So it’s only taken me 3 months to get this post up? I kept meaning to sit down and write this long weekend guide to the magical New Orleans, but it kept slipping away from me. I’m happy to finally write everything we did back in April into a post and, more importantly, share all the places we ended up eating! Keep in mind that I did eat some seafood and dairy on this trip, so not every place we ate had vegan options. But, I will say that New Orleans had a surprising amount of vegetarian options and seemed to have a little bit of everything for everyone. Also keep in mind that for 3 out of the 4 people in our group, it was our first time. We did a lot of the typical NoLa things that you might not do on a 2nd or 3rd trip, it nonetheless, I think they are cool to fit in on your first trip there.
Getting There/Where to Stay
We flew out of Milwaukee (much easier than Chicago for us) and flights were reasonable, but not direct. If you’re going from a mid size city, keep in mind that you will probably have to connect somewhere. Even with connections both ways, I will say that flying didn’t take all day, so do your research! Also, grabbing a Lyft from the airport in New Orleans was super easy, so I would totally recommend getting to your hotel or AirBnB that way.
We ended up staying in an AirBnB in the Bywater neighborhood, about a 30-minute walk from the French Quarter. We knew we didn’t want to be right in the heart of all the action, but close enough to get there in good time. Bywater was a perfect place to stay and I would highly recommend the area. I know it’s more of an up and coming neighborhood, but we loved that there were businesses and places off the beaten path that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Most Lyft rides were about $15-20 to get to the French Quarter or Magazine Street area, it just all depends on the time of day and traffic. Again, this might not be the most happening area, but we really liked it and found some hidden gems along the way. Plus, most of the neighborhood is close to the river and allows you to walk to the French Quarter along Crescent Park, which ended up being our daily routine. One of the friends we were on the trip with loves big boats (he even has a blog about it) so walking along the river was perfect for our group. Plus, it’s a great way to work off brunch and see a lot of the NoLa skyline while you’re at it.
The good stuff! We were kind of all over the place with restaurants and didn’t always eat 3 meals a day, so these aren’t all concentrated in one area. A few places we found happened to be by doing a quick search on Google or asking locals where to visit. If there’s one thing I will say about New Orleans, it’s that the locals are MORE than happy to point you in the direction of a good bar or restaurant. We didn’t have many set plans for this trip, so asking around about where to go next was a great way to explore the city and see things we maybe wouldn’t have hit otherwise.
Commander’s Palace– If you spring for one fancy meal in NoLa, make it here! Our group knew we wanted to do one fancy dinner and get a real New Orleans experience and this place really ticked that box for us. Commander’s Palace is really the height of New Orleans food and culture, blending excellent food and service with hospitality that can’t be beat. The garlic bread served at the beginning of the meal was amazing (I think we determined there was a stick of butter in it, but c’est la vie, right?). This was one of the meals I had seafood, going for the softshell crab that was in season at the time and pairing a sazerac with our meal. I do regret not getting their signature pecan crusted gulf fish, so if you go, spring for that entree. The sazeracs were perfection and our dessert of bread pudding was the perfect way to cap our meal. Take the time to chat with your waitstaff, they are a wealth of knowledge about the city. We ended up chatting with one of our waiters (we had a few) and he brought over a lemon drink of some kind that was incredible. He also pointed us in the direction of a few local bars and offered up his take on where to find the best live music, so it’s worth talking up your waiter! 1000% would go back here. They also have 25 cent martinis at lunch, so that’s worth checking out if you want a less expensive meal option. Make reservations, this place books up fast!
Bulldog Bar– We stopped here after dinner (we actually went to a cocktail bar in between, but I honestly can’t remember what it was called!) and it was a great way to sit out on the patio and enjoy the beautiful weather. I think we all had beers here, but the outdoor space was fun and provided a bit of time for us to digest our huge meal after dinner.
Balcony Bar– We are from Wisconsin, so why wouldn’t we check out another bar in the same night? This came after the Bulldog Bar and was a great place to again, sit outside and see the neighborhood. We ended up chatting with a local who worked in the AirBnB business in the area and told us a lot about local history. Seriously, chat up the locals here, you never know what you will find out!
Capt. Sal’s– We actually hit this place right after we checked into our AirBnB and it was perfect as a pre-dinner meal. This restaurant is frequented by locals and honestly, we probably wouldn’t have found it, if it hadn’t been for AJ looking around online at what was in our neighborhood. We had po’boys from here, but they also serve Chinese food and crawfish. There’s also a liquor store next door where we stopped for a few beers to have in the house, so it’s a great first stop in the neighborhood.
Elizabeth’s– This brunch restaurant came highly recommended by multiple people, including Joy the Baker and my friend Tessa, who had been in New Orleans not long before we were. The wait was a bit long, but we grabbed mimosas and stood outside to wait. I will say our food was pretty good (I honestly can’t remember what I ordered!) and the others in the group tried their signature praline bacon and said it was really good. I think we were slightly underwhelmed by the food and service here, so I don’t know that we would go back next time. I do think it has a fun vibe and it was possibly because we were there on Easter Sunday, so they were VERY busy. Regardless, it’s worth a try! Plus, it’s right next to Crescent Park, so was perfect since we walked to the French Quarter right after.
