New Orleans Like a Local: Insiders Share The Best Places To Eat, Drink and Shop

Indagare and The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art are headed to New Orleans this December for a special Insider Journey (December 11-15). In advance of the trip, we connected with some of the city's local tastemakers for their best tips. Learn more about the Insider Journey and reserve one of the last spots, and read on for these NOLA insiders' favorite spots in the one-of-a-kind Southern city.

Julia Reed

Journalist and best-selling author of

Julia Reed's South and Julia Reed’s New Orleans, her latest, published by Rizzoli

What are your favorite shops in New Orleans?

For antiques, Karla Katz. For first- and limited-edition books, Garden District Book Shop and Faulkner House Books. For chic women’s clothing, Weinstein’s. For food and wine, Keife & Co. Other favorites: My pal Becky Vizard’s B. Viz Designs—she makes pillows out of everything from vintage suzanis to 17th-century embroidered pieces—and Boutique Sud, which my friend Bill Brockschmidt, of the talented decorating duo Brockschmidt & Coleman, recently opened with his husband, Richard Dragisic.

What are your go-to restaurants?

I adore every restaurant that Donald Link and his Link Restaurant Group have opened. Herbsaint has long been my go-to, but I also frequent Peche (the best oysters on the half shell in town, and I assure you the fish sticks are not your mother’s!), Cochon (sophisticated Cajun food), Butcher (you gotta get the pork belly sandwich), La Boulangerie (a classic French bakery) and Gianna (a beautiful Italian restaurant).

Where do you always bring guests from out of town?

No visit is complete without a raucous lunch or dinner at Galatoire’s. Ditto a trip to Preservation Hall to hear live jazz—I usually take folks to the 10 p.m. show, since it occasionally gives way to late-night dance parties or jam sessions.

Cindy Brennan

Co-owner of beloved French Quarter institution Mr. B’s Bistro
Your first time in NOLA, you should…

Eat the barbecued shrimp at Mr. B’s and charbroiled oysters at Drago’s, and get a drink at the rooftop bar Hot Tin, which has delicious cocktails and the best view of the city. Take a streetcar down St. Charles Avenue to view the beautiful homes and gorgeous oak trees, and sip on a Pimm’s cup at the Napoleon House. Listen to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and to the great Jeremy Davenport at the Davenport Lounge. And, of course, enjoy the beignets at Café Du Monde—anytime, day or night! Outside the city, Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise is just a 30- to 40-minute drive away and offers excellent fishing.

What are your favorite restaurants?

For a good steak, I go to Mr. John’s Steakhouse. For casual seafood, I love the boiled seafood and po’boys at the Galley and Frankie & Johnny’s uptown. My daughter and I frequently lunch at St. James Cheese Company. I also adore the crab beignets and Death by Gumbo at Restaurant R’evolution, and I love to pop into the French 75 bar at Arnaud’s for a cocktail and soufflé potatoes with béarnaise.

Courtesy Restaurant R'evolution, New Orleans

Courtesy Restaurant R'evolution, New Orleans
Do you have any favorite local recipes?

I often make a salt-crusted whole fish or Gulf fish en papillote—I love the simplicity of both, especially at the beach. I also like to prepare trout amandine, chicken Pontalba (an old New Orleans dish with Brabant potatoes, ham and béarnaise) and roasted stuffed quail. I cannot get enough of jumbo lump crabmeat, so when I find it fresh and local, the possibilities are endless.

Christian Davenport

A NOLA-based typewriter poet, known as “Cubs the Poet,” and the inaugural poet laureate of Baton RougeAs a poet, what do you find most inspiring about New Orleans?

New Orleans has a history that is present, yet expressed in a contemporary way that feels unique in the U.S. I am in love with the different accents and perspectives that make up the culture of New Orleans, from the Free People of Color to the Cajuns. It is a place of extremes, in my opinion: Whatever vice or virtue you possess, New Orleans will present paths for you to explore. But if I had to pick one part of this magical city that is most inspiring, I would have to say the humidity! This wet heat has a way of maximizing creativity, from the "nickel pops" on Pauger Street to the frosé at Willa Jean to the typewriting poets on Royal Street.

What are your recommendations for first-time visitors?

Eat a fried shrimp po’boy at Rampart Food Store or soak in the vibes at Gene’s Po-Boys. For jazz, head to Saturn Bar to see King James & the Special Men; Vaughan's Lounge in the Bywater (near two excellent restaurants, N7 and Paladar 511); and Preservation Hall, a local institution (ask for Ron Rona to reserve tickets, and say Cubs sent you). Check out St. Roch Market and stop by the Haitian vendor, Fritai, owned by my friend, Chef Charly Pierre. Auction House Market in the CBD also has a beautiful bar designed by my good friends, Jean and Stephen from Luna Botanicals. For a great drink, visit Cane and Table, Morrow’s, N7 and the bars at Ace Hotel, the Roosevelt Hotel and Maison de la Luz. And stop by my studio, housed in a renovated auditorium that includes a vintage clothing store and gallery, where I create custom poems for visitors.

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a customized journey to New Orleans, or learn more about our Insider Journey to NOLA, co-hosted by The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, during which travelers will explore historic private homes dating back to the 19th century and meet with local artisans and designers in their studios.

Published onOctober 10, 2019

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