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Arnaud's is one of the Grand Dames of the French Quarter, recognized among locals and visitors alike as an authentic source for perfect creole cuisine. The recipe for trout amandine hasn't changed in decades. The menu features five different preparations of oysters; even more interesting is the secret upstairs Mardi Gras museum, featuring spectacular gowns worn by Germaine Cazenave Wells, daughter of the restaurant's founder Count Arnaud. Theyre beautiful and haunting, imbued with history and covered in sequins and pearls.
This place, located on a stretch of Magazine populated by mostly local businesses, doesn't look like much. The front has a classic tiled look, but inside it takes on the appearance of a neglected diner. The only thing that tips you off to what's about to happen is the line of people - from well-dressed business travelers to gaggles of teens - waiting for a table. Casamento's has the best raw oysters I've ever eaten. Period. They're also reasonably priced, about a dollar each when ordered by the dozen. The oyster loaf is great, as are the fried seafood dinners, but they're not what makes this place exceptional. If you don't want to wait, arrive early.
I stayed here with a well-heeled friend, and even she was pleased by the amenities. The lobby is golden, airy and inviting. The restaurant is typically decorated for a fine hotel; the breakfasts were lovely and the coffee strong. My favorite part was the rooftop pool. I felt like I had an exclusive view of the city from on high and could observe little moments happening all around. Street parking is difficult to find in the quarter, especially because most of nearby Conti is reserved for police vehicles, but otherwise the location is ideal; it's only steps to Jackson Square, to the galleries on Royal, and only a few more to Bourbon, if that's your thing.
More a neighborhood bar with great cocktails than a cocktail bar, there's nonetheless an element of hipster-chic about this place. My first time there I tasted their take on the Moscow mule and it's become the standard against which I compare other versions. Located on N. Rampart just across from Armstrong Park, it's on the periphery of the quarter so you'll want to make the trek with friends, not because it's dangerous, but just because walking the few quiet blocks there isn't as fun alone.
The Roosevelt is beautiful. It's also home to the Sazerac bar, as historic as it is storied. When Huey Long couldn't get a satisfactory Ramos Gin Fizz in New York, he had the Roosevelt send the head bartender to teach Manhattan how to mix his favorite cocktail. The Sazerac has been setting the standard ever since. For even more fun, John Besh restaurant Domenica is situated within the hotel. Happy hour boasts half-price pizzas, wines by the glass, and other fine surprises.
The spot on lower Decatur that was once home to Pravda looks like it's been stripped down to bare walls. Using that to its aesthetic advantage, Cane & Table (from the guys behind Cure) takes on a Cuban ex-pat vibe complete with coladas served out of hollowed pineapples (yes, seriously). The cocktail menu is inspired by rum but not limited to it, and many of the combinations are pleasantly surprising. Stick to sides and small plates when it comes to food; the portions are generous enough that you won't go hungry.
The Hotel Modern, which lights up Lee Circle with its colorful glow, boasts two bars. One is inside the sleek Tivoli & Lee restaurant, while the other is a little more sultry. Bellocq (namesake of the photographer known for his early 20th century Storyville portraits) features cocktails of the same era. The bar is known for cobblers, spirits served over a slush of crushed ice. Check out the last page of the menu for "Fancy Pants" potables with prices climbing into triple digits.
Bartender Chris Hannah brings to cocktails "a delicate balance of the old and the new," advocated by Count Arnaud, the man who opened the famed restaurant of which French 75 is a part. That means iconic New Orleans drinks with a twist, though sometimes the twist is that they're made with ingredients that are authentic to 200-year-old recipes, like the shrubs and syrups that Hannah cooks up himself.
Ask a New Orleans bartender where he or she goes to have a drink, and two names come out above the rest: Erin Rose, a late-night spot off Bourbon, and Sylvain. The cocktails here are complex and the bartenders knowledgeable. I was offered a taste of the rhum agricole that formed the base of one of my drinks to make sure I'd like it. Though this spot is just off Jackson Square, I must have walked by it dozens of times. Only when I went looking for it did I finally find it, and it was worth it.
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, Twelve Mile is that perfect contradiction: a lowbrow bar serving high-end cocktails for less than you'd pay in another city (or the French Quarter, for that matter). Bartenders measure and mix up drinks like the Baudin and Gread Idea (it totally is) with touches like honey and Zwack. Don't miss Monday nights, when getting a drink buys you shockingly good free food.
If you've heard of one fancy cocktail spot in New Orleans, it's probably Cure. With bartenders dressed the part in speakeasy-era garb and an apothecary's worth of bitters in droppers and misters arrayed around the bar, this thriving Freret Street spot has set the bar (drinking pun!) pretty high. It's almost too much, but the cocktails are just that good.
As a child, I used to walk here from my grandmother's house with a few forints in my hand for a scoop of ice cream. The prices may have gone up since then, but not by much. The ice cream can call forth a line around the building, and the pastries -- both sweet and savory -- are flaky and perfect.