW TRAVEL TIPS HOTELS RESTAURANTS THINGS TO DO ITINERARIES EXPERIENCES TRIP IDEAS


 New Orleans City Overview

Talking about New Orleans seems like discussing a dear friend who has suffered a serious illness: He may look fine, but how is he really? The prognosis is mixed: Raw numbers indicate progress, but not a full recovery. The metro area is currently at 90 percent of its pre-Katrina population and the city itself at 77 percent.

Although some areas still show clear signs of desolation, we are happy to report that the French Quarter and Garden District are fully restored. In fact, after our most recent visit, we can say that the French Quarter has never looked so good — an opinion based on regular visits over the past 25 years. The streets are clean, buildings have been newly painted, and the street life is lively (especially, as you might expect, the jazz scene on Bourbon Street).

We were pleased to find many longtime favorite restaurants in robust health and we also discovered vibrant life in neighborhoods west of the Quarter, such as Magazine Street, which has become a thriving thoroughfare of boutiques and cafés. Frenchmen Street contains a wide selection of bars, restaurants and one-off shops, and the bars d.b.a. and The Spotted Cat offer terrific live music.


 New Orleans Travel Tips

When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in New Orleans

When to Visit New Orleans

February to May is the best time to visit New Orleans, which coincides with the most comfortable weather. If you are not planning to attend Mardi Gras, December to January can be pleasantly uncrowded. The summer can be extremely humid and hot, so plan your wardrobe accordingly.

Tastemaker Tips

Want to experience New Orleans like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industries.

Andrew Harper, Editor in Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel

Andrew HarperNew Orleans is justly renowned for its talented mixologists. The Bar Tonique hosts a friendly, mostly local crowd with just about everything made in-house except the spirits themselves; The Swizzle Stick Bar is more upscale than Bar Tonique but has a wonderful array of original drinks; The Sazerac Bar in the renovated Hotel Roosevelt is a splendid Art Deco room with a counter of polished African walnut where you can enjoy the drink for which the bar is named.

Thea Wall, Business Development, Windsor Court Hotel

For an authentic taste of the city’s French-Creole faire, visit Antoine’s Restaurant, the country’s oldest family-owned restaurant and birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller.

Katie Stone, Marketing Coordinator, Andrew Harper Travel

There is an awesome upscale brunch place in the Quarter called Stanley. Their gumbo with shrimp, oysters, chicken and andouille sausage is the best I've ever had, and the "Eggs Stella" Benedict dish with soft-shell crab is delicious. Also, it's right next to St. Louis Cathedral, so you have a great backdrop during brunch.


  Hotels: Where to Stay in New Orleans

The choices in New Orleans include an exceptionally pretty and ideally located hideaway and two full-service hotels at the edge of the French Quarter.

The Ritz-Carlton’s “Maison Orleans”

Evocative Club Level lodgings occupying a portion of the main Ritz-Carlton hotel, set within a 1908 Beaux Arts building fronting Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter and providing a taste of old New Orleans. The 74 exclusive rooms are accessed via a private elevator and are lavishly decorated with oil paintings, leather ottomans and mirrored armoires; marble-clad baths have deep soaking tubs and separate rainfall showers.

Windsor Court Hotel

Distinguished 316-room hotel near the French Quarter. As part of a comprehensive $22 million restoration, rooms and suites have been upgraded and redecorated in a traditional English style with French accents to reflect the city’s heritage and feature king-size beds and Italian marble baths. Many suites have private balconies, and the top four floors of the hotel house the Club Level rooms.

Soniat House

Charming boutique hotel ideally situated in the most atmospheric section of the French Quarter. The 31 lodgings are housed within several 19th-century Creole-style dwellings that open onto a leafy courtyard. Fanciful ironwork adorns spiral staircases and open galleries. The accommodations come with hardwood floors, ornate plasterwork, ornamental fireplaces, Oriental rugs, original paintings and an impressive mix of English, French and Louisiana antique furniture. Large, well-lighted baths provide both tubs and showers.


  Restaurants: Where to Eat in New Orleans

There is no place quite like New Orleans. With influences from France, Spain, Africa and the Caribbean, its food is the most distinctive regional cuisine in the United States.

