If ever there were a time to eat, drink, and be merry in New Orleans, it’s now. The city celebrates its tricentennial in 2018 and has landed on numerous lists as a must-visit destination for its rich history and culinary impact. A trip to the Crescent City should include a bit of planning, as some of the hottest dining destinations are booked far in advance, while others are often only discovered by word of mouth.
Fortunately, Elijah Bradshaw has a lay of the land and a taste for all things New Orleans. He joined the W New Orleans-French Quarter (316 Chartres St., Tel: 504-581-1200. www.wfrenchquarter.com) in 2012 as a front desk agent and was quickly promoted to his current position as the property’s W Insider.
While Southern Decadence reigns supreme as the city’s LGBTQ bacchanalian celebration each Labor Day weekend, Bradshaw’s recommendations ensure that decadence can be discovered in New Orleans any time of year.
New Orleans has received many accolades as one of the country’s best food cities. Do you have a ‘must eat and drink’ list for firsttime visitors?
My favorite spot for a po’boy is at Parkway Bakery and Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., Tel: 504-482-3047. www.parkwaypoorboys.com). My go-to is their home-cooked hot roast beef poor boy with gravy. You’ll need plenty of napkins! I also send first-timers to Brennan’s (417 Royal St., Tel: 504-525-9711. www.brennansneworleans.com for bananas Foster. Café Du Monde (multiple locations, www.cafedumonde.com) is famous for beignets, while Willie’s Mae’s Scotch House (2401 St. Ann St., Tel: 504-8229503. www.williemaesnola.com), located in the 6th Ward, is known for its fried chicken. Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St. b, Tel: 504-5882123. www.cochonrestaurant.com) is excellent for classic Cajun cuisine in a casual, rustic setting where you can find its namesake pork dish served with cabbage, cracklins, and pickled turnips.
Before a visitor ventures out to explore the city, what are some of your favorite inhouse culinary and beverage offerings?
SoBou (www.sobounola.com), which means South of Bourbon, is a member of the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants. Our Executive Chef Carlos Gonzales is from Puerto Rico, and he does a fantastic job of combining those flavors with the rich culinary culture of New Orleans to create some fantastic dishes. Guest should definitely try the shrimp and tasso pinchos, yellowfin tuna cones, and the blackened geaux fish. My favorite cocktail on the menu is the Sunset in the Courtyard that combines reposado tequila, blood orange liqueur, citrus, housemade pomegranate syrup, and your own SoBou sunglasses! I also love their take on the classic milk punch named the Honey Buzz Milk Punch. It’s Honey Nut Cheerios–infused rum, honey syrup, holiday pie bitters, and milk.
New Orleans is known for beignets and chicory. Where are some of your favorite spots to enjoy these NOLA standards?
Café Du Monde is the place to go for that, but if you want to avoid the long lines head to Café Beignet (www.cafebeignet.com). They have a few locations in the French Quarter. For the more adventurous traveler, I would head to local favorite Katie’s (3701 Iberville St., Tel: 504-488-6582. www.katiesinmidcity.com) in Mid-City for its crawfish beignets and chicory coffee.
For those with AFDD (attention food deficit disorder), can you recommend culinary and/or cocktail walking tours to get a broader taste of New Orleans?
Doctor Gumbo (Tel: 504-473-4823. www.doctorgumbo.com) does a fantastic job with cocktail and food history tours. You get to sample nine classic dishes or four classic cocktails in the French Quarter and learn about the history behind them. By the end, you will be able to tell the difference between Creole and Cajun food.
Every vacation should have at least one decadent throw-down meal where the drinks and courses flow free. What are your favorite spots for such an occasion and do they have any must-try signature dishes?
My friends and I love to get dressed up and go out for a decadent dinner in New Orleans. Make sure to get the large seafood platter and crawfish bisque at Luke New Orleans (333 St. Charles Ave., Tel: 504-378-2840. www.lukeneworleans.com). Head to Restaurant R’evolution (777 Bienville St., Tel: 504-553-2277. www.revolutionnola.com) for Death by Gumbo and triptych of quail (Southern fried, boudin stuffed, and absinthe glazed). Coquette (2800 Magazine St., Tel: 504-265-0421. www.coquettenola.com) is my favorite restaurant in the city. Located in the charming Garden District, it’s a great spot to dine with a small group of friends or with your significant other. Chef/owners Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus have created something extraordinary with their seasonal menu, but I love doing their ‘Put yourself in our hands’ five-course blind tasting. They also host an all-you-can-eatand-drink fried chicken and Champagne dinner once a year.
New Orleans is known for its Creole and Cajun cuisine, but it also boasts other noteworthy global culinary influences. Where do you send visitors who want to mix up their menu planning?
