After the last of the revelers have packed up the pink wigs and the feathered masks, and the last of the tossed beads have been swept from the glitter-littered streets, New Orleans becomes your perfect weekend destination. After the raucous Carnival festivities have died down, The Big Easy becomes just that. Here’s how to spend a long weekend in the Crescent City.
Arriving on Friday afternoon, head straight to John Besh’s brasserie Lüke on St Charles. Besh is an institution in New Orleans and the moment you arrive at his restaurant, you’ll understand why. This upscale restaurant has a happy hour from 3-6pm every day, when the raw oysters are $0.75 each and the New Orleans staple cocktail, Sazerac, is half-price and dangerous at $5.
From there, head over to the French Quarter for dinner in the cozy tin-ceilinged dining room at Sylvian or on a warmer night, in the twinkle-lit backyard. The storied location was inhabited by Madame Aunt Rose Arnold in the 1920s, who was immortalized in “A Meeting South” by Sherwood Anderson and rumored to be the muse for William Faulkner’s Miss Reba. It’s not hard to imagine this bygone era while you sip on a perfectly-poured vieux carre and indulge with the divine braised beef cheeks. If you’re in the mood to splurge—and by now you probably are—order the fries and champagne.
After dinner, go ahead and get it out of your system, spend a night drinking in the French Quarter. Start a few doors down on Chartres Street with a digestif at the gorgeous Doris Metropolitan bar, where they make a mean negroni and rosemary-scented steaks fill the air. From there, see where the night takes you: get a go-cup Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s or one of a hundred daiquiri flavors, and embrace the kitsch that is Bourbon Street. End the night on the edge of Bourbon at Lafitte’s Blacksmith bar, which dates back to the 1700s, and where they didn’t have electricity until a few years ago. Now the frozen drink machines serve up just about anything the drunken heart desires. You can thank the newly-arrived Uber for the ride home.
Sleep in. The only acceptable way to start the day is with beignets topped with a blizzard of powdered sugar and a mug or two of strong chicory coffee at Cafe DuMonde in Jackson Square. Walk off breakfast and your hangover with a stroll along the Mississippi River, down the new scenic Crescent Park walk that wends you over to the Marigny and into the Bywater.
You can’t escape the music of the city in the Marigny, and once you hit the famed Frenchman Street, you are likely to be greeted with a curbside horn section or an impromptu second line. For a night of jazz music, you can’t beat the laidback vibe at the quintessential lounge, The Spotted Cat, or for a rowdier, louder jazz scene, hit DBA where they have dozens of beers on tap and local legends like Trombone Shorty are known to play.
Three words: Brunch. At. Shaya. This modern Israeli cuisine gets influenced by much of the Middle East and beyond, and the culmination of so many rich flavors is brilliant. The curry-fried cauliflower hummus and the shakshouka are stellar, as is the lush dining room of white leather and crystal chandeliers. The only problem with lunch at Shaya is that you’ll want to come back for dinner.
You’ve seen the seedier parts of Nola, and now it’s time to move Uptown. Spend the day wandering the Garden District, where you can ogle the homes of Anne Rice, John Goodman and the Archie Mannings. Stop in the ancient Lafayette Cemetery and take a tour by a helpful local, it’s worth the $10 tip to hear about how the dead have been buried at sea level for centuries. Walk Magazine Street from end to end, stopping in men’s stores like Friend and the Billy Reid shop, which in addition to effortless clothing, has shopkeepers likely to offer you a tipple if you linger long enough.
Just when you think you’ve hit the end of the road, you’ve arrived at your culinary destination: Kenton’s at the corner of Magazine & Nashville streets. The husband and wife owners, Sean Josephs and Mani Dawes, also started Maysville in NYC, and have a welcoming manner that makes you feel as if you are dining in their home. The bourbon selection is vast, and the food is transcending. The fried oysters with pickled turnips and jalapeno aioli appetizer alone is worth the trip.
Sunday nights are for Bacchanal in the Bywater. This Sunday night tradition is the perfect way to cap off your weekend. Grab some after-dinner cheeses from the selection inside the storefront, and a bottle of wine from the cooler, then move to the backyard where music plays like the coziest, eclectic garden party. It’s weird and wonderful and sometimes wild, just like everything in this unforgettable city.