Our five year anniversary was last month (FIVE YEARS?! WHAT?) and we were were perplexed for months trying to decide where to go to celebrate. A trip to Italy has long been the dream, but we’re still saving up for that and some other big expenses (more on that later). So when a TrustedHousesitters opportunity in New Orleans popped up around the time of our anniversary, we were sold.
Although New Orleans has been on our radar for years, we’d somehow never visited this magical city. We decided to tack on two extra days at a hotel in the French Quarter for the anniversary part of the trip and then hopped over to the St. Roch neighborhood to housesit for four days.
So the first stop in our New Orleans travel guide for couples who love food had to be, you guessed it, the French Quarter.
Staying in the French Quarter
Since we weren’t visiting in the high season (one of our favorite travel hacks!), hotels were relatively inexpensive. We chose to stay at the Royal Sonesta for its location and seemingly romantic vibes. I wouldn’t say it was a flawless stay, but our room was comfortable and we were able to fully explore the French Quarter and beyond on foot so we’ll count it as a win.
The hotel lobby was elegant and lavish and we received excellent service throughout our stay. Our only complaint was that we booked a room on the concierge floor, which was supposed to include access to a private lounge and roof deck along with other perks. Sadly, this was not available during the off-season and we weren’t informed of this fact until after we’d arrived. Fortunately, the hotel offered us $50 per day in discounts on property which alleviated our disappointment.
Eating in the French Quarter
We didn’t waste any time getting acquainted with the food scene in NOLA. We knew of a few places we wanted to hit for sure, but also built in room for a little improvisation. Here is everything we ate in New Orleans’ iconic French Quarter.
Chargrilled Oysters at Felix’s
Our friend Phi gave us this suggestion. I tend to love oysters in every form, but I don’t think I’d ever had them chargrilled before. Drago’s is actually the restaurant known for creating the chargrilled oyster, but Felix’s has a reputation for being of the best. Plus, it was a two minute walk from our hotel, always a plus for this foodie couple. We weren’t starving, so we got a half dozen oysters and a side of red beans and rice (best I had the whole trip!). They were grilled to buttery, cheesy perfection and served with garlic bread to soak up the remaining sauce. Plus, oysters are an aphrodisiac, so what better way to start off an anniversary trip? But this isn’t that kind of blog, so let’s stick to the food!
Creole Fine Dining at R’evolution
Our first night in town, we celebrated with a fancy dinner at R’evolution, conveniently located in our hotel. We’d intended to get dressed up, but somehow after a few hours of New Orleans fun we ended up in this classy establishment in workout clothes. No worries though, the staff still treated us as if we were dressed to the nines and um… more sober than we actually were. The food was wonderful. Other than the oysters, this was our first taste of cajun cuisine in the city that does it so well. While I definitely think some of the best creole/cajun cooking is done outside of the fine dining sphere, this was a fun way to get started with our culinary exploration of New Orleans.
We ordered the death by gumbo (a roasted quail stuffed with andouille and oyster gumbo), the tomato & burrata salad with white balsamic peach sorbet and the corn and bacon farro risotto (first picture). In layman’s terms, we had some delicious gumbo with tender, fall-off-the-bone quail, a fresh and seasonal burrata salad and a risotto that had layer upon layer of texture and flavor. Plus, a complimentary dessert served in an antique jewelry box. Definitely the most unique and amazing free dessert we’ve ever received! After this amazing first dinner, our taste buds were definitely primed for the rest of the trip.
Muffulettas at Central Grocery
Tom and I each had our must-eats for our first trip to New Orleans. Mine was a muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery. We are a couple that has pretty similar tastes in food, but there are a few areas where we diverge – olives being the main point of contention. He hates them and I think they are a delicious gift from the gods. (I’m right, clearly.) As it turned out, we were able to come to an agreement with this particular sandwich. While I swooned over Central Grocery’s world-famous olive salad and chewy sesame bread, Tom raved about the Italian cheese and meats sandwiched in the middle. Best of both worlds!
I’m telling you, don’t go to New Orleans without trying this sandwich. It was definitely one of my favorite things I ate the whole trip. Not planning a trip to NOLA anytime soon? You can buy their olive salad mix on Amazon to make your own (it’s incredible)!
Po’ Boys at Verti Marte
While I was dreaming about muffulettas, Tom was pining for po’ boys. Throw a stick in New Orleans and you’ll hit a restaurant offering po’ boys. But Verti Marte comes up in list after list of best po’ boys in the city. Verti Marte is a hole-in-the-wall corner shop that has a tiny deli in the back. It’s cash only and no frills whatsoever. If you didn’t know any better you would most certainly think you were in the wrong place.
Don’t be fooled though, navigate your way past the shelves of Cheetos and Little Debbie snacks to find the counter. They have an extensive list of po’ boys and other sandwiches, but Tom couldn’t resist a classic fried shrimp po’ boy. The counter person will ask if you “want it dressed?”. That means lettuce, tomato, mayo, etc. and Tom decided to go for it.
The sandwich was massive and overflowing with fried shrimp. Tom said the shrimp had a flavorful breading on it but wasn’t too heavy. He was also glad he ordered it “dressed”. It’s easy to see why so many locals swear by this place for their sandwiches.
Beignets at Cafe du Monde (duh!)
Of course, we had to check out the famous Cafe du Monde for some beignets and cafe au laits. Tom was in fried dough heaven, but I have to be honest. I just don’t get the hype. I’d rather have a regular donut any day. Even so, this is something every first timer has to try when visiting New Orleans or you’ll probably end up in tourist jail.
