I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t see the value in maintaining New Orleans following hurricane Katrina. How could such a vulnerable city be worth saving? It took exactly 37 seconds for me to realize how wrong I was once we arrived for our New Orleans vacation. New Orleans is a cultural treat because it doesn’t fit into any one typical category. The city is bursting with energy! Live music abounds everywhere in the French Quarter and the food is truly a cultural phenomenon rich in seafood, spice and strong flavors. Moreover, the nightlife can’t be missed. Certainly Bourbon Street is an everlasting party, but the rest of the city is raucous as well. We stayed at the beautiful, yet comfortable Bourbon Orleans Hotel. The hotel is old, grand and a suitable place to rest when one must sleep. Make sure to ask for an interior room as the hotel borders Bourbon Street and some rooms can be loud at night. We did not come to the city for the hotel, though, but for the food and for the drinks. While I despise the term, one could easily classify my wife and me as “foodies.” So often when we travel it’s to experience culture and food.
For any visit to New Orleans, there are certain mandatory stops that are well worthwhile. To skip them would be like skipping the Great Wall on a trip to Beijing (I skipped the Great Wall while in Beijing and do not recommend my own idiocy). Do yourself a favor and have an early lunch at Acme Oyster House. Massive lines, often spanning two city blocks, can be avoided by arriving early. If you arrive late, don’t fret! The line moves surprisingly quickly for its size. When you do get a table, skip the raw oysters and instead opt for chargrilled. I cannot adequately explain how good they are. Still raw, topped with Parmesan, they are perfumed with a decadent smoky flavor. Should the line at Acme be too long, check out Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House next door. It’s a great place for oysters and even better for drinks. The barrel-aged Manhattan is sublime, and even better when delivered by the team of Fast Eddie and Trodell. These two know personal service like no other.
For those in the mood to splurge, New Orleans is as good a place as any. We pooled our hard-earned dollars and invested them wisely. Months prior to our trip, we smartly placed a reservation at John Besh’s Restaurant August. This popular restaurant, run by an even more popular chef, is well worth the wait. Simply put, it’s a bucket list restaurant. Restaurant August is the type of establishment one would travel hours to enjoy and our three-course meal was superb. As the menu changes often, I cannot recommend a particular dish. However, for those looking for a nightcap after dinner at August, I suggest splurging on Cane & Table. This apothecary of alcoholic concoctions has quickly gained notoriety across the South, including a mention in the ever-popular Garden & Gun magazine. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool whiskey man myself, but Cane & Table serves some killer rum-focused drinks. I strongly recommend the Last Rights.
Finally, the French Quarter is filled with all sorts of nifty and unique boutiques. Ladies can find some amazing dresses and hats at Trashy Diva, which is ironically not trashy at all. I’d say their fashions are classically contemporary. For gentlemen, make sure to check out Goorin Bros Hat Shop.
A day after our New Orleans adventure had ended, I happened across another photographer. As it turned out she lived and New Orleans and invited us to visit anytime we liked. At that moment I realized how amazing New Orleans truly is. I’d do just about anything to visit again, and soon. It’s rare for me to revisit a place I’ve been before, but New Orleans is one of a kind and I cannot wait to return.
Bourbon Orleans Hotel (it’s haunted!)
717 Orleans St,
New Orleans, LA 70116
- Put on your best suit and splurge on a fabulous dinner at Restaurant August. And following a big dinner, sip a nightcap at Cane & Table.
- Work off a hangover with sugary beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde.
- Take in some amazing jazz (followed by a real burlesque show) at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel (reservations strongly recommended).
- Refresh your wardrobe at Trashy Diva and Goorin Bros.
Hunter Harrison is an editorial wedding and portrait photographer, and an aficionado of Doberman shepherds and whiskey. He is highly skeptical of tomatoes.