A five-minute hop, skip, and jump to the French Quarter, New Orleans’ Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St. Tel: 504-523-6000. www.windsorcourthotel.com) entails a shot of classicstyle New Orleans luxury. Having undergone a $22 million restoration in 2012, the 316-room property is home to a top-rated spa, a 65-foot saltwater rooftop pool and deck, and a handful of restaurants and bars, including afternoon tea spot Le Salon, fine dining Grill Room, Polo Lounge, and a brand-new coffee shop that opened in late 2016.
Overseeing the latter venues is Food and Beverage Outlet Manager David Weick, a delightful, openly gay New Orleans native with a finger on the local LGBT scene’s pulse. Often seen chatting up guests in the hotel’s restaurants these days, Weick previously spent 14 years working at New Orleans’ two-level, go-to gay dance club, Oz, before joining the Windsor Court as Club Lounge concierge in 2010.
“Windsor Court Hotel is the iconic gem of hospitality in this region of the country,” he says. “My favorite part of the job is being able to convey genuine hospitality and ensure guests are comfortable and their needs are well taken care of.” Those needs certainly include the scoop on New Orleans’ most essential, current must-dos, gay and otherwise, which Weick is happy to share.
Where are the coolest places to go for cocktails in New Orleans today?
Of course, I must recommend our very own Polo Club Lounge and Cocktail Bar at Windsor Court. Both feature an array of seasonal specialty cocktails, like the La Louisiana and Ilsa’s Blue Dress, a nod to the classic love story Casablanca. You can catch live music at both venues nightly, too. Cellar Door (916 Lafayette St. Tel: 504-265-8392. www.cellardoornola.com) on Lafayette Street has been open for a couple of years now and is a popular speakeasy-style nightspot in a historic building that was a brothel during the late 1800s. Arnaud’s French 75 Bar (813 Bienville St. Tel: 504-523-5433. www.arnaudsrestaurant.com/bars/french-75) is classic NOLA cocktail experience, and Cure (4905 Freret St. Tel: 504302-2357. www.curenola.com) is another great option. Cure was one of the pioneers of the craft cocktail movement in New Orleans, and it’s still a great place to try something new. Plus, Ferret Street is one of the up-and-coming areas in Uptown New Orleans, with a lot of new bars and restaurants.
What are the best places to eat in town, and let’s go beyond po’ boys and gumbo?
My favorites are all on the same street in Uptown New Orleans, which is Magazine Street. Cavan (3607 Magazine St. Tel: 504509-7655. www.cavannola.com), Lilette (3637 Magazine St. Tel: 504-895-1636. www.liletterestaurant.com), and Shaya (4213 Magazine St. Tel: 504-891-4213. www.shayarestaurant.com) are all fantastic experiences. Shaya is just over a year old and was named the country’s Best New Restaurant at this year’s James Beard Awards for Chef Alon Shaya’s modern-Israeli cuisine. Vessel NOLA (3835 Iberville St. Tel: 504-603-2775. www.vesselnola.com), housed in a former church in Mid-City, just recently opened, and they also have great cocktails. The food is coastal Mediterranean, and includes everything from small snacks and appetizers to flatbreads and larger entrées.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch?
Coquette (2800 Magazine St. Tel: 504265-0421. coquettenola.com) has a wonderful brunch that is also a crowd pleaser. They have an amazing three-course brunch for $30, and each course has multiple selections. This Garden District bistro is a must for people looking to get out of the French Quarter and experience amazing Southern cuisine. It’s definitely a favorite among locals. For a hipster recommendation, Elizabeth’s (601 Gallier St. Tel: 504944-9272. www.elizabethsrestaurantnola.com) in the Bywater district. The pralinecoated bacon appetizer is a must! Our Sunday Jazz Brunch at The Grill Room at Windsor Court is also fantastic. We have a bloody mary and mimosa station, along with live music. My favorite dish is the chicken-and-waffle sliders, our chef’s play on the classic Southern menu item.
Are there any shops or tailors where visitors can pick up a great costume for Southern Decadence, Halloween, or Mardi Gras?
I really like New Orleans Party & Costume (705 Camp St. Tel: 504-525-4744. www.facebook.com/nolacostume), which is located on Camp Street, not far from Windsor Court. From A to Z, you can find a costume for any occasion or festival there. Oh, and don’t forget Fifi Mahony’s Salon (934 Royal St. Tel: 504-5254343. www.fifimahonys.salonmonster.com), the go-to place for incredible wigs.
What are the hottest shows in town?
It’s not technically a show, but I love supporting my New Orleans Saints on Sundays and so do many members of our LGBT community. The Saints are an NFL Football team and winners of Super Bowl XLIV against the Indianapolis Colts, and Quarterback Drew Brees is a much-loved local celebrity. The Saints play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but sometimes it’s the fans who put on the real show. In true New Orleans fashion, many fans dress in costumes for every game: we’ve seen The Pope, a black-and-gold cow named Moo Dat, Star Wars Storm Troopers, and VooDoo Queens. Saints fans aren’t timid either, and the cheering and chants can be deafening. For those who don’t catch the show, the chant Who Dat?! can be heard across the city before, during, and after games.
Which museums are a must-see for visitors?
