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New Orleans

French Quarters Building

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

Walking through the vibrant New Orleans of today, it is easy to forget that not long ago, many people wondered whether the city was even salvageable. After Hurricane Katrina, there were serious calls to transform New Orleans into a Colonial Williamsburg-style theme park. Thankfully, other ...

Walking through the vibrant New Orleans of today, it is easy to forget that not long ago, many people wondered whether the city was even salvageable. After Hurricane Katrina, there were serious calls to transform New Orleans into a Colonial Williamsburg-style theme park. Thankfully, other voices prevailed, and the city reemerged as a real place, not one entirely dependent on tourists. 

In many respects, the Big Easy is better than ever — an opinion based on regular visits over the past 25 years. The streets are clean, buildings have been repainted, the street life is lively (especially, as you might expect, the honky-tonk scene on Bourbon Street) and the justly renowned restaurant scene has dozens more options than before. Frenchmen Street contains a wide selection of bars, restaurants and one-off shops, and there is animated life in neighborhoods west of the Quarter, such as Magazine Street, which has a thriving thoroughfare of boutiques and cafés. A recommended stop is the thoroughly engrossing National WWII Museum, set in the revitalized Warehouse District. Jazz clubs jump with everything from traditional Dixieland to more experimental contemporary music (the bars d.b.a.Snug Harbor,  Palm Court Jazz Café and Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse offer terrific live music programs).  

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in New Orleans

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in New Orleans

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” devoted to pork dishes, including excellent ribs with a tart watermelon pickle; and main courses such as the Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins and pickled turnips. Closed Sunday.

930 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans $55 http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/

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 pepper jelly, Swiss chard, black-eyed peas and cornbread croutons. Main courses might be a Black Angus filet with sauce Bordelaise, spinach, crispy garlic potatoes and pickled shallots; or sautéed halibut with lemon beurre blanc gnocchi, artichokes, Castelvetrano olives and roasted red peppers. Closed Sunday.

1728 Soniat Street New Orleans $70 http://www.gautreausrestaurant.com/

For more than 100 years, Galatoire’s has been a French Quarter institution. The ground-floor dining room is as lovely as ever, with its tiled floors and elegant green fleur-de-lys wallpaper. The Oysters Rockefeller are fresh, plump and topped with Herbsaint-flavored spinach. Watch for main courses such as the legendary sautéed fish with crabmeat Yvonne, both the fish and the crabmeat sautéed in butter and a delicious mixture of mushrooms, artichokes and onions. Closed Monday. Jackets required after 5 p.m.

209 Bourbon Street New Orleans $65 http://www.galatoires.com/

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 crispy pompano with Royal Red shrimp, citrus and Swiss chard; or roasted duckling with lentil, charred cabbage and foie gras jus. 

301 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans $75. Five-course tasting menu, $100 http://www.restaurantaugust.com/

Not long ago, this classic New Orleans restaurant faced near-certain demise due to family dissension. And now here it is, with a new coat of its signature salmon-pink paint and a renovated interior, including the 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 the famous dessert created here years ago, bananas Foster. At other times, look for the New Orleans barbecued lobster with Creole-spiced butter, lemon confit and thyme; and smoked-pepper seared tuna. 

417 Royal Street New Orleans $60. Breakfast, $45 http://www.brennansneworleans.com/

Commander’s Palace 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 Creole heritage such as blue crab gratin of French triple-cream cheese and jumbo crab lumps with braised leeks, fennel, artichokes and buttery skillet bread. Among the best main courses is the pecan-crusted Gulf fish with Prosecco-poached Louisiana blue crab meat, crushed corn sauce and spiced pecans. 

1403 Washington Avenue New Orleans $70. Seven-course chef's menu, $105 http://www.commanderspalace.com/

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