Editor’s note: Lauren Greenberg and her husband run a boutique digital agency called Work in Progress. She also represents emerging artists through an online gallery of the same name. They currently split their time between New Orleans and Austin, making her an unmatched expert in all things food, fun, and good vibes.
New Orleans holds a special place in our hearts. On our 10 year anniversary, my husband and I got married at the courthouse and immediately hopped on a plane to celebrate our nuptials there. It quickly became our favorite destination outside of our hometown of Austin. After countless trips and new friendships, we purchased a house last year and officially became part-time residents of the Crescent City. We love hosting friends and this guide includes our ‘eat and drink everything possible’ spots for the perfect weekend trip to New Orleans.
My favorite way to start the weekend is a visit to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The impressive outdoor space contains works by Rodin, Kapoor, Hepworth and Magritte. After an inspiring walk through the garden complete with lagoons and Spanish moss-draped oaks, grab some beignets and chicory coffee that rival those of Cafe du Monde’s at Morning Call for the quintessential New Orleans breakfast.
To sample another one of the city’s most iconic dishes, head to Parkway Tavern for po-boys and Dixie beer for lunch. I prefer the fried shrimp, but the surf ‘n turf is a great way to sample both shrimp and roast beef. It’s hands down, one of the best po-boys in town. As an alternative, I highly recommend the nearby Marjie’s Grill. It’s a casual Southeast Asian-inspired menu with some of the best grilled shrimp I’ve ever had. Just around the corner is the Drifter Hotel with a Palm Springs aesthetic pool and bar. It’s a little off the beaten path with a very bohemian clientele. The clothing optional rule and oversized disco ball over the pool keeps things free-spirited.
Next, head to the Garden District and hop on some bikes for a post-lunch ride. Blue Bikes are an affordable and easy option. Begin at Commander’s Palace and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, established in 1883 and featuring above-ground tombs. Continue down one of the neighborhood streets on either side of Magazine Street (stopping to shop along the way!) toward Audubon Park. It’s just across from Loyola and Tulane universities with a golf course, zoo, and 2 mile paved loop. You can always hop on the St Charles streetcar to head back downtown and leave your bikes in the park for the next rider to pick up.
We’re lucky to call Bouligny Tavern our local neighborhood bar. There’s always vinyl playing in their Mad Men-inspired interiors. It’s the perfect pre-dinner cocktail spot. Next, head further down Magazine Street for dinner at one of our absolute favorites, Coquette. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this restaurant. It happens to be where we first dined as a married couple, but (despite my personal bias) it’s arguably one of the best meals in town. The ever-changing menu features innovative concepts and locally-sourced ingredients without the pretension you often find in upscale experiences. You will not regret their 5 course blind tasting either.
If you’re still up for more, head to the Thursday night show of The Soul Rebels brass band at Le Bon Temp Roule. It’s a total dive bar open 24/7 and depending on the time of year can be slammed with Tulane students, but it’s totally worth a visit. The Saint is another neighborhood dive with late night DJs and dancing that often leads to an exceptionally late night out.
There’s a lot of hype around Turkey and the Wolf, but for good reason. The fried bologna sandwich is mind blowing and while it’s not technically brunch I would highly recommend making this meal both your breakfast and lunch. Before there was T & the W, there was Stein’s Deli which is still a go-to for reubens and bagels (as well as the perfect hangover cure if you happened to go to the Saint.)
After brunch, visit Lower Garden District shops like vintage boutique Saint Claude Social Club, local sunglass company Krewe, and interiors store Sunday Shop. Be sure to check out the artwork of two local artists Leroy Miranda Jr. and Ansley Givhan.
Next, head to the Quarter and start your day at Jackson Square. It’s the epicenter of tourists outside of Bourbon Street, but it’s a beautiful landmark. We always take guests to the iconic Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone for the novelty of a bar that actually spins or the beautiful interiors of Brennan’s thanks to a 20+ million dollar renovation a few years ago. The best part of strolling around the Quarter is taking your drink in a ‘go cup’ and meandering down Royal Street for the art galleries and antiques. Tuck into A Gallery for Fine Photography for a truly impressive collection of contemporary work by world-renowned artists. When you’re ready for another nibble, head to Cane & Table for some afternoon snacks. Their Caribbean-inspired menu and interiors are a nice reprieve from the ultra touristy Decatur Street.
There’s plenty to keep you busy in the Quarter (including late-night karaoke and Gene’s Poboys), but if you’re interested in an oyster-filled dining experience, head to Péché or Seaworthy in the CBD. I love the gulf oysters at both as well as their raw bar options. Don’t miss the steak tartare or whole grilled redfish at Péché and the lobster roll and ‘Holy Water’ at the latter.
A nightcap at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel is a classic option especially during the holidays when the lobby is adorned with thousands of Christmas lights. If you’re staying Uptown, take the elevator up to the Hot Tin Roof at the Pontchartrain Hotel for one of the best views in the city.
If you’ve never Jazz brunch-ed, it’s worth making a reservation on Sunday. Commander’s Palace is one of the most hospitable restaurants with an entirely too decadent menu. (Check out the recipe for their famous creole tostada here). There’s also turtle soup with sherry, pecan roasted gulf fish and the infamous bread pudding soufflé, but even more memorable is the jazz band making the rounds during your meal. It’s a special occasion place and definitely uniquely New Orleans.
If you’re not in dire need of a nap at this point, make your way up to the Garden District via Saint Charles for a lovely walk down the avenue toward the Columns Hotel. The veranda on this Italianate mansion is a lovely place to post up and watch the streetcars go by.
For a final night in the Crescent City, I love to take our guests to the very end of the Bywater neighborhood to a wine shop/bar called Bacchanal. Housed in a 200 year old building, you first purchase your wine in the shop, grab an ice bucket & glasses and head out back where there’s live music every night. It’s one of my favorite things to do even on the balmiest of nights. In recent years, it’s more common to see a long line of patrons waiting to get in so another nearby option is n7, a French neighborhood restaurant with a slightly secret entrance. No live music, but an enchanting spot with a twinkly lit courtyard that might as well be in the south of France.