The most famous street in New Orleans comes at a cost – and with a crowd. While it's a must for a first-timer to experience this atmosphere, there are a number of restaurants and bars off Bourbon Street that are just as worthy of your time, if not more.
Here is how to take an immersive and indulgent trip to the Big Easy, and if you dare, not even step foot on Bourbon Street.
Hyatt House New Orleans
First things first: accommodation. With an increase in long-term visitors, from corporate honchos to Hollywood film producers, the Hyatt House has become a home-away-from-home for long-term guests. It's also become somewhat of a local hot spot on the outskirts of the famed French Quarter.
Its location places guests – treated more like short-term residents – within walking distance of tantalizing eateries that are lesser known to first-time tourists. Its large-format rooms including the one bedroom king suite, as well as high floor queen double or king rooms, are designed for space and comfort; a no-frill contemporary style which allows guests staying for one night to feel comfortable, and guests staying for one month to feel like they can personalize their space.
On the 11th floor, H Bar serves up NOLA favorites from rotating drink specials to soul-warming gumbo, all the way through to banana pudding for dessert. Order up a Sazerac and get comfortable overlooking the sweeping views of the city – you may get so comfortable you won’t want to leave, and that’s exactly what Hyatt House hopes.
If you want to add an educational element to your checklist of drinking hot spots, check out the offerings at Sazerac House. It was established to celebrate the Sazerac cocktail, which is thought to have first garnered recognition in New Orleans in 1850.
The Sazerac House offers complimentary tours, tastings and interactive exhibits to appreciate longstanding traditions. Throughout the year, Sazerac House offers themed tastings and ticketed events, including the likes of Cocoa and Cocktails (a whiskey and chocolate pairing) or the Carnival Drink Traditions.
Pro tip: Slot this in for the beginning of your trip so you can truly understand and appreciate New Orleans’ craft cocktail scene throughout the rest of the trip.
Cafe du Monde
It may sound cliche, but hear us out – while it’s a no-brainer to make this beignet pitstop during a New Orleans trip, we say skip the original Cafe du Monde location, head to City Park and order your beignets to go.
There are two reasons why we prefer this. First, you can shake up your fluffy, fried dough goodness to completely coat every last bite in powdered sugar. Second, you get to stroll around New Orleans’ equivalent to Central Park (in fact, it’s 50 percent larger than New York’s famed greenspace).
It’s the ultimate way to spend a summer morning (before the heat gets too oppressive) or fall afternoon.
For a bundle of fried indulgence, stop by Parkway Bakery for a classic lunch: the shrimp po’ boy. A New Orleans favorite, the po’ boy sandwich began as a coffee-stand invention for streetcar motormen, but today, is revered throughout Louisiana, from gas stations to fine dining restaurants.
Parkway Bakery serves up their rendition between a traditional French loaf, with expertly-fried, Louisiana wild caught Gulf shrimp on a bed of lettuce. Add the toppings of your choice (pickles, tomatoes, onions) and take note: hot sauce is a preferred pairing, so you should probably add it to experience a true local kick.
Pro tip: The bakery is closed on Tuesdays, so be sure to plan your visit around this!
No trip to New Orleans is complete until you’ve experienced the city well after dark; though the city is always abuzz, many say this is when it truly comes alive.
Stop by The Maison on Frenchmen Street for an unpretentious take on live jazz with a spacious dance floor for bopping along to the beat. If the after-hours scene isn’t a fit for you, try reserving a table for their jazz brunch offered on Sundays; just as lively a scene as any weeknight.
Bourbon and meat are two things that chef Isaac Toups knows well. In fact, upon entering Toups' Meatery, a bar lined with an uncountable number of bourbon bottles welcomes you to the Louisiana-born-and-raised chef’s original restaurant.
You may recognize chef Toups from season 13 of "Top Chef," but locals have been trusting in him and his take on Cajun since the restaurant’s opening in 2012. With an ever-rotating menu, chef Toups honors Cajun tradition, while playing with contemporary flavors.
He says, "I’m using Louisiana ingredients and going off in a different direction. When done appropriately, there’s no limit; I’m the Cajun guy with lemongrass on my menu…that’s not typical Cajun, but I don’t care!"
A couple sure things to always be on the menu are his pork cracklins, which he says, "will literally put his kids through school," and the meatery board, a selection of housemade fresh and cured meats that is unmissable.
Put your faith in the bartender to concoct a bourbon specialty to wash it all down, like the Paper Hornet with peanut butter whiskey, or Ol’ Stogie with whiskey, raw cola syrup, black pepper and lemon oil.
Dive into decadence at District Donuts, where mighty donuts satisfy your sweet tooth. Daily rotating flavors such as pecan pie, cannoli and s'mores (to name a few) provide you with a donut experience unlike any other.
Break up the sweetness with District’s fried chicken sliders, a savory indulgence of its own. Located on Magazine Street, you won’t feel guilty about ordering a donut (perhaps to go) and strolling through the neighborhood’s local boutiques and art galleries.
Enticing passersby with an aquamarine glow, Seaworthy welcomes you to oyster heaven. Tucked behind its narrow entrance and bar is a patio that was undoubtedly designed for slurping oysters accompanied by flawlessly-balanced cocktails.
Choose from a selection of Gulf-, East- and West Coast oysters and don’t miss out on the chicken-fried oysters served with green goddess dressing. Seaworthy offers a pescatarian-forward menu, with octopus ceviche, cobia crudo and the fried fish sandwich as easy highlights.
Pro tip: During happy hour, select cocktails start at $7 and wine at $5. (Monday through Friday, 4 pm-6 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 3 pm-6 pm; and daily from 11 pm-1 am.)
Reflecting an elegant French brasserie, both stylistically and on the palate, Couvant serves up a daily rotating menu based on seasonal ingredients sourced from local growers and farmers. Along with simple French favorites, like chicken liver mousse, escargot, foie gras and moules frites, the restaurant embraces New Orleans’ proximity to the sea with their selection of Gulf oysters.
If you choose to sit at the bar, they’re shucked freshly in front of you. The seasonal menu doesn’t stop at their culinary offerings, but transcends into a unique cocktail list that will tempt you to try them all.
Whether you choose to pop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner – and brunch on the weekends – Willa Jean guarantees a stellar, local meal presented with the freshest ingredients. If you’re looking for a light breakfast, slide up a bakery-side barstool for one of the daily pastry specials, though the biscuits are a consistent must-try.
For a heartier breakfast, the shrimp and grits are a full-flavored take on one of the South’s favorite dishes. Another staple is Yolanda’s gumbo served up at lunch.
And for dinner, don’t skimp on calories; order up the pimiento cheese dip to start, then let your taste buds dance to the flavors of the WJ burger, a double patty with american cheese, caramelized onions and special sauce.
Originally published by USA Today.