At the beginning of February I met up with two of my best friends in New Orleans, LA to celebrate 17 years of friendship. While the trip didn’t fall on our anniversary (you better believe we have one!), we wanted to make it a celebration of our relationship and strove to create an awesome long weekend of fun, friends, and so much food! Spoiler alert: we were successful! The three of us are scattered in different cities around the United States now (Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Philadelphia, PA) and we picked New Orleans since it was kinda-sorta in the middle.
I’m splitting this post into the cliff notes of where we ate and what we did as well as a larger journal of our trip below. That way you can find the quick hits or read about all the details! I’m wordy, so this is going to be a long one!
Where to Eat in New Orleans
- Bywater Bakery – a lovely little bakery that felt very local. I loved the red building and the scones were delicious! We went here our first morning and were delighted by the jazz music playing on the stereo and the funky, fun interior design.
- Elizabeth’s – a nice local joint serving ginormous plates of creole brunch, we devoured half the menu! The restaurant is colorful, fun, and very New Orleans. Hidden away in the Bywater neighborhood, it was a fun destination for a morning walk.
- Paloma Cafe – a quite and pretty little cafe with amazing food, but not great service. The chia seed pudding was to DIE FOR, but the wait staff was watching youtube videos on their phones and uninterested in any of their customers.
- Cafe Du Monde – famous, touristy spot, a NOLA must, known for their beignets. We were able to walk right in on a weekday, but by the weekend the line wrapped around the corner.
Cafe Beignet – a less well known beignet cafe with even yummier beignets than Du Monde! I wanted to try at least one other beignet to compare to Du Monde and was so happy I did! This one had a better crunch and the restaurant was far less crowded.
- The Country Club – a fun, hopping joint with amazing food, fabulous design, delicious cocktails, a pool, and a famous Saturday Drag Brunch. The interior design was delightfully spontaneous and exciting, they definitely pushed boundaries with great results. I oooo-ed and ahhh-ed all over this place!
- The Elysian Bar – the Elysian Bar is part of the newly opened Hotel Peter & Paul, they have everything from breakfast to dinner, a delightful spread of cocktail options, and one of the best and most relaxing atmosphere’s of anywhere I’ve ever eaten. We stopped for a mid-morning break and everything we ate and drank was amazing.
- The Station Coffee Shop & Bakery – a cute coffee shop with delicious chai and quick snacks. A great place to stop and relax on their outdoor benches enjoying the sunshine.
- The Ruby Slipper – a good brunch spot with a menu full of classics with a southern twist. Everything is huge, filling, and worth a try.
Lunch / Dinner
- N7 – we went here for our first dinner in New Orleans and it did not disappoint! We split a number of small plates between the three of us and loved absolutely every single one of them. This is a good place to make reservations for, as it’s small and we just barely squeezed in after a 30 min wait. It was well worth it for the delights of the menu though!
- The Elysian Bar – we went here for dinner on our third night in New Orleans after walking by a couple of times. Boy, were we glad we stopped. The food was AMAZING, the atmosphere STUNNING, and the service EXCELLENT. Definitely my favorite place we went all weekend!
- Auction House Market – this was such a fun place to visit! With a number of different restaurants inside, everything looked delicious, and it was so hard to decide what to choose! There was Indian, Thai, empanadas, seafood, coffee, macaroons, the whole shebang! A great place for a group, because the tables for each of the food vendors are shared, so everyone can order what they are in the mood for and then all sit together.
- Bacchanal Wine – a New Orleans classic, I knew we couldn’t make the trip without stopping here. We listened to live jazz outside and snagged a table right next to the stage. We sat late into the evening enjoying our wine and snacks (hard to believe we snacked after everything we’d already eaten that day, but the food looked too good to pass up!). We waited in line about 30 mins as the bouncer let groups in and it would definitely be a good idea to arrive and plan for a full dinner here. Nothing like music under the stars and a garden full of twinkly lights!
- The Rum House – we stopped here after a long day of walking for an afternoon cocktail and a big plate of nachos. We devoured the huge mound of nachos so quickly and it was delicious! The drinks here are strong, large, and island inspired. What else could you want?
What to Do in New Orleans
- Walk Around – we stayed at an AirBnB right on the border of St. Claude and Bywater, our favorite thing to do each day was walk from there to and from our various destinations. The architecture and culture of New Orleans was so beautiful and readily apparent during our walks. I’d highly recommend spending a day wandering through the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods enjoying the architecture and various street murals!