Pat O’Briens– This is pretty much quintessential New Orleans in a bar. This is the place where you can get those giant hurricanes and get into trouble REAL fast. Trust me when I saw you only need one of these (in fact, split one with someone to be safe) and then you’re good to go. It’s worth a visit and fun to sit on the patio out back!
Felix’s – I, unfortunately, didn’t end up eating here (too many hurricanes), but it’s one of AJ’s absolute favorite places to eat in New Orleans. If you’re a fan of etouffee or oysters Rockefeller, this is the place for you! This is a must go for us next time, since I didn’t get to enjoy it this time around.
Country Club- We ended up making breakfast at our AirBnB the next day and kind of bar hopped and walked around for most of the day. We stopped at a dive bar on the way here (called Mikey’s or something like that?) and then had a cocktail here. The vibe and interior are funky and fun, with a twist of Southern style infused in. It was a fun place to escape the rain for a while and ended up being a nice in-between as we explored the area.
Coquette– We were meeting a friend for dinner and this was the place she suggested, which ended up being so good! I ordered a chicken-fried cauliflower steak, which isn’t on the menu at the moment, but it came with greens and other veggies and was SO good. The rest of the group split a bunch of the meat-y appetizers, including the tartare and deviled eggs and said they were very good. AJ ordered an old fashioned that looked amazing and the wine list was pretty extensive.
Sucre– We wanted a little something sweet after dinner and this place hit the spot! This is also on Magazine Street, like Coquette and was a great area to walk around at night. I got a slice of cake that was amazing and one of our friends split the cake/ice cream combo and said it was really good. Basically everything here is pretty, sweet, and delicious.
LaFitte’s – This bar came highly recommended by several friends, so we knew we needed to hit it before our time in New Orleans was up. The whole bar is lit by candlelight and doesn’t have traditional lights in the main part of the bar, which gave a cozy, interesting vibe to the whole place. We ended up on the patio, which was fun and served as a good place to stop on our way to a few jazz clubs further down the way. For some reason, while we were here, it smelled rather odd, so we didn’t stick around as long as we would have normally. Anyway, it’s a cool place to visit and have a drink, especially if you want to walk from the French Quarter to Frenchmen Street.
Spotted Cat- This was one place we knew we had to hit, especially since seeing live jazz is an integral part of any New Orleans trip! We went on a Monday night, which meant it wasn’t as busy and we able to get in without a problem. We didn’t stay here for too long, but it was fun to see a highly recommended spot like this in person!
Cafe Du Monde– On the last day of our trip, we had to go here! I know some people don’t think it’s worth the hype, but I think it’s 110% worth it. We nabbed a table quicker than we would have gotten anything to go, so keep an eye out and you might have better luck sitting down. They only take cash and the servers are all business, in and out and on with it. Again, get an order of beignets and coffee and call it a successful trip.
Pizza Delicious– We needed one last meal before heading to the airport and this really hit the spot. This place is an unassuming pizza place in Bywater, close to Crescent Park and tucked into the middle of a neighborhood. The pizza was really great and our friends had a salad that looked perfect for balancing out just about everything we had been eating all week. It seems ordinary that they serve pizza here, but it’s super good and the garlic knots were worth adding to our order too. The pizza slices change every day, but I got a garlic-heavy veggie slice and it really hit the spot.
Satsuma Cafe– This cafe was the last place we hit before heading to the airport. We needed a little place to hang before it was time to head out and this was the perfect place to grab a juice or mint lemonade and hang on the patio for a while. I would love to go back here to eat, we glanced at their breakfast menu and it looked really good!
Honestly, I was going to write a ‘what to see/do’ section, but I realized most of what we did was eating! I would say the French Quarter is worth visiting and exploring. We loved stopping at bars here and there and watching the live music on the street. We happened to be there on Easter and saw a super fun parade, so if any of those are going on it’s worth stopping. We also hung out in Jackson Square Park and walking around one of the cemeteries in the Bywater neighborhood, to get the creepy feeling of those too. Overall, I would say New Orleans is what you make it. If you want to go all out and have a booze filled weekend, there is plenty of that there. If you are looking for a more laid back and food centered weekend, you can do that too! I think next time we go we would spend more time on Magazine Street/Irish Channel and explore more of the hidden spots that we didn’t get to hit this time.
I did make a Google Map of all of the potential places we could hit before we went, so I’m going to link to it in case you need a map for your next trip to NoLa. I gathered a bunch of recommendations from all over the place and put them on one map, so we could easily consult it while we were out exploring. I hope this guide helps a bit, even if we didn’t get to a fraction of the places that we would have loved to hit! I think New Orleans is perfect for a long weekend and is somewhere we will be going back to soon, even just for the food and drinks.
Tell me if there are any places I missed! I have a feeling we are going to keep gathering recommendations and hitting more places the next time we go back, so I’m all ears.