An Insider's Guide to New Orleans: What to Eat, Drink & Do in the Big Easy

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Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

    We at Fora are big fans of in-person meet-ups. We love connecting with our diverse community, of course, and we love exposing our advisors to different hotels firsthand. A few of our HQ members recently met up with a small group of Fora Advisors in New Orleans, where they toured the city’s top hotels, sampled its varied gastronomic options and enjoyed all the exciting activities the Big Easy offers. 

    Below, we’ve collated a few of the greatest hits, courtesy of the advisors who joined us. Read on for their recs. Then, connect with Fora to plan and book your trip to NOLA.

    New Orlean’s can’t-miss restaurants

    For flavorful Creole cooking, Fora Advisor (and New Orleans local) Gillian Spatz recommends the family-friendly Commander's Palace, “the quintessential New Orleans restaurant,” she said, adding, “Come for weekday lunch with 25-cent martinis and come back again for jazz brunch or a relaxing diner.” 

    When in NOLA, beignets are required, and Fora Advisor April Sampleton noted how those at the legendary Café du Monde cannot be beat. She also loves the hip Josephine Estelle, where refined Italian-American cooking is served in a breezy, brasserie-chic setting. “Their grilled shrimp panzanella salad is amazing!” she noted.

    Fora Advisors Alyssa Manning and Melissa Elliott both recommend Seaworthy, where wild, sustainably sourced oysters (and so much more) are paired with a thoughtful beverage program. The space is sleek and trendy, with cozy booths, patterned tiling and wooden floors. Melissa noted how it’s “a quaint restaurant with a cute little outdoor dining area that makes you feel like you're in Europe. The char-grilled oysters are the best in the city!”

    The playful, ever-popular Bearcat is Alyssa’s “go-to brunch spot,” she said. “Choose from the ‘good cat’ menu when you want something a little more healthy, and the ‘bad cat’ menu when you want to indulge.”

    For a more upscale vibe, head to Mr. B’s Bistro, a New Orleans institution highlighting Louisianian cuisine. “Mr. B's is an old favorite,” Melissa said. “The BBQ shrimp is a standout and great during jazz brunch.” Gris-Gris is another great neighborhood spot to sample top-tier Southern cuisine, Gillian said. The balcony is delightful when the weather is nice, and “you can't go wrong with anything on the menu,” she said. 

    For locally sourced Asian cuisine in a fun, eclectic setting, Gillian loves the vibrant Mister Mao. “Mister Mao blends the best of Asian and other global cuisines with all over deliciousness,” she said. “For those who love spice, this is a MUST-visit! Highly recommend the pani puri.”

    New Orleans also has some impressive sandwich game. Per Gillian, Stein’s Deli is a local staple. “Dan Stein, the owner, is a local institution (and also a Queer Eye hero),” she said. “Great spot to grab an egg, pork roll and cheese on a bagel for breakfast or a reuben for lunch.” Francolini’s is a NOLA newcomer, but already extremely popular. “The ciabatta deserves a gold medal!” Gillian said. Finally, for po-boys, fried oysters, cheese fries and other ultra-satisfying Southern cuisine, Mahony's, she says, is the place to be.  

    The best bars in New Orleans

    a dimly lit bar beneath a grand crystal chandelier

    Image courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans

    As for where to drink, Melissa loves Bar Marilou, located in the Fora favorite Maison de la Luz (one of the top hotels in New Orleans). “This swanky speakeasy is a gem!” she said, complete with “great craft cocktails, live music and gourmet small bites.” Alyssa recommends Bar Tonique for craft cocktails and friendly vibes and Cane & Table for vibrant cocktails inspired by the Caribbean.

    The Four Seasons’s elegant Chandelier Bar is a whole experience, according to Fora Advisor Angela Poulin: “Sip on a glass of Champagne under the chandelier with over 15,000 floating crystals,” she said. Angela also loves the cozy Press Room, located within the colorful lobby of the Eliza Jane hotel.

    Barrel Proof offers over 350 different types of whiskey, said Gillian, and is a local favorite. The James Beard Award-winning Cure is another local gem. “You can't go wrong with any of the handcrafted cocktails and perfectly paired snacks,” she added. Another award-winning bar is Jewel of the South, where everything from the innovative cocktails to the dynamic food menu is executed with intention and precision. If wine is more your vibe, Gillian recommends Bacchanal Wine is fun and lively, with a great outdoor space and an exciting events roster.

    The best things to do in New Orleans

    New Orleans is certainly not lacking in things to do. Magazine Street, per Gillian, is a fun spot to explore local art, indulge in delicious eats, support local artists and more. A steamboat dinner cruise accompanied by jazz is a unique way to see the city, April says. To explore NOLA’s eclectic neighborhoods, Alyssa added, rent a Blue Bike

    NOLA’s music scene is unmatched, and legendary venues abound. April encourages travelers to check out the Fillmore for any upcoming concerts and shows, while Preservation Hall offers the “quintessential New Orleans jazz experience,” Alyssa said. For more live music and lots of dancing, she favors Tipitina’s.

    The city’s green spaces, too, merit multiple visits. New Orleans’s City Park has a little bit of everything. “If you can name it, City Park has it — an art museum, botanical gardens, an amusement park, sports courts, mini golf, swan boats, surreys, cafés, a golf course and so much more,” Gillian said. “The Louisiana Children's Museum in the park is great for kids of all ages — our toddler loves it!”

    A cemetery tour is also a must, says Gillian. She highly recommends a cemetery tour, particularly one of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where you can see Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau's tomb.

    And of course, there are the famed streetcars. “New Orleans isn't New Orleans without its iconic streetcars,” Gillian said. “Take the St. Charles line from the edge of the French Quarter all the way through the Garden District and Uptown,” she advised, adding, “There are plenty of places to stop for a drink, tasty treat or sightseeing on your way — or just enjoy the ride.”

    Ready to travel to the Big Easy? Connect with Fora to plan and book your trip.

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