crowds on Bourbon Street
New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in the world. From the food to the music to its strange obsession ghost stories, there is no other place like NOLA in the world. The funky jazz music is always pumping through the streets, the liquor is flowing and life is easy.
It could be because my family has ties to Louisiana, but anytime I’m in New Orleans it feels like home. I’ve been going to the Big Easy for over a decade, and while I love discovering new places (looking at you Shaya), there are tried and true food and booze destinations that are a must when I’m in my favorite city.
Before we get started, I must note that the one thing about New Orleans is that there is no lack of abundance of very strong opinions on who makes the best of anything — from Hurricanes to po’boys. Keeping that in mind, this is a guide to my favorite spots. Tell us about your favorite restaurants and watering holes at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Let the good times roll, literallyWhen road tripping into the city, New Orleans Original Daiquiris should absolutely be your first stop. While you're still in your car. Yes, you read that correctly. In New Orleans it it perfectly legal to pick up a daiquiri at a drive-thru. The caveat here is that containers are must remain closed until you're no longer in the car. Beverages are delivered with a normal plastic drink top and straws that remain in paper. If you don't want to get a ticket you should definitely keep everything unopened until you reach your destination.
The best of the French Quarter Pat O’Brien's
Pat O’Brien's is an institution on Bourbon Street. Since 1933, the bar has been slinging some of the most iconic drinks in the French Quarter. You can thank this bar for the creation of the Hurricane, which is basically an excuse to drink a large vat of rum. Pat's, as it's affectionately called, houses a piano bar for live music and an outdoor area with a fairly large water fountain to add to the ambience. And while Pat O'Brien's is famous for the Hurricane, the mint julep is really where it's at. The drink is strong, sweet and minty, just as the gods intended.
Pro tip: Pat's serves its drinks in glassware that can be returned at the end of the night for $3, so when you're done consuming your beverages, make sure you turn in those glasses and get some money back. It will probably be enough to buy another round.
If you head to Oceana, you'll most likely see a fairly long line to get in. However, even though Oceana's food gets consistently high ratings, you can skip it (trust me). The drinks are really why you should come. Oceana makes the best Hurricane on Bourbon street. Unlike Pat O'Brien's, the Hurricane here is made with actual fruit juice and it is incredibly strong. Two of these bad boys and watch out! The best part? If you're just ordering drinks to-go you can bypass the long line and just head straight to the bar. You'll be in and out in under 5 minutes and ready to stroll through the Quarter.
21st Amendment Bar
If you want really delicious craft cocktails and an intimate atmosphere, you should head over to 21st Amendment. Located on Iberville Street, this spot is a better alternative to the more popular Carousel Bar. The drinks here are better (by far), you can almost always grab a seat, and — perhaps the best part — it's right across the street from Acme Oysters.
This is one of the few places in the French Quarter that not only lives up to the hype, but is also worth waiting in that ridiculously long line. The charbroiled oysters here are iconic and you can order them in any quantity you'd like. They'll come out sizzling in their shells with butter, Parmesan cheese, lemon and, importantly, bread, which you should absolutely use to sop up the remaining butter. Another item here you shouldn't miss? The Debris fries. Trust me.
Venturing off the beaten path
Atchafalya (pronounced at-cha-fah-lie-ah) offers by far the best brunch in New Orleans. Tucked away near the famed Irish Channel, this restaurant takes New Orleans' already incredible culinary traditions and makes them even better. While dinner here is worth a trip, brunch is really where this place shines. From the Bananas Foster waffles, conecuh sausages, and pork rillettes to the famed shrimp and grits, this place will have your taste buds doing hoola-hoops. They also offer a diy bloody Mary bar and perhaps the most interesting drink in the whole city — the duck fat sazerac.
Photo (New Orleans Original Daiquiri): New Orleans Original Daiquiri/Facebook
Photo (Pat O'Briens): Pat O'Briens's Instagram
Photo (Oceana): Ocena/website
Photo (21st Amendment Bar): 21st Amendment Bar/Facebook
Photo (Acme): Acme/Facebook
Photo (Atchafalaya): Atchafalaya/website