The New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle. Tel: 504-658-4100. www.noma.org) is fantastic, as is the McKenna Museum of African American Art (1418 Governor Nicholls St. Tel: 504-566-1136. www.themckennamuseum.com) and The National World War II Museum (945 Magazine St. Tel: 504-5281944. www.nationalww2museum.org), the latter of which features a 4D movie called Beyond All Boundaries with Tom Hanks. Get to these early, as they are popular.
Which guided tours do you recommend most often to your guests?
A fellow named Glenn Louis DeVillier (Tel: 225-819-7535. www.glfdevilliers.com) does an LGBT-themed walking tour Saturdays at 3 P .M. called The Twirl, featuring lots of stories about New Orleans’ gay heritage, stops at former homes and haunts of Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Liberace, and, of course, cocktails. Price is $30 per person plus tip. I personally love New Orleans’ cemetery tours, as these are authentic and factual, as opposed to the ‘ghost tours’ and ‘haunted history tours’ that are a little exaggerated. New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in America, and there are dozens of cemeteries around New Orleans. You can even visit the infamous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, by visiting her tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (425 Basin St. Tel: 504-596-3050). Local cemeteries are often also used as backdrops for movies and television shows, so you might even catch a glimpse of a celebrity or two while on a tour! You can find a list of various kinds of Cemetery Tours online at www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/tours/cemeterytours.html.
Where can we go to get the best views?
The Club Lounge on the 22nd floor of Windsor Court has wonderful views of both the Mississippi River and the New Orleans skyline. The recently reopened, beautifully restored Pontchartrain Hotel (2031 St Charles Ave. Tel: 504-323-1400. thepontchartrainhotel.com), where Tennessee Williams famously wrote A Streetcar Named Desire, has a rooftop bar called Hot Tin, and it’s absolutely stunning with a Mississippi River view and 1940s-inspired design. Just opened in March 2016, ACE Hotel (600 Carondelet St. Tel: 504-941-9191. www.acehotel.com/neworleans) also has a rooftop pool and bar called Alto with fine views, cocktails, and a hipster crowd, while I also recommend Crescent Park (www.frenchmarket.org/crescentpark) and its steep, yet compact, walkbridge, or the view from the levee at Algiers Point. Finally, Tableau (616 St Peter St. Tel: 504-934-3463. www.tableaufrenchquarter.com), a restaurant in the French Quarter, has a great balcony view that includes Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.
What about a spa for some pampering? Where do you recommend?
The Spa At Windsor Court (www.windsorcourthotel.com/spa) if you’d like to be pampered head to toe, and it was even named #1 Spa in New Orleans by USA Today’s ‘10 Best.’ Belladonna (2900 Magazine St. Tel: 504-891-4393. belladonnadayspa.com) and EarthSavers (5501 Magazine St. Tel: 504-899-8555. www.secure.earthsaversonline.com) are two other great spas. Belladonna offers microdermabrasion and hydrotherapy, and they have a great store for retail therapy. People rave about Earthsavers’ healing treatments like cupping (which we heard so much about during the Olympics) and immunotherapy.
What are the most popular gay bars in Nola?
Oz (800 Bourbon St. Tel: 504-593-9491. www.ozneworleans.com) is the place for dancing and go-go boys. I should know, since I worked there for 14 years! There are records that show, at one time in the mid 1800s, it was a private boys school, and I still believe there’s a ghost haunting the building. So many things move and fall for no reason. I nicknamed the ghost Butch, and when I was alone in the office, he would always distract me by making noise on the roof. I would have to pause and tell him that I heard him and ask him to please stop, and he would. Both open 24/7, Bourbon Pub & Parade (801 Bourbon St. Tel: 504-529-2107. www.bourbonpub.com) and Café Lafitte in Exile (901 Bourbon St. Tel: 504522-8397. www.lafittes.com) are also favorites of mine and draw crowds of all ages. If you want to walk on the wild side, I recommend Rawhide 2010 (740 Burgundy St. Tel: 504-525-8106. www.rawhide2010.com), which has been known to get a little erotic in the back so to speak. All of these bars are located within a three-block walk from each other in the French Quarter.
What about the most popular gay dance clubs?
Again, Oz is tough to beat for all-night dancing and has a fantastic drag queen entertainment component. Parade, upstairs from the Bourbon Pub, is a lot of fun as well. Depending on the night, most clubs have a cover charge between certain hours and include some kind of entertainment, whether guys stripping to their underwear or a talent show for cash and prizes.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
Open 24/7, Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St. Tel: 504-598-1010. www.clovergrill.com) in the French Quarter is the place to go after a night of partying and dancing in the Quarter. It’s on Bourbon Street across from Café Lafitte in Exile. Try the hubcap burger and chili cheese fries—my favorites!
Bourbon Street gets all the glory, but what about a more underrated strip we should know about in New Orleans?
I really like Frenchman Street as an adult alternative to the craziness of Bourbon Street. This is where locals go for a night out in the Quarter, and has plenty of live music venues, outstanding street food, and interesting art galleries that make for a nice break from the Bourbon crowds.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave New Orleans without…
Trying a hurricane cocktail at Pat O’Brien’s (718 Saint Peter. Tel: 504-525-4823. www.patobriens.com); riding the St. Charles streetcar uptown; strolling down Royal Street at dusk; and having chicory coffee and beignets in City Park at Morning Call (56 Dreyfus Dr. Tel: 504-300-1157. www.morningcallcoffeestand.com) under the oak trees.