Lilly’s Café (1813 Magazine St., Tel: 504599-9999. www.facebook.com/lillyscafe) is one of my favorite Vietnamese spots. Red’s Chinese (3048 St. Claude Ave., Tel: 504-304-6030. www.redschinese.com) is also fantastic, try the craw rangoons and kung pao pastrami. For your meat fix, head to La Boca (870 Tchoupitoulas St., Tel: 504525-8205. www.labocasteaks.com), a favorite Argentinian steakhouse.
So many cocktails, so little time! Give us the rundown of where a visitor should go if one’s looking for the following:
A classic New Orleans cocktail in an elegant setting?
The Carousel Bar (214 Royal St., Tel: 504-5233341 www.hotelmonteleone.com/entertainment/carousel-bar) in the Hotel Monteleone has been spinning patrons for nearly 70 years and is the spot for a Sazerac (rye whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, and Herbsaint).
Cure (4905 Freret St., Tel: 504-302-2357 www.curenola.com) pours innovative cocktails and offers extended happy hour Fridays-Sundays (3 P.M.–7 P.M.) as well as late-night Fridays and Saturdays (12 A.M.–2 A.M.). Cane & Table (1113 Decatur St., Tel: 504-581-1112. www.caneandtablenola.com) offers classic cocktails and food specials, Monday to Friday, 3 P.M.–6 P.M.
LGBTQ establishment that pours a stiff drink?
The Golden Lantern Bar (1239 Royal St., Tel: 504-529-2860. www.facebook.com/goldenlanternbar) has been a New Orleans institution since 1964. In addition to the no-nonsense drinks, there’s usually a drag show happening.
Best beer garden or outdoor venue?
Bayou Beer Garden (326 N. Jefferson Davis Pkwy., Tel: 504-302-9357. www.bayoubeergarden.com) offers more than 100 beers (and plenty of shade to drink them) including Louisiana favorites like Abita, Gnarly Barley, Bayou Teche, and NOLA Brewing Co.
Which LGBTQ chefs should we know about?
John Bel is the executive chef at neighborhood favorite Meauxbar (942 N. Rampart St., Tel: 504-569-9979. www.meauxbar.com) and focuses on sourcing local, seasonal ingredients to create dishes that are refined and a joy to experience. It’s also a beautiful locale, just steps away from the newly opened Rampart-St. Claude streetcar line and Louis Armstrong Park.
For those that want to get hands-on, where would you recommend taking a cooking course and what might a participant expect to experience?
The New Orleans School of Cooking (524 St. Louis St., Tel: 504-525-2665. www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com) offers both participatory cooking classes as well as demonstration-only, but you’ll definitely want to get your hands dirty. A maximum of ten people, divided into smaller groups to tackle each course, prepare an authentic New Orleans meal. The last time I attended we made bananas Foster Crêpes and, yes, they came out perfectly!
Taking a brief break from eating and drinking, NOLA is also packed with cultural and historical activities. What are some of your favorites?
The National WWII Museum (945 Magazine St., Tel: 504-528-1944. www.nationalww2museum.org) is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon and is ranked New Orleans’ number-one attraction. In addition to its permanent exhibits, “So Ready for Laughter: The Legacy of Bob Hope” is on display through February 10, 2019.
The French Quarter has a long and rich history of LGBTQ people and culture. Frank Perez does a private Gay New Orleans Walking Tour (www.tourguides.viator.com/tourguide-frank-perez-89460.aspx) that explores the places and stories that helped make New Orleans as fabulous as it is today. And for travelers who might be overwhelmed by the Mardi Gras spectacle, I send them to the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes & Culture (1010 Conti St., Tel: 504-218-4872. www.themardigrasmuseum.com). You’ll find costumes from Carnival Royalty to Mardi Gras Indian and Gay Carnival Krewes. Make sure to stop at the costume closet to dress up in authentic Mardi Gras garb and take Insta-worthy pictures.
For a final gay flourish, where do you send guests who want to experience New Orleans’ queer nightlife and what might they expect when they get there?
The corner of Bourbon and St. Ann turns into a bit of a street party at night. That intersection has two of the best clubs in the French Quarter: Bourbon Pub/Parade (801 Bourbon St., Tel: 504-529-2107. www.bourbonpub.com) and Oz (800 Bourbon St., Tel: 504-593-9491. www.ozneworleans.com). On any given night, you will witness anything from drag shows to underwear contests. If a low-key bar vibe is your preference, then head a few blocks away to Good Friends Bar (740 Dauphine St., Tel: 504-566-7191. www.goodfriendsbar.com) and 700 Club (700 Burgundy St. www.700nola.com).
What should any visitor make sure is tucked away in his luggage to bring a taste of New Orleans home?
The ultimate New Orleans takeaway is a box of fresh-baked pralines from Southern Candymakers (multiple locations, www.southerncandymakers.com).