Hip hangouts from New Orleans’ insiders

A festival favourite, jazz mecca and architectural mix-match, this musical hub always brings the party. From those who know it best, here’s how to soak up the best vibes New Orleans has to offer 

Meschiya Lake, New Orleans jazz singer

Meschiya Lake, jazz singer

Eat: My favourite place to eat is a little Mediterranean restaurant in mid-city called 1000 Figs. The burrata here is the best you’ll taste outside of Italy, and the falafel sandwich is to die for. After a night on the town, nothing beats Hank’s Super Market on St Claude Ave. Hands down, the best fried chicken in the city.
Drink: Faubourg Wines houses an extensive collection to suit anyone’s taste, with friendly staff who can pinpoint your desires based on the vaguest descriptions. Or, for a good old-fashioned New Orleans hangout, try Saturn Bar on Monday nights when the best New Orleans R&B band, The Special Men, are doing their weekly thing. Founded by an ex-boxer, the venue’s wraparound balcony was originally designed for viewing cockfights, but now overlooks the bar’s boisterous dancefloor.
Jazz: Live jazz venues are the base of this city’s economy, so for the best of the rat pack, head to Frenchmen Street’s the Spotted Cat Music Club. I’ve been playing here weekly with my band Little Big Horns (pictured) for almost a decade now, and it feels more like home than my own house. If you’d like a quieter evening, head to Chickie Wah Wah - this place was designed for music to really be heard. I’ve had some of my most special nights here, both as a performer and as an audience member.

Neal Bodenheimer, New Orleans bar entrepreneur

Neal Bodenheimer, bar entrepreneur

Eat: For traditional New Orleans meets modern fine dining, book yourself a table at Brennan’s on Royal Street. This is a beautiful restaurant right in the heart of the French Quarter, combining classic dishes with cutting-edge culinary techniques.
Drink: An old-time oasis of vintage elegance, Arnaud’s French 75 was way ahead of its time in terms of modern craft cocktail trends. There’s still a lovely formal feeling, with jacketed bar tenders and tuxedo-wearing maître d’s, alongside a forgotten style of service that I really like. It’s the perfect place to get dressed up, tuck into a potato soufflé and nurse their eponymous cocktail, made with Cognac, sugar, lemon and Champagne.
Jazz: This may sound a bit obvious, but I love Preservation Hall (above) established back in 1961 just off Bourbon Street. It’s touristy, but we Orleanians are preservationists at heart, and I like venues that have stood the test of time. It’s a magical space, home to some of the best jazz in the city. It’s an experience to hear jazz somewhere in which it’s been played for so many years, and well worth the queue outside. 

Mani Dawes, New Orleans restaurateur

Mani Dawes, restaurateur

Eat: I love going out for Friday lunch at Galatoires for a true, old-school New Orleans experience. I always get the same entree – snapper topped with crabmeat. For dinner, NOLA chef Nina Compton hits it out of the park every time at her restaurant, Compère Lapin. I love the curried goat (pictured).
Drink: Sylvain is my go-to spot for a drink in the French Quarter. It has it all – charm, history, a great location and above all, deliciously memorable cocktails and food. 
Jazz: It’s a tie between Snug Harbor and Bacchanal. Snug Harbor is the quintessentially classic New Orleans place to hear jazz, with cosy low ceilings and an intimate balcony offering a bird’s eye view of the best jazz musicians in the world. Bacchanal is an only-in-New-Orleans wine bar with a phenomenal bottle selection and funky outdoor courtyard, where brilliant musicians play to the vino-drinking crowd.

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This article has been tagged Food + Drink, Destination