New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit. The French Quarter is full of character, Bourbon Street is full of alcohol, and Canal Street is full of liveliness. For a weekend it’s like you’re 21 again and your body can handle ALL THE FROZEN DRINKS. Yes, NOLA is a pretty magical place. It was the perfect destination for a long weekend to celebrate our friend Brad’s 30th birthday.
We made the drive up and over to New Orleans from Clearwater in a lengthy 12 hours. This included multiple stops, one of those being my first visit to a Whataburger. Have you ever been? It’s probably a good thing for my jeans that there’s not one closer to us. Ben and I split a Jalapeño and Cheese Whataburger on Texas Toast. Topped off with their spicy ketchup, it was 100% worth including in this blog post.
Back to New Orleans…
When we arrived in New Orleans on Thursday evening we were ready to get the weekend started. We checked in at The Troubadour (a super cute boutique hotel, part of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection), and quickly got ready for a stroll down NOLA’s main claim to fame: Bourbon Street. The night was kicked off with frozen daiquiris from Fat Tuesday. From there we went in and out of bars down Bourbon’s strip.
After a few hours of drinking, we popped into Fauborg Bistro. Their menu is full of elevated bar food that I trust would be just as satisfying if we were sober. I devoured their Firecracker Cauliflower Sandwich, while Ben enjoyed their Fried Catfish Sandwich. We also dug into the Mac & Cheese bites, and Pizza Mac & Cheese Skillet (yes, that’s a thing) that our friends ordered. I was in all of my carby, cheesy glory.
|Firecracker Cauliflower Sandwich (sambal mayo, pepper jack, cheese sauce, pickled jalapeno, vinegar slaw, sriracha)|
Friday morning was upon us and we were in the mood for a glorious brunch. The Ruby Slipper Cafe on Canal Street did not disappoint. A lot of you had recommended this well-known NOLA brunch spot when I asked for NOLA go-tos on Instagram.
I ordered a Bloody Mary to kick the day off. Ben and I opted to split The Ruby Slipper Cafe’s Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes. They were GIGANTIC. We opted to top them with pig-candy bacon because *~vaCay-MoDe~*. The pancakes were delightful – fluffy, sweet, and definitely more than enough for the two of us to split. The pig-candy bacon was just OK for me. I really craved some spiciness in the bacon’s seasoning to aid all the sweetness that was on my plate. No biggie piggie. It was definitely still worth trying.
On the hunt for more drinks and good times – we made our way to the French Quarter. My favorite thing about New Orleans is the character, and the French Quarter is full of it. Balconies on balconies decorated with greenery and detail. It’s all just so amazing to take in. Our trek brought us to Jackson Square, a historic landmark in NOLA. There was no shortage of action: music was playing, local street art was up for sale, and performers were doing their best acts for tips along the sidewalks. Oooh’s and ahhh’s fell at of our mouths as we strolled through Jackson Square taking it all in. We made a pit stop at Big Easy Daiquiris for more frozen drinks since it was only a few blocks away.
Conveniently located near the Square was Cafe du Monde, an absolute must for beignets when you’re in NOLA. When Ben and I first visited New Orleans three years ago, Cafe du Monde was on our “musts” list for places to visit. We did the whole nine: stood in a SUPER long line, dined under the green striped tent, ordered coffees, and our table was appropriately coated in powdered sugar that had fallen off of our beignets. While it sounds like one big sugary mess, hear me out guys: it was all about the experience. We now forever have that memory (and remnants of powdered sugar) with us forever. For this trip though, I was thankful to see that Cafe du Monde offered a to-go line option. With the size of our group it was definitely the way “to go”. Ehhh, ehhh? Anyone? Just me laughing at myself? That’s ok too. The warm beignets still tasted just as good from our white and green to-go bags.
Eventually we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the evening’s events. Friday night was going to be our “big” night out to celebrate our friend Brad’s birthday. We had dinner at The Governor (decent food, but ATROCIOUS service – would NOT recommend) then hit Bourbon Street with our friends. We went in and out of so many bars. If I could name them, I would.
On Saturday morning I was feeling it. After breakfast I thought I was going to be chained to my bed all day with a horrible hangover. It’s funny because as soon as that hangover hits you it’s easy to pinpoint exactly which drink(s) you didn’t “really need” the night before.
