What to see, eat and do in New Orleans

Even for a city like New Orleans, which has recovered from calamities viral, meteorological and if not for three centuries, the last two years have been difficult. But today, the freest city in the land struts around with a sense of relief and renewed confidence, enticing visitors with tried-and-true charms and a few shiny new trinkets.

Notably, a spirit of studied elegance and experimentation has made its mark on the hotel scene, with bespoke boutique hotels popping up in neighborhoods beyond the French Quarter, and major international players including Virgin Hotels and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, opening outposts near the heart of the Old City.

A place that operates through tourism and conviviality was to suffer notable losses in the pandemic, especially in the restaurant world. Among them were K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, the French Quarter hangout that closed in 2020 after decades of spreading the gospel of Creole and Cajun cuisine. More hip foodies are mourning the loss of Upperline, JoAnn Clevenger’s stylish Uptown diner, which fits the neighborhood like the best kind of crinkle button-up.

But fear not: no one goes home hungry. New restaurants and old ones are resurfacing as tourists flock to the city and locals rediscover their love affair with their city.

Culturally, returning visitors will be wowed by a new museum dedicated to Southern Jewish history, while a few art and technology-focused attractions offer immersive, virtual visions of what it’s like to be in New -Orleans.

Although the French tend to be best placed, the Spanish-speaking world has also had an outsized impact on the culture of New Orleans, from the Spanish colonial era to the crucial months after Katrina, when Mexican and American workers central contributed to the reconstruction effort. One of the hottest new restaurants in town, Mother tongue, pays homage to chef Ana Castro’s family roots in Mexico City. Its sophisticated five-course tasting menu ($70) promises to unravel culinary and cultural ties to the two cities: One of its mottos is “New Orleans is home, Mexico is life “. The menu is constantly changing, but that’s the kind of place you are likely to find mustard greens on your tlacoyo.

Pandemic precautions, including mask-wearing and proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test, have been lifted for restaurants and bars. The city’s legendary bastions of Creole cuisine – among them Dookie Chase Restaurant, at Galatoire and at Arnaud’s – spin strong and masterfully launch the greatest hits. Elsewhere, diners will find new experimentation and fantasy. A new Uptown restaurant called Mister Mao, from the transplanted chef and “Champion of the television show “Chopped” Sophina Uong, markets itself as a “tropical truck stop” that is “shamelessly inauthentic”, with South Asian, Mexican and Indian influences: think pakoras, Mayan sikil pak sauce with pumpkin seeds, Khmer grapefruit and with mango salad who are all talking to each other at the same time. table. In the trendy district of Bywater, the new pop-up Luck in Hell SnoBalls (motto: “Frozen treats for a world on fire!”) Cheerfully pushes the boundaries of New Orleans’ summer treat, with signature flavors that have included sweet corn with thyme and a “Tom Kha” version with basil, ginger, mint, lemongrass, lime and coconut milk.

An old port city welcomes such mixtures, even if it honors its traditions. Indeed, over the years, the Israeli-American leader Alon Shaya earned New Orleans homeboy status while launching high-end labneh and hummus in the land of jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. There’s something about the pace and height of a New Orleans brunch, in particular, that Mr. Shaya seems to understand. So there was a lot of drool of anticipation about his new project, Miss River, which opened in August 2021 in the new Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. He calls Miss River his “love letter to Louisiana,” offering his take on duck and andouille sausage gumbo and a whole buttermilk-fried chicken, served in a dining room reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age.

The Four Seasons, which also opened last year, is its own big story, bringing 341 upscale rooms (doubles from $395) to a redeveloped downtown office tower formerly known as the World Trade Center. . It has a second remarkable restaurant, Way to the Seaby talented Louisiana chef Donald Link, and a crescent-shaped rooftop pool with views of the Mississippi River.

On another scale, and setting the tone for the city’s boutique hotel movement, Hotel Peter and Paul (double in summer from $159), which opened its doors in Faubourg Marigny in 2018 and occupies a group of old buildings (former school, presbytery, convent and church). Visiting can feel like experiencing an imaginative fictional remix of their real stories. The same goes for two more recent studies on hotel hyperreality: The Chloe, a converted 14-bedroom mansion (doubles from $550) on Avenue Saint-Charles (whose ambience closely rhymes with the Columns, the longtime mansion-hotel-favorite just down the street ); and the Hotel Saint Vincent (double rooms recently started at $305), located in a 19th century Garden District orphanage that was until recently a budget hostel. All three offer lovely places to grab a drink and bask in interior design micro-fantasies, each evoking a distinct iteration of Wes Anderson’s subtropical chic.

The rule for having a good time in New Orleans remains the same: trust your instincts for improvisation, avoid fruity spirits served in garish fancy cups, and follow your ears, especially to the sounds of rolling street parades. again in the neighborhoods. The radio WWOZ FM 90.7 remains the best resource for following such events and for music club action. New to the scene and old at the same time is the renovated Toulouse Theater, in the heart of the French Quarter, which until recently was home to a place called One Eyed Jacks. Long before that, New Orleans piano legend James Booker had a permanent concert there. The new management reserves an eclectic mix of 21st century R&B, indie rock and other delights.

Two new attractions seek to explain and expand the New Orleans experience. jamnola (for “Joy Art Music New Orleans”) is a 12-room immersive art space, each room drawing inspiration from an aspect of the city’s cultural richness. View Orleansatop the Four Seasons, offers panoramic city views and cutting-edge presentations of the city’s history and culture.

A more specific historical immersion can be found at the new home of the Southern Jewish Experience Museum, which offers welcome nuances to the history of a region that is too often exclusively brushed off as a pure Bible Belt. With its roots in a Jewish summer camp in Mississippi, the museum moved to downtown New Orleans and had a soft opening in 2021. Its new home makes sense in a city where Jews played an important, if underappreciated, role in education, healthcare, commerce and culture, and it complements the nearby National World War II Museum, which has evolved, with many expansions, into an attraction world class which is reason enough to visit New Orleans on its own.

Elsewhere, the city continues to recover from a difficult period that included not only the pandemic, but also Hurricane Ida, the Category 4 storm that hit Louisiana in August. New Orleans was spared the kind of widespread disaster it suffered during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But there have been significant injuries on the cultural scene. Among them was the Backstreet Cultural Museuma hand-crafted love letter to New Orleans black carnival and masking culture.

The museum has been closed for months after the building that housed it, a former funeral home in the Treme district, was damaged by the storm. But in a recent interview, Dominique Dilling, the museum’s executive director, said a renaissance is underway, with a new location chosen in the heart of Treme and a grand reopening celebration planned for July 9.

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