My wife and I just returned from our first trip to NOLA, but I can tell you right now that we are already planning to return next year.
We used POSH, and booked a Cadillac Escalade, and it was worth the $50 plus tip. Very professional and very comfortable drive from the airport to the French Quarter. Highly recommended.
We stayed at the Hotel Mazarin which located just south of Bourbon on Bienville. We booked a street balcony, and if I had it to do over again I would have chosen a courtyard view. Simply too much noise and we rarely used the very small balcony. The room was exceptional and very large. The bed was mushy, but it did not hurt either of our backs. Cleaning and service throughout ranged from acceptable to outstanding. The big draw of this hotel is the incredible hot breakfast served daily for free. Overall, these hotels represent a very good value, but understand it doesn't have a pool. If that's important to you, book elsewhere.
Day 1 (8/23/17)
Amendment 21 Bar:
Attached to the Hotel Mazarin is an upscale craft cocktail bar. This place made a better Sazerac than the namesake bar at the Roosevelt. My wife loved The Frenchy which was their take on the French 75.
Mr. B's Bistro:
Well, what hasn't been said about the BBQ shrimp? It lives up to the hype. My wife loved her pork chop, but thought the crab cake was overpriced. Service was top notch. Drinks were average. Go for the BBQ shrimp.
Right across from Mr. B's, and located at the Hotel Monteleone is the famous Carousel Bar. Loved it, but it is a tourist attraction as much as a bar so it's very busy at night. Still, very good drinks, and their Vieux Carre' will knock you on your bum.
The Spotted Cat Music Club:
Ah, heaven for audiophiles. This Frenchman St gem has the acoustics of a recording studio; indeed, many live recordings are made here. Antoine Diel and has band were playing, and they rocked the house. The bar is small, and place is packed, but it's worth every second if you love good sound and great live music.
Special Note: Take it easy with the drinks. You are in a marathon, not a drag race. We had a very long day getting to NOLA, and I was very excited. Classic rookie mistake. I paid for it in the morning, and never repeated it again during our stay. Get water with every drink.
Day 2 (8/24)
World War II Museum:
Humbling is the only word that accurately captures the awesome scope of this monument to the valor of The Greatest Generation. Everyone should visit once in their lifetime. Beyond All Boundaries is like an IMAX presentation on steroids. Go there.
Good Italian fare. I have had better, but in all fairness I was still a bit oozy from the previous night. Service was exceptional and unpretentious. I would describe the restaurant in that way; unpretentious, good food. Complimentary bruschetta was fine, veal meatballs were awesome, and the lasagna was delicious. Again, nothing special, but very satisfying; like a great home-cooked meal. Wine was not served in appropriate glassware which I found a bit odd, but the overall wine list is solid.
The Spotted Cat:
We returned to The Spotted Cat to see one of my favorite bands, The Jumbo Shrimp. Even though trombonist Colin Myers was not playing (sad face) the rest of the band was awesome. I just wish I had felt better (darn Vieux Carre') as it definitely hurt my enjoyment of their wonderful performance.
Day 3 (8/25)
I must say this restaurant must be one of the most unique places you could ever hope to dine. The building looks like something at an amusement park, but don't let that fool you. Once you enter the doors you are entering a culinary mecca. The first thing you notice is the service. If there is one thing that stands out its service, service, service. Customer comes first here. You are the boss, and as long you are act like ladies and gentlemen and dress appropriately I can't imagine a better place to eat. The food itself was very good to excellent. Turtle Soup was delicious, and the Wagyu Beef was delicious. Highlight for both of us was the Bread Pudding Soufflé. $0.25 martinis are not watered down. After lunch, we took a stroll through the restaurant, and my wife decides to just walk into the kitchen. Everyone looks at her, and the head chef comes from behind the counter and says, "Did you enjoy your meal?" Crazy. He autographed the menu, and we took pictures with him. Mind blown.
Roosevelt Hotel and Sazerac Bar:
After Commander's Palace we decided to take a taxi to this historic hotel in the Central Business District. My wife's parents stayed here on their honeymoon 58 years ago, and it was a kick for her to share photos with her Mom from the beautiful art deco lobby. The Sazerac Bar was a real treat (note: the drinks are very expensive). Having a Sazerac at the Sazerac Bar was a bucket list item for me, but I will admit that I have had better. However, the Ramos Gin Fizz is the real highlight here. Matthew, the bartender, did an amazing job, and that drink is worth every penny. He also did an amazing Aviation. I even had my shoes shined my Mike at his shoe shine stand in the hotel; very cool!
Arnaud's French 75 Bistro:
To end the day, we decided to do apps and drinks at this bistro located just north of Bourbon on Bienville, and just five minutes from our hotel. Their namesake drink is done with cognac, and in our opinion, is the best version in NOLA. The potato soufflé was so good we had two orders. Very fun place and excellent service.
Special Note: If we could pick our favorite day in NOLA this day would be it. Probably the best vacation day ever. We will be doing a repeat next year.