Luckily our friend Aaron brought along his V8 Energy Drinks. He offered me one to help with my hangover. I’m not lying when I say that I have never bounced back from a hangover faster than I did that day. The combination of that drink, being outside of the hotel room, and visiting the rooftop bar where the sun was brightly shining had me believing I could take on our last full day in New Orleans. Before I knew it, I had a spicy Bloody Mary in hand while Ben was snapping outfit pictures of me at the rooftop bar. Don’t call it a comeback (just kidding, please do).
We went to Johnny Sánchez for a late lunch, a chic Mexican restaurant owned by Food Network’s very own Aarón Sánchez. Admittedly I didn’t know who he was while my friends were freaking out about being inside of his restaurant. After looking at the restaurant’s website while writing this post, I now know I’m an idiot and I totally see this guy on Food Network ALL THE TIME. Johnny Sánchez’s kitchen served up a fantastic Seared Tuna Tostada, the prettiest (& spiciest) Hibiscus Jalapeño Margarita, and an array of flavorfully elevated tacos. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a restaurant owned by a Food Network regular. Their Cauliflower Tacos and Carne Asada Tacos were ON POINT.
|Seared Tuna Tostada|
|Top: Carne Asada Taco, Bottom: Cauliflower Taco|
|Hibiscus Jalapeño Margarita|
One of my favorite stops during this trip to New Orleans was our visit to The Carousel Bar located inside of the Hotel Monteleone. If you’re a fan of the movie Girls Trip like I am, you’ll totally recognize this bar. It’s a travel blogger’s dream. The Carousel Bar has all of the fun elements that come with a traditional carousel – the lights, the animals, the motion. Once you grab a seat, you’re in for the ride. The floor beneath you rotates at a super slow pace while you sip away on your drinks. You might have to stalk the bar for a seat to open up, but it is completely worth the wait. If you’re visiting New Orleans, add this place to your list of “musts” while you’re there.
Before we visited NOLA, I had done a little Pinterest investigating for places to hit while we were in town. One that kept coming up in travel guides? District. This brewhouse was located a hop, skip, and a 15 minute Uber ride away from where we were spending most of our time in New Orleans. All of the Pinterest travel guides RAVED about their donuts so I knew that’s what Ben and I had to try. We opted for a raspberry champagne donut for me, and a classic glazed chocolate donut for him.
I washed my donut down with a hot matcha latte. It was perfect to sip on as we walked outside to District’s outdoor patio. There were string lights hung up everywhere. It was a cutely romantic setting to sit and chill for a few minutes before heading back to our hotel to get ready for dinner with our friends.
Luke’s was the dinner of choice for our last night in town. The service there was INCREDIBLE. Our group was seated in our own mini banquet room where we fit comfortably. The wait staff showed us a fun time in true New Orleans style. Champagne flowed for multiple toasts to our friend’s 30th birthday. Our waitress even had people at our table shotgunning beers. It was wild. Luke’s stole the “most memorable night at dinner” award for sure.
My hangover made a reappearance that evening so I opted to chug water. With that I enjoyed Luke’s Matzo Ball & Roast Chicken Soup for dinner. I’ll be honest with you all: I’ve never once ordered matzo ball soup at any restaurant ever in my life. I assumed it’d be something easy to eat given the way I was feeling. Luke’s soup was good. Really good. Surprisingly SO suitable for my reemerging hangover.
On Sunday we packed up the cars to head home, only to realize we were low on cash to tip the valets with. In search of the green stuff that makes the world go round, we stopped at Pythian Market. Tampa Bay friends: this place reminded me SO MUCH of Armature Works (a mini version at least). The stalls were run on Square systems, so they didn’t have cash, but the coffee stall we stopped at had a pretty bomb matcha latte. I ordered one for the road only wishing that we had discovered this food hall sooner. I’m saving Pythian Market as a place to visit for the next time we visit NOLA.
New Orleans made for the friend trip of all friend trips! It is such an amazing city with so much character and so many hidden gems. I loved getting to share the spots we hit with you all. Have you ever been to New Orleans? What places have you visited while you were there? Let me know in the comments below.