The Classy side of New Orleans
I'm trying to convince my wife to take a trip to NO for new years eve but she's got it in her head that it is all a bunch of drunk college students flashing each other. Neither of us has ever been but I feel confident that there is a little more to it than that. I would appreciate recommendations on nice restaurants and upscale bars. I'm assuming that we'd stay in the french quarter but if there is a part of the city to stay in that is a little more laid back we might be up for that as well.
Thanks in advance for suggestions.
There are a ton of very classy restaurants in the FQ and very near by. This board will yield a variety of great dining within walking distance - unlike most culinary destinations in the US and much of Europe.
Last time I was in the FQ for New Years, it was so cold that I nearly froze, as I flashed the tourists, but the Quarter was deserted (due to the weather) and I had to really scamper between the few groups, who were obviously lost. [Grin]
I did a recent review of some of the higher-end spots near the FQ (only Fins, IIRC) was in the Quarter, so that might be a starting point. Pre-K, I did a report of our "grand tour," featuring the old line spots, and Galatoire's was the standout from that visit.
Now, I have to admit that there is a bit of a Mardi Gras spirit, most nights of the year, that did not exist, when we lived there. Still, there is ample "class" in NOLA, for all but the most prudish. New Orleans is the city that taught me "class," and I love her for that. Go to New Orleans and just skip the bar-crawls. There is plenty of great food, and wonderful culture, not to mention the history. Just having beignets at the Café-du-Monde can be an enlightening experience – you might be sitting at the very table, that Tennessee Williams penned one of his works. Especially nice if the fog is rolling in off of the River. In the old days, the smell of hops from the Jax Brewery added an extra element of romance, but that is long gone.
Now, while NOLA is a dining city, and this is a food board, soak up the feeling of the City, its history and architecture, it’s people, while you’re there.
I might be way out of line here, but I don't think NO is where you really want to be. (Mind you, I'm from Detroit). I'm finding it very hard to express myself on this subject. I don't think NO is a party town. It's full of wonderful history, architecture, and culture. The first time Donna and I visited the city, we came away feeling that we had visited another country with a culture unique to the rest of the United States. New Year's Eve is a big party whereever you are. I think it would be unfair to the city because it would probably reinforce her impression. Why not go to New York or San Francisco. Take her to New Orleans for a romantic event such as an anniversity. Stay at the Audebon cottages, eat at Bayona and stroll the quarter. Take a tour. If you do decide to go for New Years, heed the advice of Hungry Celeste. You'll be in good hands.
SonyBob, that was a brave thing to say! And as native New Orleanian, I'm inclined to agree with you. New Year's Eve in the Quarter will be a roiling stew of holiday revelers and football fans.
GrillMaster, I like your question a lot. Actually, New Orleans has a very classy side. Most tourists aren't looking for classy NOLA, because the city is marketed --let's face it-- as a party destination. (Cutting loose is something we do really well, and funk contributes mightily to our charm.) But on a first visit, your wife might prefer spring or mid-fall, when the city isn't in the throes of a mega celebration.
The French Quarter is just one small corner of the city. There are classy restaurants all over town, beautiful neighborhoods, wonderful walks, nice parks, and quiet places to stay.
For future reference, here are a handful of nice places:
BARS (French Quarter)
Arnaud's French75 Bar
The Library Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Hotel (phone ahead to confirm that Chris McMillian is bartending)
Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel
The Victorian Lounge at the Columns Hotel
Pascale's Manale's for drinks in the 1930s bar area (the restaurant is just so-so)
RESTAURANTS (French Quarter)
Bistro at Maison de Ville
RESTAURANTS (CBD and UPTOWN)
Dick & Jenny's
I'm leaving out tons of places, including all the cheap, raffish neighborhood joints which are an essential part of the city's character. If and when you decide to come, we'll help you fill in the blanks.
Thanks for the list SbrooksB...I'll be in NO over thanksgiving and will be looking for a great NO restaurant for dinner. It can be in the french quarter, or uptown, should be nice, and i'm not worried about price. Could you pick a few of the restaurants you listed that really stand out, and maybe just elaborate on them a little (we'll go to commander's for brunch, so that one's covered). Sorry to be so demanding, it's very hard to choose when there's so many good things to choose from!
New Orleans is a wonderful place to spend New Years. Book a room at either the Windsor Court, the Soniat House, or the Ritz-Carlton (preferably on the club level). DO NOT GO TO BOURBON STREET. There's nothing to see there except for faux debauchery (I prefer my debauchery to be real) and drunken college kids (or older folks like me pretending to be drunken college kids). But definitely walk around the rest of the Quarter during the day time. Take a self guided tour (many tour books have good itineraries) or take the tour offered by the National Park Service (the least touristy of the tours that are offered). Go to the great musesums, including the art museum and the WWII museum. And make reservations to have dinner at one of New Orleans great classy restaurants: Bayona, Stella or August, for example, if you want to stay close to the Quarter; Brigtsen's if you don't mind a cab ride.
As Blumie said, the drunk frat boy contingent is almost entirely contained on Bourbon St. Local young 'uns go to Frenchman St, so that will most likely be a lively street party on New year's Eve, sans flashing. Even during Mardi Gras, the quarter off of bourbon St is pretty family friendly.
Anyway. Keep in mind that NYE is not the best night to eat out, restaurants are slammed. Maybe keep your fine dining off that night, and concentrate on the nice bars. I like the Carousel Bar in the Monteleone, and Columns Hotel uptown, as of today, accessible by streetcar. That said, here's a list of restaurants offering special reveillon menus, and the key tells you which are open on NYE.