- Do a Walking Tour – we did this free self guided walking tour of the Faubourg-Marigny neighborhood which was so much fun and incredibly informative. Armed with the knowledge gained from that tour, we were better able to navigate the city with an understanding of its architecture and history. A few days later we did another free walking tour — this one guided — looking at the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and the Garden District Mansions. This felt very informative at the Cemetery, but after that it was more pointing out which celebrity owned which mansions and a bit less historical / architectural information. We enjoyed both walking tours immensely!
- Wander Magazine Street – there are lots of fun shops and eateries on this street and it’s far less touristy than the French Quarter
- City Park & Besthoff Sculpture Garden – we enjoyed wandering through City Park and ended up renting one of those bike pedal powered carts! We squeezed the three of us on the seat with some strategic angling of our hips and pedaled off and away through the park and by the sculpture garden. It was tons of fun and a great way to cover a large portion of the park and save our poor, sore feet for afternoon walks!
- New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum – more of a series of shrines with some informative papers framed nearby than a true historical museum, this tiny space was still a fun place to see and leave an offering to the voodoo masters for good luck!
- Walk through Jackson Square by the St. Louis Cathedral and over to Bourbon Street – this is the home of the tourists of New Orleans, but still worth a gander! The square is right near the river and the Cathedral overlooks it on the opposite end. It’s quite stunning and completely packed with people! Bourbon Street might be better known as Disneyland for drunk adults. I truly haven’t walked anywhere that felt more like an adult version of a college frat party! It was rocking! Music pours out of all the venues (we heard more hip hop and pop than jazz, by far) and crowds of various intoxication fill each club, spilling out onto the street. There were tons of bachelor and bachelorette parties and everyone was celebrating something! We navigated the crowds — making our way to get frozen daiquiris — and wandered through briefly, but mostly avoided this area.
- Wander down Frenchman Street – we had a ton of fun walking through this area which felt more like an authentic experience. We wandered into a couple clubs and listened to jazz. There are lots a good looking restaurants and fun shops!
Our Trip to New Orleans
Hannah and I booked tickets separately to arrive in Portland late Thursday evening. We figured whoever got their first could hang around the airport and then we’d uber together to our AirBnb. Claudia (is in med school) had a big test on Friday and wouldn’t arrive until that evening. Thus Hannah and I planned to get the lay of the land and figure out everything we wanted to do while we were there, before Claud arrived. We were all so excited!
I was flying through Dallas on the way there and actually arrived at PDX only about 35 mins before my flight boarded since I’d been running late at work. Luckily, PDX is a breeze to get through. I made my way through security, grabbed a chai, stopped to use the restrooms, and read four pages of my book before the flight attendant began boarding at the scheduled time. Off to a good start!
I sent a quick text to Hannah and Claudia to let them know my good fortune and mentioned I was flying through Texas. Hannah replied that she was also flying through Texas. Turns out we had the same final leg! Even better! We chatted with the flight attendant and swiched from two middle seats to the back row of the plane which was empty. There we could sit and chat and catch up! It was really like something out of a movie.
We grabbed an uber and headed to our AirBnb in the St. Claude neighborhood of New Orleans, just a couple blocks from Bywater, which my research had told me was a cool, fun area. Our uber driver didn’t think so, though, and as we got out of the car, told us to “be careful and not walk around at night!” Hmmm… not the best thing to hear before arriving at your Airbnb! We then unlocked the 7 locks on the door (also confidence boosting!) and made our way inside. It was totally pleasant, thank goodness! We pretty much just locked our seven locks and crashed into our beds.
I didn’t sleep very well. Since I’d found the AirBnb, the uber driver’s words haunted me, and I hoped I hadn’t steered us wrong! Luckily, when we woke the next morning and the light was out, we ended up feeling completely fine about our surroundings! The houses in our neighborhood were not all fancy, but they were certainly all pretty cute!
That Friday morning, we headed to our first destination in New Orleans: the Bywater Bakery where we split a savory pastry and grabbed a coffee and a chair. The place was charming, right from the minute you saw the poppy red building! Inside, jazz was playing on the stereo and the design had a collected and found vibe that was very authentic feeling.
From there, we wandered further through Bywater, exclaiming at all the colorful houses and taking one thousand pictures of buildings and the many beautiful murals in the neighborhood!