Day Four (8/26)
We did their $20.17 lunch. Of all the places we dined in NOLA, Antoine's is the one I most conflicted about. The place is very old and old school. We were sat in a gargantuan, nearly empty dining room. While this is a white tablecloth restaurant the tables resembled something I would see at a flea market. We had two waiters. The first was exceptional and enthusiastic. The second said two words, spilled ice on me twice, and was generally a brooding bouncer who is definitely in the wrong profession. In my opinion, the only thing this place has going for it is their oyster dishes; and they are incredible. Oysters Rockefeller and the Chargrilled Oysters were divine. The rest of the meal was probably reheated junk. We did the Cafe Brulot Diabolique for the show, and our good waiter did just that. I now see why they have cheap tablecloths and tables. We were given a tour by the good waiter, and the restaurant definitely has better places to eat than where we were placed. More people, too. In short, we would return for the oysters, but nothing else.
After Antoine's, we walked to The Spotted Cat to walk off our lunch and buy T-shirts for me and my son. Then, we decided to do some of NOLA's famous cocktails in the French Quarter. We started at Tujague's and had their delicious Grasshopper. The bar itself was not very nice, the bartender bored, and the patrons need soap to wash out their mouths, but we loved that drink. Next came Napoleon House for their famous Pimm's Cup. Frankly, I don't get the appeal of this drink. It is refreshing, but I would prefer either a traditional margarita or a cucumber martini, but that's just me. My wife loved it. The bar itself was small, but staffed by excellent bartenders. The building is amazing. Finally, we headed to Pat O'Brien's for their famous Hurricane. Very sweet, but very good. I could easily get in trouble drinking these.
Maison on Frenchmen St:
After a short rest at the hotel we decided to spend the night listening to music on Frenchmen St. The Maison was playing traditional jazz, and we got a great table. My wife had their amazing Bloody Mary, and she proclaimed it the best drink she has ever had. I stuck with their Hurricane's, and they were fine. The music was excellent. Suddenly, we were told the show was over, and he had to vacate like NOW!!!. That was startling. The place apparently turns into a proper club after 10:00pm, and that pretty much turned us off.
The Spotted Cat:
Back to our familiar haunt and heard some decent jazz, but nothing stood out. We decided to call it a day, but before that...
Ah, All That Jazz; enough said. The king of kings when it comes to sandwiches. I highly recommend you at least have one of these delicious, fat/gluten/vegetarian-friendly (not) creations once in your life. Cash only dive, but worth it.
Day Five (8/27)
Mass at St. Louis Cathedral:
I am a practicing Catholic, and this was quite an experience. I was expecting touristy interruptions, and a mass that lasted 30 minutes. Instead, the Archbishop performed a formal mass with multiple priests. The crowd was full of locals with a smattering of tourists, and everyone was very respectful. The choir had just returned from summer break, and with the acoustical space of the cathedral their voices were angelical. Amazing and I am glad my wife insisted we attend.
How can you not do Breakfast at Brennan's at least once in your life? It's a splurge, for sure, but we did the whole experience. For drinks, I had the Caribbean Milk Punch and my wife had a Bloody Mary. She liked mine better, and switched which I found strange, but she said the Bloody Mary was too strong. We shared their oysters to start, and they were fine (Antoine's does this better) I had Truffled Eggs and my wife had Steak Diane, both prepared table side, and both were absolutely delicious. Finally, we ended with their famed creation Bananas Foster, and it did not disappoint. Besides water being spilled on me from a different server (totally by accident) service was excellent; if a little stiff. What I find amazing is the casual dress of people. I wore a collared silk shirt and slacks, and I would have been considered overdressed. Crazy. Did not detract, but was somewhat shocking.
The Spotted Cat:
I saw that Dominick Grillo was playing so we ended the night with a draw-dropping performance from this tenor sax virtuoso. Also, had one of their cranberry mules. Excellent drink if you like mules.
Day 6 (8/28)
The first day it really rained was the day we need it to stay dry, but oh well. That's why you have umbrellas. We did the Lafayette Cemetery #1/Garden District Mansion Tour conducted by Free Tours by Foot. Even though it rained the entire time it was great because the temperature and humidity was perfect. Highlights included having the cemetery system explained in detail, seeing a black cat in the cemetery (creepy), and all the wonderful homes. A must do.
Our final meal was not the worst. It was one of the best. The restaurant is right across from Arnaud's and five minutes from our hotel. The place was packed to the rafters, and though the service was hurried it was always professional. Highlights included the lobster dumplings (OMG), the sheepshead, and their pork chop (my wife is not a fish fan). For dessert, I had the best chocolate martini ever made combined with white chocolate bread pudding. Amazing combo! Their wine list is very affordable and we did a nice rose' served in a proper glass. I would rate the value of this meal is off the charts for what you receive, and we will definitely be back.
The Spotted Cat:
How could we not end our trip here? Heard The Jazz Vipers, and they were very good. Perfect end to the evening.
If you notice one thing missing it's any mention of being on Bourbon St. It's simply not our scene, but I don't judge you if it's yours. And in fairness there are places on Bourbon that have a cool jazz vibe, but it's not Frenchmen St. Frenchmen St IS what New Orleans should be about: it's fun, friendly, and everyone we interacted with at the clubs was professional. As far as safety, take cabs or uber after 10:00pm. It's not expensive and it's cheap insurance. During the day, you can walk pretty much anywhere in the Quarter and feel secure though you will run into the occasional panhandler/homeless person. They were never pushy once you gave them a firm "No". Police presence is there, but don't count on that saving you on dark streets at night.
Finally, I must say we fell in love with the city, its people, its food, and especially the music on Frenchmen. Can't wait till next year!