By Lauren Vespoli | Rhapsody, February 2018
You're in town for business, but you have the day off. Go
You have a day to yourself in New Orleans, so laissez les bons temps rouler, starting with breakfast at French Quarter institution Brennan's. The two-course Brennan's Breakfast starts with a choice of turtle soup or baked apple, followed by eggs hussarde (a variation on the Benedict topped with red-wine-based marchand de vin sauce). Or go a la carte and try one of the recent menu additions—like the egg yolk carpaccio—that helped executive chef Slade Rushing become a James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef of the South three years running. Either way, for the grand finale, opt for a fiery tableside preparation of bananas Foster, a dish that was invented here in 1951.
Eggs hussadare at Brennan's
New Orleans's vibrant art scene has become even more dynamic post-Katrina thanks to events like Prospect, the international arts triennial launched in 2008. This year's show, The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp (through February 25), explores the Big Easy's unique hybrid culture in the context of the 2018 tricentennial. The show's 73 works appear across 17 sites, although there's a concentration at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Arts Center in the Warehouse District, both an easy walk or streetcar ride from the Quarter.
The Contemporary Arts Center
Lunch is at Turkey and the Wolf, the waggish sandwich shop that Bon Appétit crowned America's best new restaurant in 2017. The menu features high-low mash-ups of brown-bag and diner favorites, including a towering fried bologna sandwich stacked with vinegar-soaked and fried potato chips and a collard green melt slathered in pickled cherry pepper dressing. Instead of a soda-stocked fridge, you'll find a bar that pours fun cocktails like the E-Honda's Hundred Hand Slap, a mix of pecan vodka, satsuma shrub, Amaro Meletti, lemon, and soda named for the Street Fighter series sumo wrestler.
It's a short walk through the stately mansions of the Garden District to the Henry Howard Hotel, a restored 19th-century Greek Revival townhouse. Each of the 18 rooms pays homage to Crescent City culture: Brass instruments hang like art on walls covered in custom toile wallpaper that depicts city icons like the St. Charles Streetcar (which stops less than a block away) and second-line parades. After a nap and some freshening up, relax with a book in the elegant parlor or on the columned porch, or take a stroll down to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, one of the city's oldest above-ground graveyards.
Dinner is at the Warehouse Arts District's Compère Lapin, where Top Chef finalist Nina Compton draws inspiration from both her childhood in St. Lucia and NOLA's Creole culinary tradition. The delectable surprises on her menu include curried goat over sweet potato gnocchi and jerk-spiced black drum with sunchoke purée. Start with the conch fritters, which expertly balance a creamy texture with a pickled pineapple tartar sauce, and wash them down with a Copper Bunny—a bright mix of Absolut Elyx vodka, pineapple-jalapeño tequila, ginger, lime, and Mumm Champagne served in, yes, a copper bunny.
If jazz is a religion, the French Quarter's Preservation Hall may be its most sacred cathedral. Established in 1961 by two Pennsylvania transplants to protect and perpetuate the city's traditional jazz culture, the hall hosts more than 1,500 performances a year by both its National Medal of Arts–winning Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a pool of talented local musicians. The no-frills venue is all about the music: It's BYOB for drinkers, and don't even think about snapping a photo with your phone during that trumpet solo.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
After the show, dodge Bourbon Street's daiquiri-slugging tourists and duck into Arnaud's French 75, the bar adjoining 100-year-old Arnaud's restaurant, where white-tuxedoed bartenders will make you feel a world (and a century) away from the ruckus outside. Slide into a seat at the antique bar and let head bartender Chris Hannah—who helped land the bar its James Beard Award—make you its namesake drink, a shimmering blend of Courvoisier VS cognac, Moët & Chandon, sugar, and lemon that will buoy you all the way home.
The namesake drink at Arnaud's French 75