Claire’s Guide to NOLA

People are always asking me for my recommendations of what to do and, more importantly, where to eat while in New Orleans. Over the years I’ve developed a list that I circulate by email, so I’ve decided to give it a permanent home here on the blog.

I’ll help you out with locations as follows: FQ denotes French Quarter locations (French Quarter-adjacent is noted as FQ-ish), MBW denotes Marigny/Bywater, WD denotes the Warehouse District, and UT denotes Uptown. Beyond that, I trust that you’re capable of Google Mapping and finding your way.

FOOD

Coffee and Desserts
While becoming more common, you’ll have a tough time finding Starbucks here. Opt for PJ’s or CC’s for the local version, or try one of these great options:
Café Du Monde (FQ) for beignets & coffee -This is a requirement for your first visit to the city. If you leave without getting powdered sugar all over yourself you did it wrong.
Morning Call in City Park is a local favorite for beignets.
Croissant D’Or (FQ) is a lovely, quiet patisserie in the French Quarter
The Orange Couch (MBW) is probably my favorite coffee in the city, partially due to close proximity to my parents’ house.
Cake (MBW) is a great choice for a more substantial breakfast, and they do a great lunch (and fantastic cake, obviously)
La Divina (FQ/UT) for gelato, really, but they do coffee too. Make me happy and get an affogato.
Sucre (FQ/UT) is also really more about dessert than the coffee. Enjoy a macaron with your espresso, please.
Creole Creamery (UT) Earl grey ice cream.

Casual
Napoleon House (FQ) for lunch in the courtyard and a Pimm’s cup.
Willa Jean (WD) is a new spot, great for breakfast/brunch, or just stop in for coffee.
Mariza (MBW) is the family’s go-to for an easy night out. Everything is great, and you have to order the chocolate terrine for dessert.
Camellia Grill (FQ/UT) The go-to New Orleans diner. I grew up on their waffles, cheese omelets and chocolate freezes, and their burgers are great as well. The newer French Quarter location is a near replica of the original.
St James Cheese Co. (UT) for the best grilled cheese sandwich of your life. Order the gruyere sandwich, pop a lactaid, and stroll down the block to Creole Creamery.
District Donuts (UT) fantastic sliders, amazing donuts, something for everyone!

Nicer-to-Fancy
There are so many amazing restaurants in the city, it’s hard to go wrong. These are the ones I come back to over and over (and over).
Domenica (FQ-ish) is a John Besh favorite with a modern Italian menu. Order all of the vegetables. Trust me. Also notable: half priced pizza and drinks at happy hour.
Mr. B’s (FQ) is a classic, I’d equate it to the little black dress of restaurants. Dressed up or down it’s always a good choice.
R’evolution (FQ) is on the fancier end but well worth a splurge. Their house gumbo is almost as good as my dad’s, and that’s saying A LOT.
Coquette (UT) might be my favorite restaurant in the city. I fell in love over a bowl of corn soup one day and never looked back. The menu changes daily but you can usually find scallops, duck, or softshell crabs which will be excellent.

NIGHTLIFE
If you want the Bourbon Street experience I really can’t help you, just wander around and see what looks good that night. I will warn you that a hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s will give you the worst hangover of your life. One great thing about drinking in New Orleans is that you can take your drinks with you when you leave rather than chugging your bev when your group decides to wander – just ask for a go cup.
The Sazerac Bar (FQ-ish) is NOT a place where you will chug anything, because a Sazerac should take you at least half an hour to sip on. This is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink, particularly if you’re going to Domenica as they’re housed in the same hotel.
The Carousel Bar (FQ) is another classy establishment that is excellent for people watching, and there is an actual carousel in the bar so that’s fun.
The Delachaise (UT) is a favorite for a good glass of wine.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is a good spot on the far end of Bourbon St and supposedly the oldest bar in America.
Frenchman Street (MBW) is home to several jazz clubs, restaurants and bars on a very busy two block span. If you want to listen to live music, wander down thataway.

SIGHTS TO SEE
Just walk. Walk around the Quarter (Royal St. is my favorite), stroll down St. Charles and Magazine (UT), and see the city at an appropriately Southern pace. But when your feet get tired…
Take a streetcar from the French Quarter to Audubon Park and see some of the most beautiful homes in the city along the way.
Stray Boots combines a walking tour with a scavenger hunt. The uptown version combines some history, local color, and mild celeb/pro athlete stalking. Fun for the whole family! I actually did this as a first (and last…) date. You’re guaranteed to have something to talk about, which can be a godsend.
If you are up for a trip outside the city I’d recommend checking out the plantation tours. Oak Alley is the quintessential beautiful white column version, and just down the road Laura offers a different take with a rarely seen look into original slave quarters. There are tour services that will drive you there, but I’ve never used them so can’t vouch for any particular company.
Finally, some museum recs: The World War II Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Ogden are all worth a visit. If you have kiddos in tow I have fond memories of the Children’s Museum.
There are art galleries everywhere, so if that’s your thing take a walk down Royal (FQ), Magazine (UT), or Julia (WD).

FITNESS
Aside from your sightseeing strolls, you may be inclined to burn some calories. Or not, no judgment.
Reyn Power Yoga (WD) Held in a gorgeous loft space, these warm-not-hot classes will get you sweating. Say hi to my dad if you go, he’s a regular.
NOAC (FQ) will give you a day pass for $20 (allow time to sign in, check ID, etc.) Their yoga classes are less intense than Reyn’s and are held in the most amazing ballroom. They also do boxing, spinning, etc, and offer all your usual gym things, a pool, and a bar, because why not?
The Healing Center (MBW) hosts a number of small shops, restaurants, and a bare bones but friendly gym downstairs and a yoga studio upstairs.
If you’re up for a run, here are a few options:
The riverwalk path (FQ) is just shy of a mile if you cut into the Quarter and hit Esplanade. The earlier the go the better, you’ll be dodging tourists getting on and off the riverboats.
The Audubon Park loop is 1.8 miles. If you want more, either stretch it around the Fly for a full 5K or run up St. Charles Avenue and admire some really stunning homes on the way.

 

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