I also became entirely obsessed with the lanterns of New Orleans, THEY ARE GAS LANTERNS, Y’ALL, AND THEY ARE FLICKERING ALL DAY! I have never seen gas lanterns on houses or commercial buildings before, they look magical! And so old world feeling! There is apparently a factory in New Orleans that makes them and when I was taking the below picture the woman who owned the house pulled up in her car and told me about it and said it was worth checking out. Unfortunately our schedule didn’t allow for it, but I wish we’d gotten the chance to take a peek!
Eventually, we ended up at Paloma Cafe, also in Bywater and got lunch. We loved what we ate here! I had veggie tacos and Hannah got a biscuit with an egg. We split a chai seed pudding with bananas and toasted coconut which ended up being our favorite thing! Although our food was fantastic, we were a little surprised at how slow our service was at the nearly empty restaurant, which had three waiters and three customers. It felt a little awkward! The staff was literally ignoring us and watching videos together on their phones until one of the chefs came out and literally, physically pushed one of them over towards us to take our order, about 25 minutes after we’d first sat down.
After lunch, we wandered into the Marigny neighborhood and did an awesome little self-guided walking tour, which resulted in seeing more adorable and colorful houses! Hannah was sure I’d conned her into taking an architectural tour, and while it was definitely architecture focused (as most city tours are!), we learned a ton about the both the neighborhood and the larger city of New Orleans.
We learned about the differences between Creole style houses and the Victorian American houses. This cutie is a Creole, which has a more simple design and traditionally would be red, blue and yellow.
More of what you’d expect to see in New Orleans, is the Victorian American style house with the detailed ironwork. We saw lots of these too. I was gaga for both! So many buildings here are great punchy colors too. It’s so refreshing to see a sea of color in a city rather than just one shade of greige after another!
Following our tour of the neighborhood, we meandered through some of the shops along Frenchman street before walking to the French Quarter. There, we stopped for the classic beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde. They were delicious and just what we needed before continuing on with our adventures that day!
From there we walked through Jackson Square and by the St. Louis Cathedral. The French Quarter was strikingly different from Bywater and the Marigny, since it was PACKED with people (mainly tourists), where as the other neighborhoods we’d walked around felt strangely quiet (almost eerily so!). We’d spend the morning remarking on how few people we’d seen wandering around, and now that we were in the French Quarter we could barely walk down the packed sidewalks!
We walked up to Bourbon Street and while I’m not sure what I expected, I didn’t expect to see what we found. Like the best Disneyland for alcoholics, the street was lined with bars and clubs blasting jazz, hip hop, and pop music and packed with people day-drinking and gyrating on the dance floor. It felt like one giant college party, but the median age was closer to 40! We grabbed some daiquiris to-go and wandered the street (it’s legal to drink on the street there!). We weren’t really ready to party after walking all over the city. So we left soon after getting our drinks and ended up walking around Louis Armstrong Park, before heading to Rite-Aid and picking up new insole inserts for our shoes (poor sore feet!) and then walking back to St. Claude.
We passed by a cute little place called the Elysian Bar on the way home and noted we needed to stop there for a drink during our trip.
Claudia’s flight was delayed so she arrived a couple hours after we’d gotten back to our AirBnb. We let her settle into the house for a few minutes before we all headed out for a late (9:30pm) dinner at N7 which was just a few blocks away. Oh my goooood, was that food delicious. We sat inside and it was fairly dark, so I didn’t get a great picture of our food, but everything was mouthwateringly delicious! We ended up splitting a bottle of wine and about 5 small plates and our favorite was a kabocha pumpkin and daikon tarte tatin. It was smooth, rich, and just melted in your mouth. Soon after our meal, we went to bed, full, happy, and exhausted with sore feet!
The next morning we woke up and all crawled into bed together chatting, before we finally got ready, and headed out for breakfast. We made it to Elizabeth’s in Bywater by about 11am, showing Claudia all the cute houses we’d found the day before along the way.
From there we headed back to Cafe Du Monde and Jackson Square so Claudia could revel in some of the madness and eat a beignet (oh my god, did we eat on this trip!), before we hopped into a Lyft to go to the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for our guided tour. I was so glad we did the tour! We learned so much about the famous New Orleans cemeteries and all about how the dead are buried in this old city! These tombs hold hundreds of bodies and utilize solar heating to increase the rate of decomposition, allowing multiple generations of multiple families to be buried together. The tombs are beautiful and some are very well restored, but I love the patina on the slowly decaying tombs!
