Last weekend, we escaped the madness of the Austin City Limits festival in our hometown, and instead decided to take a delicious three day weekend in New Orleans. Having been to the Crescent City many times over the years, our goal this time was to try as many new and exciting restaurants and bars as we could find.
Thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, we were able to take an early morning direct flight from Austin to New Orleans, completely for free. That’s a savings of about $300 per person. Once we landed, we headed over to our hotel for this trip, the Four Points by Sheraton in the French Quarter, which we also booked completely for free on points. Cash rates for this hotel were running about $341/night when we booked, which means that with a points rate of 12,000 points per night, we managed a redemption rate of about 2.8 cents per point — a pretty good redemption that also put us in the heart of the tourist district.
All in all, thanks to using points instead of paying cash, we saved over $1,200 on this little three day weekend in New Orleans, which we were then able to spend on food and activities instead!
Despite arriving early in the morning, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that our room was already available. Being that I was traveling with both my husband and best friend on this trip, we opted for a room with two Queens instead of our usual King.
After dropping our bags, we were starting to get hungry, so we headed off for our traditional first destination in Nola: Jackson Square and Cafe Du Monde. There, we enjoyed two orders of beignets and cafe au laits all around, while being serenaded by street performers.
Hunger at bay, we decided to stroll around the French Quarter a bit, stopping in the cute shops and galleries and taking in the sights along the way. We wandered past the Joan of Arc statue (one of my personal favorites) and onto the French Market, which was decorated for Halloween.
After spending the morning walking around, we’d managed to work back up an appetite, and were ready to start imbibing some cocktails as well. We decided to spend our afternoon doing a “tiki tour” through the Quarter. We started at Port of Call, for a world class burger and giant rum-based cocktails.
Up next, we wandered over to a couple places that, despite promising names, were decidedly NOT tiki bars…lest you also be fooled, Aunt Tiki’s is just a dive bar, while Attiki’s is a hookah restaurant. However, we found the real deal at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29. There, we enjoyed the “Snake Versus Mongoose” — a group punch beverage adorned with a ton of fresh mint and very long, colorful straws.
Finally, we were hoping to visit Tiki Tolteca, but they were unfortunately closed for a private event. Instead, we swung by an old standby: the Crescent City Brewhouse for flights of their craft beer and a tasty cajun treat: fried alligator bites.
Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel and clean up for the evening. We had reservations at Shaya, which I was really looking forward to after hearing multiple positive comparisons between Shaya and Zahav, my absolute favorite restaurant in the world which we visited while in Philadelphia a couple years ago.
Everything we had was very good — in fact, my best friend said the hummus was the best she had ever had. However, I don’t think it quite rates up there with Zahav. This was certainly delicious food, and a great addition to the New Orleans dining scene. Zahav is just THAT good. And this didn’t quite compare.
After Shaya, we headed over to local bar Le Bon Temps Roule, with the hopes of catching the Soul Rebels live in concert. Unfortunately, we learned that they too had a private event that night, and would not be playing their regular Thursday night spot. We enjoyed a few cocktails and chatted with the friendly bar staff instead, then ultimately headed back to the hotel for a relatively early evening on the first night of our three day weekend in New Orleans.
We awoke for the second day of our three day weekend in New Orleans ready to check things out beyond the city, as well as to have some more great food. After sleeping in and enjoying some P.J.’s Coffee (so much better than Starbucks!) we headed towards the Central Business District to grab some lunch at Cochon Butcher. And we were pleasantly surprised — since the last time we’d been to New Orleans, Cochon Butcher has expanded and now offers a full bar and greater seating area for their deli/butcher shop/generally delicious offerings.
In addition to the above, we also had the boudin sausage and the pimento cheese sliders. As per usual, everything was absolutely delicious. This place is a New Orleans must-try.
Up next, we headed out on a tour of the many plantations surrounding the city. We got to drive by the locations where Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave had been filmed, and then got to get out and explore in more detail the Oak Alley and Laura Plantations. Both had extremely different stories, and it was an interesting look into the area’s history, and particularly as both plantations had once been owned by women, the unique place women held in Creole Louisiana.