Contemporary Creole and Cajun

August

John Besh’s flagship restaurant has a high-ceilinged main dining room, large windows, and chandeliers. On his ever-changing menu, you might see starters such as potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and black truffle, or his take on the classic crawfish etouffée with lemongrass and fermented pepper. Main courses could include roasted pompano with Louisiana blue crab and charred cabbage, or roasted duckling with hominy, tomatillos and blackened foie gras.

Cochon

Chef Donald Link’s restaurant is a celebration of pork, along with other Cajun staples. The airy space has rust-red walls and wood accents that create a sophisticated country ambience. The menu offers many small plates — the wood-fired oyster roast is superb. A section called “Boucherie” is devoted to pork dishes, including excellent ribs with a tart watermelon pickle and main courses such as the braised beef short ribs with horseradish potato salad. Closed Sunday.

Gautreau’s

Well off the tourist track, Gautreau’s is beloved by locals. The dining room has trompe l’oeil walls and is hung with antique French mirrors. Chef Sue Zemanick’s starters could include duck confit with pickled rhubarb, strawberries, arugula and hazelnuts, all dressed with a white balsamic-thyme vinaigrette. Main courses might be a Black Angus filet with Bordelaise sauce, spinach, oyster mushrooms and fingerling potatoes; or ginger-crusted halibut with bok choy, snow peas and crisped shiitake mushrooms in a lemongrass-miso broth. Closed Sunday.

New Orleans Classics

Bayona

A 200-year-old Creole-style cottage in the French Quarter is home to this ever-popular restaurant. Inside are three dining rooms, an intimate wine room and a lush courtyard where chef Susan Spicer serves her global cuisine. On her menu you will find starters such as goat cheese crouton with mushrooms in a Madeira cream, or grilled shrimp with a black bean cake and coriander sauce. Main courses might include chili-dusted duck breast and tamale with a rich Oaxacan mole sauce. Closed Sunday.

Brennan's

Very few pieces of news have made me as happy as the saving of this classic New Orleans restaurant, which faced near-certain demise owing to family dissension. And here it is, with a new coat of its signature salmon-pink paint and a renovated interior, including the exuberant Roost Bar and the elegant Chanteclair Room with hand-painted murals, all overlooking the serene garden courtyard. The restaurant became famous for “Breakfast at Brennan’s,” during which you’ll find classics such as turtle soup and eggs Sardou followed by bananas Foster, the famous dessert created here years ago. At other times, look for the New Orleans barbecued lobster with Creole-spiced butter, lemon confit and thyme, and smoked-pepper seared tuna. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Commander’s Palace

Commander’s is set in a Garden District mansion and is under the management of Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin. Tory McPhail continues the tradition of outstanding chefs. Among the appetizers, you’ll always find his rich turtle soup, as well as inventive takes on the Creole heritage such as oyster carbonara — lightly poached local oysters with bacon lardons, toasted garlic, English peas, linguine and a soft-poached egg. Among the best main courses is the pecan-crusted Gulf fish with Prosecco-poached Louisiana blue crabmeat, crushed corn sauce and spiced pecans.


  Things to Do: Sightseeing in New Orleans

Don't overlook these iconic sightseeing attractions while visiting New Orleans.

A Note About the Home of Jazz

In the home of jazz, it would be easy to spend every night in institutions such as Preservation Hall and The House of Blues. Here are smaller clubs I’ve come to enjoy: Palm Court Jazz Cafe is a friendly club with good Creole food and traditional music; Snug Harbor is a favorite of local jazz connoisseurs; Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse is a plush, contemporary space in the Royal Sonesta hotel that showcases top-tier talent; the Davenport Lounge in The Ritz-Carlton offers the city’s most civilized setting for live jazz. — Andrew Harper


  New Orleans Itinerary Suggestion

© Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Want to learn more about travel to New Orleans? Read our in-depth articles from The Harper Way, The Hideaway Report and Traveler Magazine on topics such as shopping, food, wine, art, culture and more.

Discover the best destinations around New Orleans as recommended by our team of well-traveled editors.

Stay tuned for more from our City Guide series, detailing what to do, eat and see, and where to stay, in Andrew Harper's favorite cities around the world.

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