Breakfast in Bed at the Royal Sonesta
I would be remiss not to mention this beautiful breakfast in bed we had at the Royal Sonesta. We usually try to always go out and eat somewhere fun and local for breakfast when traveling. But we went all out on our first night in town (as one should), and knew that breakfast in bed was the most practical option. Is there anything more luxurious than waking up and having your breakfast right there? I actually wasn’t expecting the food to be all the good, but we were pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was (minus the coffee).
Live Music at the Jazz Playhouse & Frenchmen Street
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz, and since we so rarely get to hear good jazz music we quickly made a reservation at the Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta hotel. We had a front row seat and the music was great!
This was our first taste of live music in NOLA, but far from our last. There were bands playing at nearly every restaurant we went to at all times of day, much to my delight. But for the real New Orleans music experience, you have to hit up Frenchmen Street.
Located just a few blocks from the French Quarter, this area is packed with live music venues. Walking down the street you’ll hear pretty much every genre from blues to punk. If you asked ten locals which spot is the best to catch a show, you’d probably get ten different answers. Not surprisingly, food heavily influenced our decision. We opted for dinner and a show at Three Muses, which turned out to be fantastic for both our stomachs and our ears. If you go, you MUST get the baked mac and cheese. Trust.
An Afternoon in the Garden District
We really did do some stuff besides eat. Really! Just, uh, not a lot. Any couple who loves food will need to walk some of the meals off, plus it’s a great way to get acquainted with more areas of the city. One of the best places to go for a walk in New Orleans is definitely the Garden District. I could have spent an entire day roaming the tree-lined streets gawking at the beautiful historic homes.
In addition to looking at all the pretty houses, we also strolled down Magazine Street to do a little window shopping and grab a coffee. And then, feeling like we’d burned a respectable amount of calories, it was back to eating. We were all dressed up with somewhere to go, the notorious Commander’s Palace.
We do not tend to dress up very often, but we had good reason to put on our Sunday best. That reason? Twenty-five cent martinis. I’d long heard about this fantastic deal, but had a hard time believing it was real. But real it is! We had a great time pretending to be fancy while sipping our cheap ass drinks. The food didn’t really strike us as all that great, but the experience was still a lot of fun.
Staying in St. Roch
After 48 hours of living it up in the French Quarter, we relocated to the St. Roch neighborhood for our latest TrustedHousesitters assignment. This area is definitely slower-paced and more residential, but it was a great launch pad for exploring other parts of the city. Plus, we got to watch this adorable guy.
We were in St. Roch for four days, giving us plenty of time to check out even MORE delicious places to eat. There really is so much more to NOLA than Bourbon Street, and I’m so glad we got a chance to fully immerse ourselves in the city.
Adventures Outside The French Quarter
St. Roch Market
St. Roch Market was a super quick drive from our housesit and the first place we went upon settling into our new digs. This place is an Instagram and foodie paradise, and we were ALL about it. I imagine this place can get pretty crowded, but we were there on a weekday afternoon when it was relatively quiet. We quickly pulled up seats at The Mayhaw bar to sip some cocktails and catch up on a little blog work using the free WIFI.
We didn’t have any of those giant frozen strawberry daiquiris that are so popular on Bourbon Street on this trip, and that was quite on purpose. I did, however, enjoy a few classic daiquiris made the pure and simple way with white rum, lime juice and a little sugar (or simple syrup). Mayhaw’s version was one of my favorites of the trip.
Eventually we got a little hungry and set about trying to decide what to get to eat. This was no easy task, as the food from each vendor looked and smelled amazing. After much deliberation, we settled on the NOLA trio sampler from Fete Au Fete, featuring shrimp and grits, red beans and rice, and crawfish poutine. It was all delicious, but I could have eaten a vat of the crawfish poutine.
A Taste of Mid-City
Mid-City is a really fun part of New Orleans with lots of cool restaurants and bars and more of a local feel. We didn’t get to spend nearly as much time in the area as I would have liked, but an evening at Vessel gave us a little taste of what this neighborhood has to offer. Located in a beautiful repurposed historic church, this place was the perfect combination of trendy, quirky and classy.
We only had one true brunch while we were in town, but it was a good one. Brown Butter is another Mid-City gem serving up quintessential comfort food in a casual atmosphere. We hung out here for several hours using their WIFI for a Fantasy Football draft. The service was awesome and so was the food.
Natural Beauty at City Park
We turned to City Park again and again to get in a little exercise for both ourselves and the dog we were sitting. The park is huge, so even though we went multiple times I feel like we barely saw a fraction of it, but what we did see was beautiful.
On our last day in town, we made one final trip to the park, and ended up grabbing a late breakfast at Morning Call, a bustling coffee shop serving beignets and other classic New Orleans fare. I actually liked their beignets a little better than the ones at Cafe du Monde, but Tom disagreed. We also got an order of mini muffulettas, which were tasty too!
What We Didn’t Do in New Orleans
So, we ate pretty much everything there is to eat in NOLA, but you may have noticed we didn’t do a whole lot else. We did have every intention of going on a cemetery tour and a swamp tour, but since we were there in the off-season it rained pretty much the entire time we were there. Whenever we’d get a few hours without rain, we took the dog for a walk or darted from one restaurant to another in hopes of missing the next deluge. But that just gives us good reason to back again soon. Plus, I have a friend who lives there who I didn’t get to see nearly enough.
Have you been to New Orleans? What’s the best thing you ate? Best thing you did?
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