After spending many hours on these largely outdoor tours in 90-degree weather, we were ready to cool off. So, we donned our bathing suits and headed down to our hotel pool, which was small but relaxing and nicely tucked away from the French Quarter craziness.
This was a perfect little break before we got ready for dinner in the Uptown area of New Orleans, at Toups Meatery. I’d wanted to visit Toups after being slightly enamored with Isaac Toups on season 7 of Top Chef. And his food did not disappoint!
There we tried a number of dishes including an absolutely amazing fried oyster appetizer, grilled artichokes with lemon butter, as well as a bone marrow dish topped with grilled calf heart. For main courses, we enjoyed a seafood dish, the Gulf Coast Couvillon, and a Venison dish with horseradish that was absolutely mouthwatering. Unfortunately, the lighting in Toups wasn’t very conducive to photos, but I did take a photo of one rare opportunity: after ordering the bone marrow appetizer, we were offered the chance to take shots of Irish whiskey out of the bone itself. Which, um, of course we did not pass up.
This was a really fantastic meal. Afterwards, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and head over to Vessel, a former church that now slings some of the best cocktails in town. But the building itself is also just really fantastic.
We enjoyed a nice nightcap along with some great conversation with the bartenders before ultimately heading back to the hotel and marking day 2 in the books.
The final day of our three day weekend in New Orleans dawned, and we headed back to P.J.’s Coffee for another jolt of caffeine goodness. We started our day early, in order to make it over to the New Orleans Botanical Gardens before it got too warm.
And we’re so glad we did! The New Orleans Botanical Garden is very well done — a great example of a Works Progress Administration public space. There was a sculpture garden, huge Oak trees dripping in Spanish moss, a vegetable garden, a Japanese Zen garden, a rainforest area. Lots to see.
After the gardens, we headed back to the Central Business District for brunch at Compere Lapin (which we knew from the previous day’s Plantation Tours was the name of traidtional West African folk tales that were brought to the South in the 1800s). And despite the fact that we’d had nothing but good food since we landed in New Orleans, this seriously may have been the best meal of our trip.
We started with the bottomless brunch punch, which was a delightful concoction of whiskey, hibiscus syrup, and pineapple juice. Between the table, we went through *several* of these flagons of punch, so I think it’s safe to say it really is bottomless. Then, our food arrived, and we were transported to an even higher level still.
In the above photo, you see the “bagel tartare” — a toasted Everything bagel topped with a sriracha cream cheese, tuna tartare, and an edamamde/cilantro/radish/wasabi salad. It was SO FREAKING GOOD. Next to that were the zucchini fritters, which were lighter and fluffier than any other such fritter I’d ever had. On the far right, we have the “hamachi donut”. This was a plain fried (but not glazed) donut, halved and stuffed with smoked hamachi, tomatoes, red onions, chive cream cheese, and salmon roe; again, it was outstanding. Finally, the bottom photo is an example of one of their brunch entrees featuring a specialty housemade Andouille sausage, fried eggs, and an arugula salad. Epic.
Having already had such a great time in the CBD, we decided to stick around and try a few more places we’d heard rumblings about. We first headed over to the St. James Cheese Company, where we ordered a 5-cheese board and a bottle of wine. Again, we were really impressed with the quality of everything we tried, and this was a fantastic spot for people watching. If you’re not into cheese, they also serve sandwiches and salads.
Having had our cheese, we also needed some more wine. So we headed over to the Wine Institute of New Orleans, where you can choose 1-, 2-, or 4- oz pours from a selection of well over 100 wines. The machines work on a special card that’s tied to your credit card, so you only pay for what you want to try, and can try a number of things in a small amount of time. What a great concept!
Finally, with our three day weekend in New Orleans winding to a close, we headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Despite the whirlwind nature of our trip, we had an absolutely phenomenal time, and literally every single place we visited was a real winner. All in all, it was another fantastic trip!
Where’s your favorite spot in New Orleans? Did I miss a great neighborhood hole in the wall? Tell me in the comments!