Elegant Eating in the French Quarter
Before we zero in on New Orleans, let’s take a more global view of Mardi Gras. The Big Easy was the first city in the United States to celebrate this traditional event. Currently, it’s a major holiday in many cities and countries around the world – with each celebrating in its own way. For example, in Venice the locals celebrate by wearing traditional masks while in Rio, it’s a national holiday, with two million revelers every year. But no matter where Mardi Gras takes place there’s lots of music, dancing, partying and feasting.
Which brings us to this: where to dine when you visit New Orleans during this festive season. To make things easy, we’ve decided to concentrate on restaurants in the French Quarter. This is the oldest square mile in New Orleans and home to more restaurants and bars than any other part of the city so let’s take a look.
ARNAUD’S IS LOCATED JUST OFF BOURBON STREET
This year it will be 101 years since Arnaud Cazenave founded this historic restaurant bearing his name. It is now tended by the fourth generation of the family and is known for serving some of the Big Easy’s best Creole food. One can enjoy a romantic dinner in the main dining room or cocktails in the French 75 bar – which won a James Beard Award for outstanding quality and service. On the menu you’ll find delicious soufflé potatoes with béarnaise sauce, oysters Ohan baked with eggplant and delectable crab cakes. Arnaud’s is located at 813 Bienville Street.
NAPOLEON HOUSE ON THE CORNER: CHARTRES AND ST. LOUIS
This 200-year-old landmark was once the home of a New Orleans mayor who offered it to Napoleon as a refuge during his exile. Now it is known for its European charm and as a spot for civilized drinking and eating. It offers Jambalaya (spicy rice, chicken and sausage), seafood gumbo, a turkey club or an Italian muffuletta of ham, Genoa salami, pastrami, Swiss cheese and provolone cheese. And yes, you can also order bread pudding or a delicious cannoli for dessert. You’ll find the Napoleon House at 500 Chartres Street.
SYLVAIN’S RESTAURANT: JUST A BLOCK OFF JACKSON SQUARE
Sylvain takes its name from the first opera performed in New Orleans. It is set in a carriage house that was built in the late eighteenth century. They describe their menu as offering, “Southern bistro classics elevated to the style of refined cuisine.” That’s a great description – and it’s true! For brunch they offer: Brioche French Toast (seasonal fruit compote, bacon, Steen’s cane syrup), Shrimp & Grits (tomato basil brodo, bacon, mushrooms and caramelized onions). “Brodo” is Italian for broth (I had to look it up). This charming spot is at 625 Chartres Street.
SOBOU IS IN THE HIP “W” HOTEL ON CHARTRES STREET
Love the name! The moniker “SoBou” means South of Bourbon, which is rather catchy and clever. You can go here for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. It describes itself as “a modern Creole saloon that offers ‘small plates’ prepared by our friendly bar team.” Why not go here for lunch? They offer: The Backyard Burger and, get this: a 25-cent martini, Monday to Friday from 11:30 am to 3 pm with the purchase of an entrée (the limit is three drinks per person) or, as they say, “That’s enough” – I totally agree. You’ll find this fun spot at 310 Chartres Street.
Stay tuned. We’ll have more eating/drinking suggestions for you in next week’s blog.