From there our tour headed into the Garden District looking at some of the various mansions that are homes to celebrities like Sandra Bullock and John Goodman. The houses in this area are so beautiful and large with nice big yards and such beautiful detailing!
Our tour guide was able to tell us some interesting historical and pop cultural facts (like showing us the house where Drake shot the music video for “In My Feelings”). I ate up all the pretty houses and could have walked around this neighborhood for ages staring at all the wonderful detailing!
My very sore feet prevented us from looping around the neighborhood endlessly though and we walked from the cemetery to Magazine Street (admiring all the cute houses along the way of course!). Again, I simply couldn’t get enough of the use of color in the city! So many fun color pairings and striking contrast!
On Magazine Street, we found the Rum House and grabbed a table. We ordered three very over the top cocktails and sipped them quickly as we devoured a huge plate of nachos, suddenly ravenous after walking around all day! It was late afternoon and we had plans to meet up with one of Hannah’s friends (who lives in the city working for Teach for America) around dinner time. We held ourselves to just nachos at the Rum House (knowing dinner was coming up soon!), before walking around Magazine Street.
Of course, there were a number of cute buildings on this street as well! The picture below is actually from the French Quarter, but everywhere we walked I simply drooled over all the amazing, colorful, and unique old homes! From a design perspective, this city is spectacular!
Hannah’s friend, Meg, met up with us on Magazine Street and we all headed downtown with her and parked near Auction House Market. I used to work above a similar style market, so I was very excited to check this place out!
It did not disappoint and everything we ate was delicious! We each ordered different things from different vendors and shared occasional bites with each other. I was very tempted to get Indian Street Food from Tava, but ended up with vegetarian ramen from Long Chim Thai. It was a bit lighter fare and exactly what my still-full belly needed! We were all absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal!
The restrooms at Auction House Market were super cool too! I just love when designers go the extra mile in these more utilitarian spaces. Why let a restroom be boring when it can be fantastic?!
Meg was so sweet and drove us from Downtown all the way to Bywater to drop us off at Bacchanal even though she was headed in the opposite direction. It was just too kind and so generous! We waited in line on the sidewalk outside the club for about 30 minutes, reveling in the perfect not too hot / not too cold / all you need is a light sweater kinda weather. Perfect for listening to outdoor jazz! Once the bouncer let our trio inside, we bought a bottle of wine that Hannah picked out (our team wino).
At first, we drank our glasses standing at one of the hightop tables in the left corner of the garden, but we were super full, and standing was not aiding our digestion. After about 10 minutes, I spotted a group getting up from a table to the immediate right of the stage and dashed over to secure our new seats! From there we got a great, up-close view of the stage and happily listened to the music as we sat, contented, satiated, and exhausted. It was loverly!
After a bit I wandered up to the window and ordered us pana cotta, because what day is complete without dessert? Even though all of us were full, we finished every last bite and cursed our very full stomachs from holding us back from procuring a cheese plate! We ubered home late that night and fell into bed at our AirBnb. It had been a perfect day and an even better evening.
The next day was Sunday and we had things to do! Mostly: places to eat. We started out the day at The Country Club. We were sad to miss their Saturday Drag Brunch, but since reservations had sold out weeks beforehand, we wouldn’t have made it anyways. The spot did not disappoint, even without the entertainment! The design was overthetop fabulous! And the food was delicious. I loved the huge floral mural in the dining room.
And the bathrooms were absolutely gorgeous and oh so fun! Wallpaper! Dark green trim! Neon, water bubble art! Green subway tile! Brass! Marble! YES, PLEASE! This is what I want to see more of in commercial design! I find spaces like this to be like dessert for the eyeballs, so inspiring and exciting. The baseboards in this bathroom were like 20″ high. Yum.
Basically, go to the Country Club just to delight in the design! Each room was different, exciting, and just completely stellar. I love dramatic design that makes you smile and so I just adored this place!
Since we rarely made it out of our AirBnb before 10am, by the time brunch was over it was already close to noon. We ubered up to City Park with the intent to wander through and check out the Sculpture Garden. A short ways into the park, however we found the bicycle cart rental and signed our names up. We hopped into a cart and with Claudia at the wheel, began our ride through the park. I attempted to read a walking tour of the park as we pedaled, but it went far slower than we cycled and we got rather confused throughout. We stopped and enjoyed the views along the ride though and took many a selfie with our cart!
