Sure, there’s Pat O’Brien’s, Café du Monde and Acme Oyster House. And you’ll have a great time at all of the above – because these venerable institutions are what New Orleans is all about. But why not hit up some places where you’re more likely to mingle with locals and less likely to be sold a commemorative t-shirt? Here are five places in New Orleans that you probably won’t find in your guidebook.
1. Sip Tiki Drinks at Cane & Table
New Orleans has a dynamite cocktail scene and the city takes pride in their carefully crafted libations. While many guidebooks suggest hurricanes or hand grenades, you can one-up the boozing experience at Cane & Table in the French Quarter. The tiki-style sips are heavy on the rum. Consider their version of an Old Fashioned, called the For Walter, which is made with scotch, house-spiced rum, Italian vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. And don’t miss their ribs: fried in a sweet batter and topped with a piquant sauce, it’s their version of fall-off-the-bone goodness.
2. Get a Pie from Pizza Domenica
John Besh holds godlike chef status in the Crescent City, and for good reason. His Southern-focused fare is fully worth of worship. Pizza Domenica is the newest uptown restaurant from Alon Shaya and Besh (who also own Domenica), and it revolves more around charcuterie and Italian cheeses than Gulf oysters and gumbo. The oven churns out nearly 20 varieties of wood-fired pizzas, like the meaty “Tutto Carne” with sausage, bacon, salami, and prosciutto, and the “Roasted Carrot” is topped with goat cheese, red onion, Brussels spouts, beets, and hazelnuts.
3. Have Cocktails and Dinner in the Bywater
Venture out of the French Quarter to the impossibly hip Bywater neighborhood for an evening of food and drinks. A pre- or post-dinner cocktail can be had at Oxalis, a bar that serves its own version of a French 95 that’s mixed with bourbon instead of gin. Stroll down the block for dinner at Maurepas Foods, an airy restaurant with a seasonal, rotating menu that delivers Southern staples with a twist. Think chickpea-battered cauliflower, scalloped turnips with lamb tartare, and pickled Manchego.
4. Grab a Po’Boy at Verti Marte
Open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, Verti Marte in the French Quarter doesn’t look like anything special. It’s a simple bodega-style shop that stocks pantry staples, pet food, and cold soda. And it just so happens to make some of the best po’boys in the city. The “All That Jazz” is piled with grilled ham, turkey, shrimp, mushrooms and tomatoes, and topped with melted cheese and their secret “wow” sauce. And there’s a fried oyster and shrimp version (dressed, of course) that’s about as good as it gets.
5. Dish on Vietnamese Cuisine
When you think of New Orleans, you’re likely to think of Southern specialties – mostly of the battered and fried variety. But this city has a vibrant Vietnamese community that started arriving in New Orleans in the mid-70s and settled into the Westbank area of the city. This resulted in fantastically fresh Vietnamese cuisine. It’s worth going out of your way for a meal at Phò Tâù Bay in Gretna, or simply head to the Lower Garden District to Lilly’s Café. Both are favorites among celebrity chefs.