The Locals-Only Guide to New Orleans
Ten years ago today, as a student at Tulane University, I was evacuating New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina was barreling toward the coast.
I didn’t know what would become of my city. For days, I waited with bated breath, glued to the television, hoping the storm would dissipate, wondering how my school, my home, and my favorite people and places would fare.
In the end, I was lucky, losing my car and little else. I was privileged, living in a nice neighborhood that endured minimal flooding. And had I lost it all, I would have had a nice family home to go back to. I was even luckier to be able to return to New Orleans and watch the city rebuild itself, a luxury still not afforded to thousands.
Over the following two years, I enjoyed seeing some of my most beloved haunts reopen after renovations, energized by the spirit of the community. I saw new businesses open with fresh ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit—signs of a modern city on the horizon. Every time I return to that fair city (yearly, if I’m lucky), I can’t wait to visit my old favorites, and I’m thrilled to discover a restaurant or shop I’ve never seen before.
I’ve grown to love this dichotomy of old and new in New Orleans today... and you will, too. Without further ado, I bring you my locals-only guide—a little bit of the old, a little bit of the young, and a lot of good times ahead.
Ninety percent of your time in New Orleans will be spent eating, so let's start with that.
More than 100 years old, and famed for its sprightly teal color and striped awnings, this historic restaurant defined (and continues to define) what “first-class service” means. Dining on Creole- and Louisiana-inspired cuisine with no fewer than three servers at your side, you’ll feel like a queen (or a king) when you’re dining here. Pro tip: Don’t miss the 25-cent three-martini lunch! Business attire is required.
Commander’s Palace | 1430 Washington Ave.
We’ve all heard of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and while it make seem predictable to be recommending one of his restaurants here, his Delmonico is a mainstay when it comes to top-notch Creole cuisine. Try the Gulf shrimp étouffée or the pork chop with red beans and rice; you won’t be disappointed.
Emeril’s Delmonico | 1300 St. Charles Ave.
Luring tourists and locals alike for its “real Nawlins Creole soul food,” Jacques-Imo’s in Uptown is known as much for its alligator cheesecake as it is for its owner, Jacques Leonardi, who roams the restaurant nightly in his printed swim trunks getting to know patrons.
Jacques-Imo’s | 8324 Oak St.
A historic food hall that relaunched this spring, St. Roch Market is a gourmet’s dream, playing host to 13 individual vendor stalls representing coastal and local foods. Shop everything from freshly made bread to specialty coffee to charcuterie to small-batch jam.
St. Roch Market | 2381 St. Claude Ave.
Don’t leave the city without trying a sno-ball, a New Orleans confection that dates back to the ’30s made with finely shaved ice and flavored cane sugar syrup. You can only find them seasonally, from March to October, at sno-ball stands throughout the city. Open since 1934, Hansen’s is the city’s oldest sno-ball business in town, and has been continuously family run.
Hansen’s Sno-Bliz | 4801 Tchoupitoulas St.
With culinary roots that date back to 1924, Atchafalaya is known for its contemporary spin on traditional NOLA cuisine. It reopened after Katrina following a remodel that used salvaged materials from its rich history. With live music and a smart cocktail menu, it’s a neighborhood favorite—and it makes a mean Bloody Mary.
Atchafalaya | 901 Louisiana Ave.
Award-winning artisanal confectioner Sucré is one of the country’s best, handcrafting French macarons, delicate chocolates, flavored marshmallows, and more. The shop’s glamorous, glittery king cake is my favorite in the city, and I have it shipped to me in California every year for Carnival season.
Sucré | 3023 Magazine St.
Paul Broussard for GoNOLA
Le Bon Temps is as classic as they come when we're talking about the city’s watering holes, with pool tables and a decent sandwich bar. The bar has live music every night, and the city’s beloved brass band The Soul Rebels has a weekly residency that draws locals for a contagiously fun evening. We love the bar’s Bloody Mary, which is packed with produce and served in a plastic cup.
Le Bon Temps Roulé | 4801 Magazine St.
Opened in 2009, Cure is a posh cocktail bar that brought New Orleans up to speed with the current craft cocktail renaissance that’s been taking the country by storm. It also changed the face of Uptown’s Freret Street area and is a great example of contemporary NOLA.
Cure | 4905 Freret St.
You won’t find this daiquiri lounge in any travel guide; it’s a hole in the wall that’s a bit off the beaten path for most tourists, and the area can be dangerous at night. But this spot serves the best—and probably the strongest—frozen daiquiris you’ll try in the city. Go halfsies with two flavors (I like peach and piña colada), and if you’re feeling extra special, order “an extra shot of diesel” (190 proof) for a real kick. Get your drink to go and then take a picnic in the park.
Jazz Daiquiri Lounge | 3400 S. Claiborne Ave.
Looking out over beautiful St. Charles Avenue, where the streetcars roll and rumble by, The Columns Hotel, a white columned building that dates to 1993 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the best place to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. Friday happy hour draws a lively crowd, but any time is nice to go.
The Columns Hotel | 3811 St. Charles Ave.
A city park in Uptown, located across from Tulane and Loyola Universities, Audubon Park is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. With a tranquil 1.8 mile jogging path, a lagoon, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and allees of ancient live oaks, it’s a favorite spot that everyone can enjoy.
Audubon Park | 6500 Magazine St.
Paul Broussard for GoNOLA
Located in the Carrolton neighborhood of Uptown, the Maple Leaf is one of the longest continually operating music clubs in New Orleans, and hosts performers of blues, funk, R&B, rock, Zydeco, jazz, and any combination thereof. Rebirth Brass Band, arguably the city’s most famed and beloved brass band, has a weekly residency. Go to dinner at Jacques-Imo’s beforehand, and you’ll have yourself a great night.
Maple Leaf Bar | 8316 Oak St.
A landmark for live music and Cajun dancing, Tipitina’s is an international icon that hosts the best acts in town, along with some of the greatest bands traveling through—of all musical genres. If you have a chance to see a show in this historic venue, don’t miss it.
Tipitina’s | 501 Napoleon Ave.
Opened in 2014 in Central City, The Stacks is an independent bookseller focusing on visual and graphic arts, architecture, photography, music, and other creative offerings. If you geek out over international magazines and cool contemporary art books, this is the place.
The Stacks | 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
Co-owned by Solange Knowles, and helmed by sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo, and Armina Mussa, this impeccably cool French Quarter shop features indie brands (like Ace & Jig, Nanushka, and Okpos’ own, Wiliam Okpo), and local goods including delightful fragrances and graphic-print clutches. It’s a shoo-in for an Instagram.
Exodus Goods | 518 Conti St.
Dating to 1186, this stunning, grand, white four-star hotel in the French Quarter is one of the last great family-owned-and-operated hotels in New Orleans. Over the years, it has been home to many distinguished southern authors, including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner. Following several additions and remodels, its rooms are beautifully appointed. Don’t miss its famed 25-seat revolving carousel bar, a New Orleans classic.
Hotel Monteleone | 214 Royal St.
Courtesy of Soniat House
A charming red-brick beauty with intricate wrought-iron balconies, green shutters, and leafy courtyards, this Colonial-Creole townhouse is steeped in history, styled with fine antiques and paintings, and just a touch of chintz. If you’re looking for a picture-perfect southern experience, this is the place.
Soniat House | 113 Chartres St.
Courtesy of Soniat House
Shop a few travel essentials below.
What are your favorite spots to visit in New Orleans? Tell us below.