It was cool to see how swampy the park was on the bayou and although I was hoping to spot an alligator or two, we must have missed them! It was just so fun to see how different the environment was here from all of our home towns. The Spanish moss felt very southern!
Eventually, we returned the cart to the the rental place and decided to walk back to properly look at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. We wandered through, chatting constantly, and taking pictures of the fun art we found. It was so lovely to be able to check this all out for free! What a great public offering in a local park.
After, walked to the Station, to refuel ourselves up, drinking chai and eating various snacks. Then we ubered back to the Marigny and walked around, stopping at various shops along the way. We particularly enjoyed, Blue Dream, a little vintage clothing shop with several great jewelry artists.
We soon ended up back on Frenchman Street where we sipped more cocktails and listened to jazz for an hour or two before heading to the Elysian Bar for dinner. The place is stunning inside and out. It’s all housed in a former church / school / rectory / convent and they’ve done a wonderful job with the restoration while incorporating so much fun design!
LOOK AT THIS PLACE. IT MAKES MY DREAMS COME TRUE. And that’s a bad iPhone shot because the focus on my real camera was messed up on every picture I took with it! Think about how much more amazing this space must be in reality! Don’t cha want to just sit and play a game of cards here and win hundreds of dollars?
The whole Hotel Peter and Paul is owned by the same group at Bacchanal and although they have totally different vibes, there is no debate that both places are absolutely lovely.
We ordered more cocktails and split more small plates (noticing a trend?) and I pretty much died wandering through the restaurant and looking at all the wonderfully detailed, interior design. And the food was as amazing as the architectural design!
I tried to not look too weird taking 100000 pictures of the interiors, but now I wish I’d taken more shots! Mine were mostly quick, not white balanced, and slightly out of focus. Dang it! You simply have to check them out online though. And if you’re visiting New Orleans, stay here! The rooms are equally as stunning at the amenity spaces, and surprisingly, not shockingly expensive.
I wanted to plop my bum in every single seat in this place, just to see the design from every perspective (and determine the most comfortable chair of course!).
After dinner we wandered back out onto the street and hurried to the St. Louis Cathedral where the Vampire Tour I’d booked was meeting! I was super, ridiculously excited about this (as I get about many such things). We met with our guide, who may or may not have had a fake Transylvanian accent and he told us his dreams of one day becoming an author living in San Francisco, before the tour. He led us all around the French Quarter and told us tales of various New Orleans Vampires. I carefully noted each tale and we googled them later to see if the stories were documented elsewhere. Mostly… the tour wasn’t all that fantastic. I wanted to be terrified! Instead, it was slightly cheesy. We still enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to others, unless you’re truly obsessed with this sort of thing. Hannah and Claudia were good team players along for this ride though!
Afterwards, we walked back to Frenchman Street where we found a club with live music. It wasn’t jazz, but the band was great and the lead singer had an amazing voice! More cocktails were drunk and we stayed for an hour or two before our beds called us back to them.
The next day was our last in New Orleans! We packed up all our things at the AirBnb and took them to Hotel Peter and Paul where they kindly checked our bags. We then went to the Ruby Slipper for breakfast. We devoured our last hearty New Orleans meal, yum! Of course, we each got our own meal and then split a brunch cocktail and table pancakes! You simply can’t go wrong with table pancakes! We actually got some version of table pancakes at multiple meals. Gotta try all the things!
We then walked around our neighborhood one last time before heading back to the Elysian Bar (our favorite place from our trip!) for coffee and tea. Claudia then had to head out to catch her flight.
The little cafe at the Elysian bar is just too cute! They have tiled and painted it to look like the inside of a tent and it’s such a fun design element! Again, check out their website to see more of the amazing design. I was seriously inspired.
Hannah and I dawdled at the Elysian Bar, catching up on emails and such for an hour or two and enjoying the lovely daytime atmosphere inside the restaurant, before we too caught an Uber and drove to the airport. Our seventeenth anniversary trip thus came to a close and we were all sad to say goodbye!
Overall, we could not have had a better time in New Orleans and managed to see and eat at almost all the destinations from our pre-trip spreadsheet (yes, we’re all very type A!). Although there are some things I wish we could have squeezed in (a swamp tour or a historical plantation slavery tour), we utilized every minute of our long weekend to the fullest and got to do so very many things and eat some truly amazing food!
Have you been to New Orleans before? What was your favorite part of your trip? Are you a local? What did we miss that we need to check out next time we’re there?! If you’re headed there soon, was this a helpful guide?!